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Canada's proposed Copyright Act amendments will make it illegal to break DRM

After weeks of leaks and speculation, Canada’s reigning Conservative government outlined its plans to amend the ageing Copyright Act. According to the outline, anyone convicted of bypassing the DRM of a given media format — even if legally purchased — will be subject to a fine of up to $5,000. But if the circumvention of DRM is done for profit, then the fine is raised to $1 million. Convicted downloaders of copyrighted materials will face significantly weaker penalties with a fine of $5,000, down from the present day maximum of $20,000. Canadians will also be allowed to use copyrighted materials to create mashup videos for sites such as YouTube, and the law books will finally acknowledge that commonplace activities such as recording TV, radio and internet broadcasts are okay. The same applies for backing media for personal use or archival purposes, but so long as DRM is not tampered with. Cellphone unlocking was not mentioned, although Heritage Minister Tony Clement said that it is currently legal to unlock phones so long as that phone is not currently under contract from a carrier. In an editorial co-autored with Heritage Minister James Moore published in The National Post on Wednesday, Clement argued that “Canada’s Copyright Act is more than 80 years old and has not been significantly modified for many years” and needs a serious overhaul in order to protect the interests of Canadians and the rights of content creators. The legislation is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday.