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In Canada: Cache a page, go to jail?

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A bill before Canada's Parliament could make it illegal for search engines to cache Web pages, critics say, opening the door to unwarranted lawsuits and potentially hindering public access to information.

The legislation in question, Bill C-60, is designed to amend Canada's Copyright Act by implementing parts of the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization treaty, the treaty that led to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.

Set for debate and an initial vote in the House of Commons after Parliament's summer break, C-60 addresses things such as file-sharing, anticopying devices and the liability of Internet service providers and would tighten the Copyright Act in ways favorable to record labels and movie studios.

But according to Howard Knopf, a copyright attorney at the Ottawa firm of Macera & Jarzyna, a brief passage in the bill could mean trouble for search engines and other companies that archive or cache Web content.

"The way it reads, arguably what they're saying is that the very act of making a reproduction by way of caching is illegal," Knopf said.

"Anyone with content on the Web could sue," and anyone caching content on the Internet could be sued, said Geist, who wrote about perils with C-60 when it was introduced. "Somebody with an ax to grind, or business competitors, could start using the system to try to get content removed." The bill provides no deterrent to making false copyright-infringement claims, he said.

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