A simple guide to copyright

I was thinking about the recent DMCA rulemaking in the US, which led me to this "simple guide to copyright".

You can legally do pretty much anything you like with your own property,

unless it's a "fixation" of a copyrighted work and what you want do is a right granted to the rightsholder,

unless it's covered by one of the "fair dealing" exceptions.

That's not too bad. Of course, in the US, or in Canada if C-32 passes as-is, you need to add a couple more lines:

unless the rightsholder has applied a Technological Protection Measure to it,

unless it's covered by one of the exemptions to the blanket protection granted to TPMs.

So the new rulemaking in the US adds to the list of exceptions to the exception to the exceptions to the rule that you can generally use your own property as you see fit.

And people claim that copyright is too complex for everyday Canadians. Hah!

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"and what you want do is a right granted to the rightsholder"

I suspect that the part of the sentence that goes "and what you want do is a right granted to the rightsholder" is where most of the confusion exists. It isn't that you have to get permission to do anything, but only need to get permission if it is one of the listed activities.

In Canada, these activities are listed in section 3 for most works, section 15 and 26 for a performer's performance, section 18 for sound recordings, and section 21 for a communications signal. You will notice that the language of the recent bills list "section 3, 15 or 18 and any act for which remuneration is payable under section 19", referencing some of those activities.

I think it is important for people on all sides of the debate to become more familiar with this list of activities. There are people thinking that they can do one of the listed activities without permission, and other people thinking that permission is needed for an unlisted activity.

As to TPMs, the DMCA has a "(c) Other Rights, Etc., Not Affected" section that clearly says that the contours of copyright trump TPMs, while in C-32 it is clear that TPMs trump the contours of copyright.


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.