For the second time in three years, legislation to bring Canada’s copyright law into the digital age has fallen victim to parliamentary dissolution. On March 25, the controversial Bill C-32 died when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was defeated in a parliamentary confidence motion.

Along with the bill died federal Industry Minister Tony Clement’s attempt to make individual Canadians liable for fines up to $5,000 for breaking the digital locks that protect music, movies or software. The legislation had drawn fire from organizations like the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which argued that imposing fines on access to digital material online would “lock down a vast amount of material, effectively preventing its use for research, education and innovation.”

The CAUT and other critics of the bill said that the legislation was drafted in response to pressure from the United States and European countries to align Canada’s copyright law with international treaties.

In addition to the fines for breaking digital locks for non-commercial use, the bill proposed fines of up to $1 million for pirates who circumvent encryption of digital material in order to re-sell it. The legislation also contained provisions to shut down sites that support file sharing, and introduced a legal avenue for content creators to seek civil redress from online sites that enable copyright infringement.

Tabled in Parliament in June 2010, the legislation replaced a bill that died when Harper called a federal election in 2008.