Posts Tagged ‘“The Copyright Modernization Act”’
Yesterday, Bill C-11 received Royal Assent; it has passed into Canadian Law.
However, it will not take effect immediately. The Government gets to decide when it goes into effect, and may first incorporate regulations before it does, which may not be for a matter of months.
In the normal course of things, that would likely be January 1st, 2013. But considering the intensity of lobbying by the American special interest groups, it could just as easily happen next Friday.
So, today, it is no longer “Bill C-11,” but the “Copyright Modernization Act”.
The original attempt to foist a Canadian DMCA on Canada was made by the last Canadian Liberal Minority Government with Bill C-60. There was an unprecedented amount of public outcry against C-60, and the government fell before its passage.
Bill C-61 was the first Conservative Minority Government’s legislation drafted to do the same thing: satisfy American copyright reform pressure. This draft legislation also received incredibly strong public opposition, and the government fell before its passage.
The next Conservative Minority Government chose to conduct a public Copyright Consultation before reintroducing new copyright reform legislation. More than eight thousand Canadians responded to the call for public input. I doubt there has ever been that level of response to any such Government Public consultation, particularly on any subject as esoteric as copyright law.
The responses to this public consultation came from copyright collectives to individuals. Some advocated longer stronger copyright, others advocated less to none. Across the spectrum of responses, the vast majority of submissions agreed that making the circumvention of TPMs (Technological Protection Measures) illegal would be detrimental to Canada.
When the Conservative Minority Government introduced its new draft copyright legislation, Bill C-32, it actually did incorporate some of the reforms Canadians asked for in the Copyright Consultation. Unfortunately, C-32 also enshrined anti-circumvention provisions of Technical Protection Measures as the most powerful part of the legislation. Incredibly, circumvention of TPMs (more familiarly called DRM) would be illegal under Bill C-32 regardless of whether or not any copyright is infringed. If your DVD player refuses to play your home movies because it judges them copyright infringement, and you manage to circumvent this, under Bill C-32 this would make you a criminal.
Again, there was a great deal of opposition to Bill C-32, but it never made it to law, because the minority Conservative Government fell. In the ensuing Federal Election, one of the things the Conservatives pledged to do if they received a majority would be to pass their copyright reform law.
So it wasn’t terribly surprising that the Bill C-11 draft legislation was a true copy of Bill C-32. More disturbing, however, was that the government refused to hear arguments against C-11 that had been made against C-32. And worse, the process was fast tracked.
After speeding through the House of Commons, the day Bill C-11 was sent up to the Senate it appeared on the agenda. Subsequent Senate consideration fell well short of “sober second thought,” as it received Royal Assent within two weeks.
It is still early in the 41st Canadian Parliament, yet the Copyright Modernization Act, like other unpopular measures being pushed through by the current Conservative Majority Government, was pushed through very quickly, with minimal scrutiny and debate. There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for the government to have rushed this process, as the government majority made its passage pretty much a foregone conclusion.
TPMs = DRM
In some ways, the Copyright Modernization Act may appear beneficial, but all of the perceived benefits can be blocked by the anti-circumvention provisions.
Copyright is a legal monopoly created by the state. Technological Protection Measures are more commonly known as DRM (variously “Digital Rights Management” or “Digital Restrictions Management“). Of no little concern is that the TPMs that will now enjoy the full protection of the law will stifle innovation and independent Canadian cultural work.
A further very serious concern of mine is that most Canadians have absolutely no idea that the provisions of the Copyright Modernization Act will make them into criminals.
“The damage that piracy does is very deep. If left unchecked, it will really have an impact on the number and quality of movies and television shows produced.”
That sounds serious.
But is it true?
The reality is that the number and quality of movies and television shows produced by Hollywood has actually plummeted all the while American copyright terms have been “strengthened” and extended.
Over and over again.
In the 1950’s a television season ran as many as 39 episodes, but a series today is lucky to manage two dozen.
Hundreds of television channels may be available but how much of what’s there is of value? Programming created by the big television networks is often pretty awful.
It’s no longer possible to access analogue television broadcasts over the air in Canada, and I’ve happily not subscribed to cable tv for years now. “Reality TV” signalled the beginning of the end. I still watch “television”, but it comes on dvds, and I only need bother with the good stuff.
Fewer Hollywood movies are made every year, so there is far less to choose from on the big screen as well.
Consumers have a finite amount of disposable income, and competition lowers profits, so greater profits can be realized from fewer movies.
Hollywood is primarily interested in sequels and remakes because they are the safest way to make profit. Safety rarely produces good art, which is why the most interesting cinema fare seems to be produced by the independents who assume the risks, and then, if successful, find a Hollywood distribution deal.
Ironically, I haven’t seen a movie in a cinema in years. Again, there is little selection to choose from in Canada, where we’re down to a single first run theatre chain. Without competition, what’s on offer is the same everywhere.
Better (and cheaper) selection can be found in the dvd remainder bins at my local super market or video store.
what copyright does
Copyright law allows Hollywood to realize the most profit out of the least amount of product. It is, in fact, the unchecked expansion of copyright law that has proven to have the most detrimental impact on the number and quality of movies and television shows produced.
what Canada’s Bill C-11 will do
Canada’s Bill C-11 “The Copyright Modernization Act,” makes it illegal for Canadians to bypass “Technological Protection Measures” or TPMs (what the rest of the world calls “DRM”) for any reason.
