So is circumventing a TPM (even for legal purposes) like going into a theatre without paying or taking a book from a bookstore without paying? Or is it like being able to photocopy the relevant sections of a book in a library? To me it seems more like the former than the later.
I agree with Todd in some respects, which is that circumventing a TPM in some specific instances is like going to a theatre without paying. If you did so you would not, however, be accused of violating copyright. While it is clear you are violating a law, it is entirely different area of law (most likely trespass, but I'm not a lawyer, and this is not legal advise ;-).
In other circumstances circumventing a TPM is like changing the locks on your own home after you lost your keys. This is a perfectly legal and legally protected activity, but depends on what is locked and who owns what is locked. Changing the locks on someone elses home, or making copies of keys without permission, is obviously illegal in the physical world and should remain clearly illegal if we are talking about digital locks and keys. This is a matter of tangible and intangible property law, not copyright law.
It is important to remember that with digital copyright there are potentially 4 different things which can have their owners, and may be locked. If you go through a series of real-world technical measures to protect each you will notice that it isn't copyright law being protected, but other areas of law.
I wish we could all agree that circumventing a TPM is not like being able to photocopy relevant sections of a book. Making copies of something you have legitimate access to is potentially a copyright regulated activity, and may or may not require permission of and/or payment to a copyright holder depending on the contours of copyright law.
While many technical measures exist which can help keep unauthorized persons away from copyrighted content, there is no technology that can stop an authorized person from doing unauthorized copyright related activities. TPMs can protect many things, but that doesn't include the type of activities which Copyright regulates.
Copyright has never before contemplated the concept of "access" in the hundreds of years of its existance, and has left questions of access to other areas of law. Copyright has always been a series of activities which, if done with copyrighted works you already have access to, require the permission of the copyright holder. These are activities that need to be left to copyright law, and technical measures can't help. Believing that technical measures can stop copyright regulated activities is believing in science fiction, not science.
This isn't to say technical measures aren't very valuable to copyright holders. Copyright holders make use of many laws beyond copyright to protect their interests, and legal protection for technical measures in the right laws (such as provincial e-commerce, contract and property law) would greatly help copyright holders. Any legal protection for technical measures must maintain the existing balance in the law, and technical measures should never be allowed to circumvent the contours of existing law.
Legal protection for technical measures belong in Copyright as much as energy policy does. Nobody would claim that copyright holders encoding their works digitally aren't relying on electricity for their businesses, and thus far we haven't seen calls for energy policy to be added to Copyright.
We need to get beyond thinking that everything that copyright holders do in their lives should be incorporated into Copyright law. We need to place the right legal tools into the correct laws, with these laws managed by the appropriate levels of government as set out in the Canadian constitution. If we did so I believe Copyright would become clarified and simplified, and based on this alone far more respected because it would become far more respectable.
Note: Mr. Sookman is incorrect about the TPM provisions in C-32 being from WIPO. The language in Bill C-32 is from the US delegation and was rejected at WIPO. The WIPO TPM language, as proposed in Liberal Bill C-60, doesn’t radically change the contours of copyright law with a new “access” right, while the USA DMCA and Bill C-32 language does.