The Canadian government tabled new copyright legislation today (June 12), and while some in the entertainment industry applauded it, others said they would take a wait-and-see approach.

The new law will allow consumers to freely transfer purchased music to their MP3 players, though it is unclear how this will affect Canada’s private copying levy, a fee collected on blank media to compensate copyright holders for lost sales due to copying.

Under the terms of the proposed new law -- which still has to be passed by parliament, a process that could take several months -- individuals using peer-to-peer software can be penalized up to $20,000 per song.

“We have been waiting a long time for the government to recognize that copyright law has to be updated, and the tabling of this bill finally demonstrates that recognition, and for that we are pleased,” executive director of the Canadian Music Publishers Association Catharine Saxberg said.

“However, as to whether this particular proposed law is going to do what needs to be done, that remains to be seen and we will have a clearer picture of that in the coming weeks once we have a better understanding of the implications. As they say, the devil is in the details.”

Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry, and the driving force behind the bill, said the new law was necessary to address changes in technology.

“Think about it in these terms: 10 years ago, the first portable MP3 player hit the market. The 1998 version bragged about storing up to one hour of music. Today’s players can hold thousands of songs, videos and photographs,” he said.

The Canadian music industry has blamed an outdated copyright act for allowing consumers to freely download and upload music on peer-to-peer networks, saying the result has been an annual drop in sales of 45% since 1999.

Duncan McKie, president of the Canadian Independent Record Production Association, said the bill helps Canada “catch up” with the rest of the world.

“Certainly, the principles that are articulated the government in supporting the bill are consistent with our view that Canada must catch up with the world but do so in way that recognizes the need to foster innovation and growth in our country,” McKie says.

“We hope the public will focus on those parts of the bill that help make our industry more prosperous, and help our artists survive and continue to make great music," he continues. "We need to understand how this bill can foster new business models for the creative economies of Canada.”

One area that is clear in the legislation is that Internet service providers are not going to be pushed by the Canadian government to help limit the transfer of copyright material on their networks. While other governments -- namely the U.K. and France -- have been addressing copyright infringement by asking ISPs to police their networks more vigorously, the new Canadian law limits ISP liability.

Internet companies, under the new law, would be exempt from liability for copyright violations on their networks.

Mark Hayes, a copyright expert and lawyer at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, said called the bill “balanced.”

“[The government] have tried to deal with all of the hot button consumer issues and separate the concerns of everyday people from those of the hardcore hackers,” he says.