If a TPM prevents you from playing the digital copy of a movie you’ve purchased on the device of your choice, and you bypass this “digital lock”, you will be breaking the law. The only way you will be able to legally view the movie on the device of your choice, would be to buy a new copy. And of course, if the device of your choice is a GNU/Linux computer, you won’t be able to play any commercial movies at all.
Bill C-11 is a real plum for the Copyright Lobby, but still, it won’t be enough to satisfy Hollywood. They want longer and stronger copyright law to reduce the depth of the cultural playing field even more, to eliminating competition and eroding the public domain through perpetual copyright.
Which is, of course, the real goal.
Canada’s majority government today passed Bill C-11, the co-called “Copyright Modernization Act” in spite of unprecedented Canadian opposition. The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.
This is the third in my C-11 Copyright Series:
“Wasn’t the whole purpose of copyright to allow artists, musicians, and authors to make a living?”
Although the privilege of copyright was granted to writers (and later extended to other creators), they had a very limited ability to make copies. A writer could copy the manuscript by hand and sell copies to anyone they met. The printers had the expertise and the control of the expensive equipment, so right from the start the creators were disadvantaged, writers had no choice but to assign this “right” to the distributors.
Although the supposed justification for copyright is to allow creators to make a living, in practice the monopoly allowed the Stationers (or Booksellers, Printers, Publishers &tc.) to generate revenue and control publishing. Copyright succeeded so well for so long by giving the appearance of existing to benefit the creators. Creator support ensures that the market – the audience – honours copyright.
As time went on, creators wound up with ever decreasing power over this supposed privilege, while the distributors — now called publishers — accrued more and greater power, which they used to dictate terms to creators. The problem was that printing was only part of it; the distribution network was the other side of the equation.
More and more of our cultural pursuits have come under the “protection” of copyright. The music recording industry is the worst for creators, as many (most?) musicians were forced to give up their copyright in order to secure a recording contract. For all but the biggest stars, the effect is to thrust most recording artists into indentured servitude. Because of this, more and more musicians choose the independence now possible with affordable recordings and Internet distribution. Before the Internet, CRIA controlled the recording industry in Canada; but 30% of the Canadian Industry was independent by 2010. It isn’t piracy that threatens the legacy distributors, it’s competition.
In today’s Canada we also have a proliferation of copyright collectives which have devolved onto yet another “middleman” with a hand in the copyright till.
The only way for creators to access the funds owing them as a result of the copyright monopoly is by way of copyright collectives, which is why copyright collectives lobby for stronger, longer copyright.
Perhaps initially these collectives actually represented the interests of creators, but judging from the lobbying they engage in today, it seems pretty clear these collectives are primarily interested in their own needs.
Making it appear that copyright benefits the creators is a great way to have creators support
Both the technological revolution ushered in by plummeting copying costs and the Internet threaten the corporations and copyright collectives. Corporate interests want to regain absolute control of their industries while copyright collectives want to regain absolute control of their respective workforce. Both are threatened with obsolescence due to rapid growth of independent creators that threaten the old fashioned business models.
In response to this threat both special interest groups have been lobbying governments around the world to use legislative means to turn back the hands of time. Canada’s draft copyright legislation new copyright legislation will vest absolute power in Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) and give in to these demands with Bill C-11, which is ironically called “The Copyright Modernization Act.”
[This is the second in my C-11 Copyright Series. Canada’s majority government is poised to pass Bill C-11, the co-called “Copyright Modernization Act” in spite of unprecedented Canadian opposition. The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.
This is the second in my C-11 Copyright Series:
Forget that TPMs/DRM/Digital Locks have radically shifted the foundations of property law … legal precedents that have evolved over centuries.
Or that Bill C-11 will make circumventing digital locks illegal. Even when copyright is not being infringed, so Canadians can be prevented from using/watching/playing/reading the software, movie, music or book that we have legally purchased. It will even be possible for manufacturers to prevent us from accessing works that are in the public domain.
Don’t worry that C-11 has within it the legal authority to stifle innovation, and worse, impede Canadian Independent production by raising artificial barriers. Artificially making it difficult or impossible for Canadian creators to self publish our own work.
The worst thing about digital locks is that most people don’t even know they exist and worse,
most Canadians won’t even realize they are breaking the law.
Although I dislike polls on principal, I did a few this past week to try to get a handle on the the issue. So I asked a “question” on Facebook, and got a few replies before deciding to give PollDaddy a try. I asked the same set of questions in both places so would be able to combine the results.
Keeping it simple the first question was “Do you know what DRM is?”
DRM has been getting a bit of press every year. Even so, nearly 30% of my respondants don’t know what DRM is.
Although self publishing authors have been able to choose whether or not our digital editions would be encumbered by DRM for some time now, most mainstream publishers have routinely applied DRM to all their offerings. Baen Books has been publishing DRM free for 13 years, and J.K.Rowling‘s Harry Potter ebooks were launched DRM free through her Pottermore site earlier this year. Just this week science fiction publisher TOR announced that it would be going DRM free.
DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management,” although I’ve also read “Digital Restrictions Management” and “Dishonest Relationship Misinformation,” all of which refer to digital controls placed on media and devices that control how the consumers who purchase them can use them.
The right to read – publishers who drop DRM
Imagine if each book in your library had a padlock with a different key for every single book. DRM – Digital Rights Management or Digital Restriction Management – are such padlocks. Not the best library solution you have heard of? Well, you are beginning to get publishers on your side. eBooks published by science fiction publisher Tor UK drops DRM. Tor UK, Tor Books and Forge are divisions of Pan Macmillan. They are not alone – science fiction publisher Baen Books, genre publisher Angry Robots, and even J.K. Rowling offer her Harry Potter books DRM-free. If you know of other publishers, please add them below. Protecting the right to read, we need to encourage publishers who drop DRM and use the open ePub-format and buy our books at their stores.”
To understand why mainstream publishers are beginning to reject DRM read Charlie’s Diary: More on DRM and ebooks
My second Poll question was “Do You Know What Digital Locks Are?”
Anyone who has been following the Canadian government’s push for copyright reform will have been hearing and reading about digital locks for more than a decade. Canadian governments have been trying to change the Copyright Act since the American government passed the the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The first attempt at a “Canadian DMCA” was the Liberal Bill C-60, and when the Conservative Party formed the subsequent government they carried the torch with Bill C-61, then C-32 and now C-11. But until now Canada has been blessed with minority governments. Unfortunately, now that we have a majority government determined to appease the Americans there is every reason to believe that this time it will pass, even though the majority of Canadians oppose the digital lock provisions.
And you guessed it, a “Digital Lock” is another way to describe “DRM.”
The final question in my poll was “Do you know what TPMs are?”
Bill C-11 doesn’t talk about DRM or Digital locks, but rather TPMs, which are “Technological Protection Measures”.
Technological Protection Measures take a step beyond digital locks, or DRM, because they encompass DRM/digital locks but can also be applied to non digital locks.
Some appliances or hardware are screwed closed with specialty screws that require proprietary screw drivers. Without the proper screwdrivers, these things can’t be opened to modify or repair them. Since this is a “technical protection measure”, it is reasonable to assume that Bill C-11 will make it illegal to repair any such equipment unless you have the proprietary tools.
This is a Poll
I’m not a professional pollster and my poll sample is very small. With only 22 responses, it isn’t very scientific poll. Still, it gives an idea. Because I’m a free culture advocate, a lot of the people who read my blogs or talk to me online, or even read my novel are going to be much more aware of these issues than the average Canadian. So I’m surprised; I would have expected more people to understand the terms. Or at least think they do.
77.27% said they don’t know what TPMs are.
[Correction of fact: "Technical Protection Measures" has been amended to the term used in Bill C-11 "Technological Protection Measures"]
Since I am preparing my debut novel for eBook release, I’m trying not to pay attention, yet I find myself reading Russell McOrmond’s Bill C-11 Legisative Committee coverage. Russell is both Live tweeting and blogging about each meeting day. This legislation is simply too important to ignore, not just for me, as a self publishing writer, but for Canada, and the heritage and culture that is so much a part of who we are.
I can’t actually watch the proceedings myself, even though they are being broadcast online by CPAC. Beginning with cable TV coverage, CPAC has provided Canadians with a ringside seat to Canadian parliamentary proceedure since 1992. The problem is that this video is provided onsite in Windows Media Player format.
It seems I can’t watch the livestream of the actual parliamentary committee meetings because I have chosen to use free software. I don’t use Windows anymore, nor do I use any of the various Apple computers. My operating system on *this* computer is Ubuntu, and the one on my desktop computer is Trisquel.
But of course, that’s the point. Proprietary digital devices and content try to force the user to use the software or device specified by the manufacturer. Once you buy into any proprietary system, it is difficult to switch to another. In this case it’s Microsoft, although it could as easily be Apple, or Sony, or any one of a plethora of rich and powerful companies that make proprietary software and hardware.
And why not? Microsoft built the Windows Media Player, and they want people to use it in their operating system.
In the past, circumventing proprietary formats might have resulted in a voided warranty. But it seems to me that Bill C-11 will make it illegal.
I expect CPAC paid rather a lot to be able to license the Windows media player. But since Windows is still the dominant OS, it seems like a reasonable choice to reach the most people. And CPAC wants all Canadians to have access to the video they create. That’s what they do.
And CPAC understands, because it attempts to circumvent the problem by advising us to copy the link below the video into our own video player if we are having problems.
I tried that, but it didn’t work on either the Ubuntu Movie Player or Banshee Media Player. Even so, I wasn’t positive it was a proprietary issue the problem was until a friend tried to resolve it.
Apparently Flip4Mac WMV program converted the proprietary Windows video format to a proprietary Mac video format.
The other solution that CPAC offers is to use a program called VLC. Ironically I used that free software video player back when I still used Windows, but haven’t managed to get it to work in either of my gnu/linux machines.
The long and the short of it is that, because I am not able to run the proprietary Windows Media Player, I am effectively locked out of the digital government video CPAC routinely shares with Canadians.
