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Canadian copyright bill a threat to search engines?

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 14 Jul 2005 4:45 User comments (4)

Canadian copyright bill a threat to search engines? Bill C-60, which amends the Copyright Act, has only received its first reading on the House of Commons on June 20th this year but experts who read the bill say that it could make Internet search and archive engines like Google illegal. The problem goes down to the wording of the bill, that says could be illegal for anyone to provide copyrighted information through "information-location tools," which actually includes search engines.
Ottawa copyright lawyer Howard Knopf, of the law firm of Macera & Jarzyna Moffat & Co. was startled by reading the bill and realising the possible negative effects it could have. "The phrasing of the proposed law is difficult because at first glance it seems to be a helpful provision in that it limits the liability of companies such as Google to no more than an injunction when they have not received actual notice of infringement. But then the language of the bill works on the assumption that the search engine itself is capable of infringing copyright by having archived copyright material on it." Mr. Knopf says.

Section 40.3 (1) of the bill states that "the owner of copyright in a work or other subject-matter is not entitled to any remedy other than an injunction against a provider of information location tools who infringes that copyright by making or caching a reproduction of the work or other subject matter." According to Knopf, this paragraph implies that information location tools (like search engines) would infringe copyright if they archive any material that is copyright.

One such example of how this is a problem would be Google Image Search. When you search for something, Google displays thumbnail's of images. However courts have leaned in the "fair use" direction for the thumbnail images supplied by search engines, saying usually that hey are no competition to any copyrighted work. "The way it is drafted strongly suggests that the reproduction and caching activity done by Google or the Wayback Machine at and similar essential research tools would be illegal in Canada," Knopf says. "It could be read by a court as a 'deeming' provision, which was hopefully not the intention."

However he would like to remind everyone that this bill has only so far had its first reason, so there is a lot of time for this issue to be fixed, or for that section to be removed completely. He stands firmly by the search engines in this one. "We shouldn't cripple the Googles of the world by imposing copyright chill on the very basis of their architecture. In fact, they perform a very useful service to copyright owners by enabling easy detection of infringement. The owners should go after the actual infringer, rather than effectively shooting the messenger." he said.


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4 user comments

115.7.2005 9:10

Good grief, next let's go after Internet providers...Shaw, Telus, Rogers, etc.'s just a proposal. Here's the Bill, you have to be a lawyer to even decipher what it means.

215.7.2005 19:01

Australia is fining/imprisoning people who provide links to copyrighted material, but Canada doesn't want to "cripple" those providers. Any exception would apply to bittorrent & link sites, just like search engines.

317.7.2005 9:59

Why don't we just make everything illegal then legislate to legalize things. At this rate it may be easier and the books on legislation a lot thinner. Bottom line is Governments everywhere do not like the net being used by the people. They don't like the fact that their continuous bullshit is exposed on the net. They would love to go back to the days when citizens were kept in the dark on all matters and they will grab hold of anthing anti net and go with it under any pathetic excuse they can muster.

420.7.2005 15:15

Here's a suggestion to anyone that wants to lay claim to copyright. Don't make it available to the Internet. The Internet is a "free" environment. If you have made something avaiable, tough luck!.

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