MONTREAL - Sweeping new federal copyright legislation would allow companies to seek damages ranging from $100 to $5,000 from people who illegally copy digital material like games and music.

The bill creates a new legal category for personal users, separate from the previous law that lumped people and businesses together and set the same $1 million maximum penalty.

The new law would also make it illegal to pick a technological lock to move legally acquired digital material from, say, a video game or music CD to a computer.

The Conservative government says the new rules aim to bring Canada in line with international standards while also appeasing the entertainment industry.

The government said the digital-lock provision will be of particular help to the video-game industry, which employs 15,000 people in Canada.

"Canadian companies will benefit," Heritage Minister James Moore said.

"It is essential to protect these jobs and this creativity . . . to make sure Canada remains a centre of creativity."

The Conservative government announced details of the new bill today in Montreal.

The legislation follows the ill-fated Bill C-61, which the Tories tabled two years ago.

Bill C-61, tripped up by consumer outcry, also would have made it illegal to break digital copyright locks.

Industry Minister Tony Clement told The Canadian Press last week that the bill to be presented today is "not chiselled in stone."

He said there could be some "positive amendments" to the bill and is counting on co-operation from one or more of the opposition parties.

He conceded it would be difficult to please everyone. On Wednesday, he called the new legislation a long time coming.

"Canada is late to the table, quite frankly," Clement told a news conference.

"We've been trying as a Parliament to get copyright legislation through since 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' was in the Top 10.

"So this has been taking a while."