An Illustration of Bill C-11
In a strange way this demonstrates why legal protection of TPMs — regardless of legality — is the central point of Bill C-11 that has Canadians concerned. As written, Bill C-11 would criminalize Canadians who circumvent TPMs (technical protection measures) even if we are legally entitled to access the content that is locked by these “digital locks”.
Although I’m neither a technical person or a lawyer, I think Bill C-11 would make software like the VLC player illegal in Canada because it circumvents proprietary TPMs.
And Bill C-11 will make both tools to circumvent and the act of circumvention of TPMs illegal.
It wouldn’t matter that CPAC wants to share their content with me, Microsoft would have to grant permission to convert proprietary formats into free formats, or else it would be illegal. Microsoft’s current policies indicate any such permission would be unlikely, but even if it did, the tools to circumvent the proprietary TPMs – like VLC – would be illegal, so I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway.
Lawyers like Michael Geist and Howard Knopf and tech folks like Russell McOrmond, Wayne Borean, Bob Jonkman and Cory Doctorow have said Bill C-11 would not be such a problem if TPM circumvention was only illegal if tied to copyright infringement.
the shape of things to come
But if they pass Bill C-11 as written, it will become illegal for Canadians to circumvent TPMs so we can watch our government in action. Or to back up our software, Or format shift so we can watch DVDs on MP3 players.
Depending on what TPMs manufacturers employ, it may become illegal to read public domain eBooks on our e-readers, or play DVDs that aren’t region encoded. Which would mean that independent film makers wouldn’t be able to put their original movies on DVDs. Independent musicians might be prevented from distributing their original work digitally. The range of consequences are appalling.
How long until it becomes illegal to load free software on our computers?
If Bill C-11 passes, not long at all.
[Edited for readability (replacing a bit of awkward phrasing) but content remains the same.]
Screencap cc-by 1111aether
Against DRM cc-by Nina Paley
Have you every noticed how much publicity material is labeled with
© Copyright ~ All Rights Reserved
I am at the point where I will not include any images in my blogs that lack license information.
Why on earth would I reproduce any promotional material ~ why should I plug your art show, book, movie, music, film premiere, marketplace or anything else, if doing so could result in a fine or takedown?
I have become hyper sensitive in regard to copyright issues, since real or perceived copyright violations can result in a DMCA takedown ~ or worse ~ if these laws like our own Canadian Bill C-11 passes.
If you include original art on promotional material in future without using a Creative Commons License or something similar I simply won’t use it.
In the past, I might have shared promotional material even though it did not have a license explicitly allowing its use, so long as it it didn’t specify ‘copyright all rights reserved’ either. Once The American SOPA (Stop Online Piracy) and the Canadian Bill C-11 come into effect, I will no longer do that on any blog or website under my control without explicit license permission.
Because the price is simply too high.
I should be getting ready for NaNoWriMo. The problem is that the danger to Canadian culture posed by Bill C-11, the so called “Copyright Modernization Act,” currently moving toward becoming law, is simply too great to ignore.
I can’t ignore this and expect to get anywhere with my next novel. So I’ve decided to try to post something about C-11 every day (after making my NaNoWriMo word count :) Because both my self publishing efforts and writing my third novel during NaNo will claim most of my time, these posts will be much shorter than my usual blog posts.
The Canadian DMCA in Today’s News
Cory Doctorow blogged about the response received by a Canadian citizen in answer to their C11 query from Conservative MP Lee Richardson, a member of the Standing Committee on Industry. Since copyright law falls under the joint purview of the Ministry of Heritage and the Ministry of Industry, Lee Richardson ought to be pretty well versed in this issue. Richardson is quoted as writing:
If a digital lock is broken for personal use, it is not realistic that the creator would choose to file a law suit against the consumer, due to legal fees and time involved.”
Cory Doctorow’s assessment is that this amounts to advice from the Government passing this law is:
“…you should go ahead and break the law because you won’t get caught.”
Now, I am not a lawyer, but if this is not the law’s intent, the law should say so. Just because the copyright holder might choose not to do this, is no guarantee that they won’t.
Bill C-11 clearly allows them to sue Canadians.
Particularly when there have been innumerable clear instances of corporate “patent trolls” suing unsuspecting citizens in the wake of the American DMCA and every similar copyright ‘reform’ enacted around the world.
If this is *not* the government’s intent, this part of Bill C11 must be changed.
The Canadian Government should not be encouraging citizens to ignore Canadian law.
what we can do
I believe there are various petitions being gotten up, but I urge all concerned Canadians to tell the government that we do not support the digital lock provisions in Bill C-11. Sending an email is a stronger message than signing a digital petition. The message you send doesn’t have to be long and involved. Just weigh in and tell them what you think before this law is passed.
Write to Members of the Legislative Committee on Bill C-11:
[28 October UPDATE 2011-10-28T15:48:49+00:00]
Dean Del Mastro, Conservative, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Paul Calandra, Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Heritage Minister
Mike Lake, Conservative Parliamentary secretary to the Industry Minister
Scott Armstrong, Conservative
Peter Braid, Conservative
Phil McColeman, Conservative
Rob Moore, Conservative
Charlie Angus, NDP Digital Affairs and Ethics Critic
Tyrone Benskin, NDP Heritage and Cultural Industries Critic
Andrew Cash, NDP
Pierre Nantel, NDP
Geoff Regan, Liberal Critic for Consumer Affairs
As well, you can write to Heritage Minister James Moore
Industry Minister The Honourable Christian Paradis
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
and as always, your own MPP [Find your MP]
It is perfectly acceptable to send the same letter to all concerned, and although postal mail is taken more seriously, email is increasingly acceptable, particularly when time is of the essence.
