There can be only None. Kurgan VCR beheads my copy of Highlander. Will C-61 let me copy what remains?

That's a title guaranteed to ward off non-afficionados of cultish 80s fantasy flics. But if you're of that camp and still think you might be interested in the story of an immortal Egyptian-born Spanish-surnamed katana-weilding Shcottish-actored character training an immortal Scottish-born French-actored character during the late Middle Ages in preparation for a modern-day New York knife fight -- all to the tune of Freddie Mercury -- then I suggest you check out Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod.

'Tis true though; the tape is ruined. I'm now afraid to feed anything into that flashing-LED-encrusted maw. High time to convert my VHS collection to DVD. Ideally, there's a service somewhere that can manage a high-quality transfer for me. Otherwise I'll have to link together some recording hardware of my own invention: a chain that would necessarily start with the aforementioned tape-munching VCR.

But some of the tapes have old versions of the Macrovision copy-protection scheme. From what I understand, it's not all that hard to defeat when transferring to digital format via an open-source encoder. To my not-a-lawyer mind, I am also completely within my rights under Section 80 of the Copyright Act (C-42) to format-shift copyrighted works for private use.

The situation changes should Bill C-61 pass. I believe I still would be permitted* to make private copies under the proposed legislation, but any attempt to break a copy-protection scheme, or the mere possession of tools that permit such circumvention, would constitute a criminal offence. It's these anti-DRM "digital lock" provisions that I find most objectionable in C-61 and the American DMCA.

It's as if Ford installed a specially-shaped port at the end of the fuel tank's fill spout, restricting you to refueling only at Ford-branded filling stations. Yanking out the port to fill elsewhere puts you in jeopardy of arrest and the seizure of your vehicle. How much do you think Ford would charge per litre if that was the law?

I must admit that I don't know as much about C-61 as I should, even though I've been following its stuttered introduction since late last year. My general impression -- largely courtesy of University of Ottawa's Michael Geist -- is that C-61 favours the large copyright holders and industry organizations over the consumer, especially the type of consumer that likes to fiddle and experiment with the electronic innards of household products.

I've already sent Larry a couple of letters imploring him to vote against the bill. Try it yourself, and remember that there's no postage required to mail anyone in parliament:

The Hon. Larry Bagnell
House of Commons
446-S, Centre Block
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

After that, why not try out the same for the Industry Minister, the Heritage Minister, and the Prime Minister as well, while you're at it? Given sufficient uproar, there's a good chance the bill will die at the end of the current sitting.

Otherwise, the law will mandate that "There can be only One" copy of my mangled tape.

*Update, June 18th

It appears that section 29.21 of the bill doesn't restrict me from making a personal copy of a videocassette onto DVD. But I sure as heck couldn't make a copy of a DVD to another DVD, or even onto a videocassette. The wording seems to expressly omit making any fair dealing copies from a source medium that is digital in nature -- and therefore likely infected with DRM -- such as CDs, DVDs, or computer files.

Archived Comments

  1. Login Firth on 20080615.Sunday:
    I'm with you on this one... but a little short of time for letter-writing. Any chance you could post the text of your correspondence to facilitate a little cut 'n paste?
  2. Dave on 20080615.Sunday:
    Not one to poo-poo the path of least resistance, I used the protest letter generator available at: It's been updated for C-61. There are also two copyright-related online petitions that are easy to sign: (online) and (must be mailed, but counts for more). Michael Geist also has a list of 30 other things you can do to make your voice heard.