If you have a blog (and if you don’t, it’s pretty easy to start one for free at WordPress) you can post your letter online, making sure to tag it with #C11 and #Canada and #Copyright. Talk to friends and family about this, as well as people in your social networks,because if this law passes as is, it will have serious repercussions to Canadian culture.
If you are looking for more information about this copyright law, you can use the search bar in my sidebar, or you can search the Internet. Bill C-11 is a word for word reincarnation of Bill C-32 in the last session of parliament, so searching for Bill C-32 will give you a lot of information and analysis.
The authorities I look to for C-11 information include:
- Russell McOrmond’s Digital Copyright,
- Howard Knopf’s Excess Copyright,
- and Michael Geist’s blog.
- Wayne Borean has blogged extensively about this,
- Cory Doctorow has visited the issue in Boing Boing,
- and you won’t want to miss Jesse Brown’s podcast interview with Heritage Minister James Moore on Bill C-32.
The impending Bill C-11, “the Copyright Modernization Act” makes me very nervous. I’m a writer, not not a lawyer, nor a reporter, but I’m sure I will be blogging about this in the days to come.
Naturally I was very interested in Jesse Brown’s interview with the University of Ottawa’s Professor Michael Geist, who is unquestionably an authority on Canadian Copyright Law. I started put to transcribe this podcast for myself, but then it seemed silly not to share, since Jesse Brown is cool enough to license his podcasts with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5).
I have added links where appropriate, and I cleaned it up (expunging “ums” not expletives). Feel free to listen to the original Podcast at TVO while reading along. [Note: Any transcription errors are my own.]
Okay, quick show of hands… Who is against the part of bill C-11 where it says that if you break a digital lock for any reason you are breaking the law?
Okay we’ve got the Liberal Party,
we’ve got The NDP,
we’ve got a bunch of Associations,
The Canadian Association of Research Libraries,
The Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright,
The Council of Ministers of Education,
Documentary Organization of Canada,
Canadian Library Association,
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association,
The Canadian Federation of Students,
The Canadian Teachers Federation,
The Canadian Council of Archives,
The Retail Council of Canada,
The Canadian Consumer Initiative,
The Provincial Resource Center for the Visually Impaired,
The Canadian Historical Association, and, oh yeah, Canadians.
Just about every Canadian who bothered to chime in about this said they did not like the digital locks provision.
Okay. So that’s one side of it.
Now put up your hand if you like the idea that breaking a digital lock for any reason should be a crime.
Just The Conservative Party of Canada.
The thing is, that’s sort of the only hand that matters.
They have a majority, they can kind of do what they want. And they’re gonna.
Bill C-11 as it stands, is probably going to be a law pretty soon. And now it’s time to talk about what that means.
And who better to help out with that than Professor Michael Geist. Michael, welcome back to the show.
Bill C-11 is being debated in parliament, we’ve got the other parties coming out against it, we’ve got the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights encouraging people to come out against this… is it just too late? I mean, you heard Minister Moore on this program. He did not sound like a man who is going to change anything fundamental about this. Is the digital locks issue set in stone?
I think pretty close to that. At least that’s certainly what the minister has been saying, and you know it’s a new environment of course politically where we’ve got a majority government. And while it’s heartening to see how the opposition parties have coalesced around the digital lock issue, unequivocally, that they can’t support the bill with the digital lock provisions in the way that they are currently structured, it seems to me at this point in time that it may be past the point of no return. The Government making clear that its not looking to make fundamental changes to digital lock provisions, or frankly much else in the law.
It’s kind of bittersweet, isn’t it? I mean the other parties have never been clearer, they’ve never understood the issues better… they’ve never been more forthright in what they don’t like about it and what they can’t support — at the moment when their opinion matters least.
I think that’s right. I mean I think it is good there is that growing recognition within the Canadian Public, where you see so many groups that have come out to express concern, as well as politically, at the same time if we hold the government to their word that they’re not gonna make any big changes, there are of course some good things in Bill C-11 as well.
Around fair dealing, around the role of Internet providers, around statutory damages, some of those issues have been subject to very misleading attacks by a number of groups, and so I think it’s heartening that they haven’t resonated. In fact, I’d go even further, its clear if you see the reaction from the opposition parties, that they really haven’t picked up on many of those issues either. I think they recognize that the government actually does strike a pretty good balance on many of those other issues. The one place where the government hasn’t done so is on the digital locks and its disappointing we’ve come this far and there is that opportunity with so much awareness of the problem, frankly its just as disappointing that a fix here is relatively easy. One that would allow for compliance with our international obligations that would be consistent with what we’ve seen in a lot of other countries that would give legal protection for digital locks for those that want it, but at the same time would respect the rights of users, whether we’re talking about consumers, educators, or even other businesses.
I brought it up directly with the minister. I said why not just make it illegal to break a digital lock if you’re breaking it for the purpose of infringing, and he pretty much ignored the point.
well, there isn’t a solid answer to it. As you may know, I was able to obtain under the Access To Information Act, both the internal clause review of the bill, as well as well as fifty pages of government speaking points. And what you find is there isn’t a good answer from the government, other than ‘we think it’s the right balance’. But when you start pointing to significant issues that exist within the bill, real problems, there isn’t a good answer, you know.
Is there a good answer to why those with perceptual disabilities – the blind – may find themselves locked out of works where there is a digital lock, because the current exception that’s in Bill C-11 is so restrictive talking about not being able to unduly impair a TPM – a technological protection measure – such that the blind find themselves locked out. We’ve seen a number of those groups speak out about that issue. I don’t think there is a good answer for that.
Is there a good answer for why researchers who aren’t in the narrow scope of security research, may find themselves locked out, because there’s an exception for security research, but not research more generally. I don’t think there’s a good answer for that.
Is there a good answer for why, in the United States there’s now an exception, specifically for picking the digital lock on a DVD in certain circumstances, but we don’t find something similar in Canada. I don’t think there’s a good answer for that.
And I guess ultimately if there a good answer why many countries New Zealand. Switzerland, and many others that have recognized that you can be compliant with the WIPO Internet treaties and link it directly to actual copyright infringement, well no, there isn’t a good answer for that either. Which is why the government typically simply goes back to talking points which said this is our balance, take it or leave it.
We needn’t play naive here; we know what the real reason is. It may satisfy WIPO to have a more lenient approach to legitimate breaking of digital locks, but clearly our government does not believe that it will satisfy the Americans and they’re going to bully forth with this.
Lets assume that they do, it’s pretty likely that’s gonna be the case, what happens next. What are the copyright implications of the Supreme Court of Canada finding that linking is not publishing. What happens when you talk about an ISO Hunt type website that links to torrent files that might be infringing, but itself does no infringing. Or for that matter Google through which you can find a lot of torrent files that contain copyright infringing material.
Right. well, let’s start by saying that I think this decision that involved p2p.net and the potential liability for linking was a great decision from the Supreme Court of Canada and I think one of the things that we’re seeing from the court is a recognition of the real critical nature that the Internet plays for freedom of expression more generally, and what it’s willing to do, and we certainly see it in this case and I think we see it in some of the court’s other discussion, is that they are really willing to give specific protection for the speech that can occur online because it recognizes just how integral it has become for so many people, certainly for communications for culture and commerce but for basic freedom of expression and to protect those rights that are so central and fundamental within a democratic society. In recognizing that the Internet itself and that activity on the Internet has to be protected.
There are some pretty big implications there. I mean when you think for example of some of the proposals in other countries that have sought to kick people off the Internet based on a number of allegations of infringement. That’s to say you take that kind of proposal which is not on the table right now in Canada, but we know some of the rights holders would like to see it brought to Canada, this is a Supreme Court of Canada that you get the sense they would simply laugh that out of court. That it would not withstand any sort of Charter scrutiny given the strong link that it sees between the Internet itself and freedom of expression. So I think in that sense it’s very good.
More directly or more immediately we’ve had a number of proposals put forward that seek compensation for essentially the act of linking to copyright content. Through Access Copyright for example. Their proposal has argued that linking to content may fall within its tariff, as though we’re dealing with some sort of reproduction of the work. I think if you take a look at the analysis that we’ve had from the Supreme Court here, where it’s very clear that it does not believe that a link amounts to a reproduction, or a republication rather, in the context of defamation , I think a similar kind of analysis might well come into play if you start talking about if from a copyright context.
I mean, they were really explicit. You know, like (A) Linking is not publishing and (B) if you were to deem it so, the Internet wouldn’t work. How can you hold people accountable for what lies on the other side of a link, it can change and people have no control over that.
The Court totally understood both how information is disseminated online,how the Internet functions, and that central role that linking plays. So in that sense it was very good. And note that there are three decisions, there’s the one that’s adopted by the majority of the court, and then there are two concurring decisions each actually adopts different standards when it comes to potential liability for linking. So all agree that as a basic premise linking shouldn’t bring liability but then they get into the question of what if. Under what circumstances might linking rise to the level of potential liability, and the one that the Supreme Court ultimately adopts or that the majority of the court adopts is the one that has by far the highest threshold. One that seeks to protect as much as possible that freedom of expression online, saying yes at the end of the day you still go after the person who is responsible for the defamatory speech, that’s where responsibility lies, not with someone who has linked to this content.
Okay, but how do we reconcile that with Bill C-11 which states that if a website’s primary purpose is to enable copyright infringement it doesn’t matter whether or not that site itself infringes, it is subject, it’s breaking the law, it’s breaking Bill C-11. So I mean it seems that the precedent that’s just been set is in some sort of conflict with that piece of legislation.
I don’t know if its in conflict, but obviously its not wholly consistent. I mean what the government is trying to do in C-11 is establish a very tough rule that goes after these sites, the so-called ‘enabler’ sites.
I’ve argued that we already may have laws that can deal effectively with those sites. In fact there is already an ongoing lawsuit the Industry has brought against ISO Hunt and so there is still issues around authorizing infringement which apply whether or not we’re dealing per se with a link We could get into a debate as to whether or not links alone are enough to authorize infringement, but where you’ve got a site that seems to be by its design designed to support infringing activities, the case that would be brought would probably involve more than just pointing to the linking activity but rather the structure of the search, the way in which it has been designed to try to rise to the level of authorizing others to infringe. The truth is, we don’t fully know yet where courts would land on these issues. On the enabler provision it’s still not a part of the law, and in the cases against ISO Hunt the Industry has for so long dragged its feet seeming content to score points for the politicians by saying Canadian Law is Weak, we need legal changes, although quietly on the side, continuing to pursue legislative legal remedies using the law as it currently stands.
Now, there’s another part of this where the courts may find issue with C-11. There’s a possibility if a case were to be brought to the Supreme Court of Canada that was arguing that the prohibition on breaking digital locks is a violation of our Charter Rights, the court might find that is true. Is there any indication of where they would stand on that? Do you think that a precedent setting case like that is likely once this bill becomes law?
It’s an interesting issue and I don’t think so much that it is a matter of Charter Rights but rather a violation if the Constitution in terms of the division of powers. And the argument here, and I think its a good one, is that the way the Constitution is structured, Copyright is the responsibility of the Federal Government but Property and Civil Rights fall to the Provinces. So long as you’ve got provisions that are clearly about copyright, this is something that obviously falls within Federal jurisdiction and they can legally legislate.
The problem the Government may face when it comes to the digital lock provisions as they are currently structured, is that they seem to be far more about property rights, what people can and can’t do with their personal property that they’ve purchased than it is about copyright. In fact, as part of that Access to Information request that I obtained from the government, there was a clause by clause analysis of the legislation, and the government is very very clear in that you don’t need an actual copyright infringement to violate the digital lock rules, and the traditional defenses that exist within the Copyright Act also don’t apply when somebody breaks the digital lock rules. So if we’ve got provisions here where we’re not talking about traditional offenses under the Copyright Act and we’re not talking about traditional defenses under the Copyright Act, that doesn’t sound very much like copyright at all.
Give me an example. Are we talking about like if I were to break a digital lock on a DVD or if I were to unlock a cell phone how does that have anything to do with copyright, is that what you mean?
That’s exactly what it is. We’re talking about access in the case, let’s say, of the DVD and its the Copyright law not the Access Act, and so the Copyright Act deals specifically with copying and reproduction of works. This ventures far beyond that into people’s rights to access materials, in this case the use of the property they have purchased. The copyright holder of course owns the right in the underlying work, the intellectual property that exists within the DVD, But you still do have some rights over the physical DVD that you’ve purchased and the notion that one can exclude access part of that is pretty far afield from conventional copyright.
Now if the government would follow the recommendations that we’ve seen from so many groups, that say create a clear linkage between breaking a digital lock and an intent to infringe, well then it does start sounding again like copyright, because now we are talking about people who are breaking copyright rules and the digital locks are there to support those basic policies about insuring the copyright act is effective.
But the way the government has structured the law right now, is that they’ve moved pretty far away from traditional copyright, it really is into the realm of traditional property rights. It’s all about what consumers can and can’t do with their property irrespective of whether someone might be infringing copyright or even irrespective of whether or not they’ve got an appropriate defense of fair dealing or otherwise. And so I think it is entirely possible once this becomes operational, and we face the prospect of some actions brought against people, that we’ll see groups seek to clarify whether or not the provisions as currently structured even pass muster from a constitutional perspective.
And this is not sort of you know, lawyeringness, or a kind of niggling detail, our rights over our private property are pretty essential in any democracy. These are constitutional rights. The circumstances of where this would get fought I suppose would be if you found the right case, say a blind person who buys a book that is not available as an audio book They break DRM in order to feed it into a text to speech program so they can actually enjoy what they bought. There is no question of illegal reproduction, certainly not commercial, That might be a case that you know some interested lawyer who knows about these things. maybe yourself might actually make an issue out of it and take it to the courts and then that would challenge the bill itself.
I think that would challenge those specific provisions. So I would seek to argue that the particular provisions around digital locks are unconstitutional because they are ultra vires the federal government. In other words, provisions that involve property and civil rights, and do not directly involve copyright, are beyond the jurisdiction of the purview of the Federal Government.
There’s an easy way of course to fix that and make this legislation a bit more bulletproof against a constitutional challenge and that’s to create a link to copyright. As we’ve been discussing now, despite the fact that so many groups and now all the opposition parties have been calling for exactly that kind of remedy the government has been loath to move in that direction.
What will be the impact for average Canadians in the period of time shortly following the passing of this law. Are we going to see the same kinds of lawsuits that, I mean, Minister Moore like to say that the Industry is done with that kind of lawsuits that the Recording Industry Association filed against, I don’t know, 30,000 individual file sharers, teenagers, single moms… Of course the movie industry seems to be moving in that direction. The Hurt Locker down loaders faced lawsuits like that. Are we going to see that in Canada? Is that how this is going to hit home for people who have not paid the closest attention to this up ’til now?
Well, you know, the odd thing about this legislation is that the way that it gets promoted is so often around things like peer to peer file sharing but C-11 has very little to do with peer to peer file sharing.
The practical reality is that similar legislation has been in place in the United States since before the advent of Napster and so the notion that suddenly new digital lock protection are going to provide the kind of protections that are necessary to eradicate infringement online is just patently false. And I think everybody knows it. I spent sometime this week at a conference with a series of European experts are here and no one’s talking about digital locks. In fact in Europe a number of countries have implemented it in different ways, in some ways different than the United States has implemented it. Digital locks aren’t ultimately about dealing with peer to peer and they’re ultimately not about these sorts of lawsuits.
And so, once the legislation is passed, we’re going to see a real impact. Whether its in education, or in other places where the rules won’t be clear, that many of the traditional user rights or exceptions, around research, or around private study, or in criticism review, potentially even around education itself, if that becomes part of the law with C-11. There, once there’s a digital lock in place, those rights cease to apply and I think that’ll have a pretty dramatic impact.
Now, there’s a lot of other good things that will come into the legislation, in terms of clarifing legalization of recording television shows and back up copies. Extending or expanding some of the fair dealing rights. I think all of that’s great. But at the same time those digital lock rules will have that immediate impact. As for the prospect of lawsuits, the Industry stood up before the committee just a few months ago, just before the bill died, and was unequivocal when asked directly about the prospect of new file sharing lawsuits against individuals, and said they have no intention of doing so and just within a number of months, we now know that lawsuits have been filed with three major ISPs in Canada, and of course if those are successful, even with the changes to the statutory damage provisions in the bill, even with changes that create a cap for non commercial infringement, the door is still open to see more of these kinds of suits.
You know, I feel that most Canadians, for personal use, are going to continue to do whatever they were doing before, if in fact they are aware of this bill is a law or will soon be a law or not. It’s really at the institutional level, the universities and companies that just want to avoid liability in any way that they’re going to stop doing a lot of things that they have been doing.
That’s absolutely right. And in fact I’ve been asked many times since both Bill C-32 and C-11 about that ability to enforce and I think it is true that practically speaking, most individuals are going to be very tough to stop them from picking a digital lock, the tools are out there, even though this will make the distribution of those tools illegal, and further, its arguable that there are no real damages here either, especially if they are simply seeking to access their own works that they purchased.
But where the rubber will hit the road, where the enforcement will not only be possible but probable, and where it will have a real impact, is frankly, as usual, on the good guy. On the people who are actually going out and buying licensing, trying to make use of materials, and they suddenly find now that where there are locks there are going to be restrictions.
Where you’ve got someone who is sight impaired who wants to ensure they’ve got access if the publisher isn’t making it accessible, and where its behind the lock, they’ll be prohibited from going after it, and there will be large institutions that might want to try to do that on behalf of their users they won’t be doing it.
In larger education institutions where you’ve got teachers and students who want to engage in remix and multimedia presentations and they need to be able to break a digital lock in order to do that, things that are legal as the law currently stands, that too will stop, because the guidelines I think will be unequivocal when presented within those institutions they want to stay on the side of the law and what they will do is make it clear that they can’t engage in that activity.
And so the sad part of all this, one of the sad parts about all this, is that where this will hit most directly, are on the people who are the most likely to want to be compliant with the law. And its in the one place where there are some of the best advantages of using these kinds of new technologies and providing new levels of access, new kinds of creativity and yey what the government is going to be doing
stopping some of it dead in its tracks.
Well, this is soon going to be over and then it’s just gonna be beginning.
I think that’s right. It’s the beginning in terms of some of the legal questions and issues about the bill, and incredibly, it is very likely to all start again with a new piece of legislation now on IP enforcement, that may well be introduced weeks after this piece of legislation passes through the parliamentary process.
I hope you’ll be willing to take us through that when the time comes. Thank you as always for your time, Michael
It’s my pleasure, Jesse. Take care.
Search Engine is produced by me with help from Luke Simcoe and a community of listeners who, unlike me, know their Charter from their Constitution. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the blog, its at t-v-o-slash-searchengine The videos which are going up all the time go up at YouTube-dot-com-slash-t-v-o-searchengine and I’m on Twitter @jessebrown
this program is released with a Creative Commons License. Go ahead and link to it, I promise not to switch it with anything nasty. The next podcast will be up on Tuesday.
[bring music up and out]
The Internet has changed the world faster than any other technological revolution in history.
corporate vs. creator copyright
When that obsolete stuff known as videotape was new, it, too, wreaked havoc. Suddenly movies and tv shows were being released on the new medium. But the big media companies felt no compulsion to actually share the new found wealth with the creators.
Some creators took issue with this, and fought it out in court. And courts duly ruled that creators were entitled to compensation from these new revenues.
Having written the music for the Disney classic “Lady and the Tramp,” Singer/songwriter Peggy Lee was at the forefront of the fight. Urban Legend has it the Disney company did not take the court decision very graciously and vowed not to release the popular children’s film again until after Peggy Lee’s death.
It doesn’t matter if the legend is true or not, it would be a reasonable business practice; a sound corporate strategy. Suppressing the work warns other would-be litigants about the economic risk of asserting their legal rights with the added bonus of imposition of artificial scarcity which inflates the value of the product when finally released.
To me it illustrates the difference between corporate and creator agendas, and in particular why corporations should never be allowed to hold copyright. Creative works of any kind, what human beings call art, are valued differently by human beings, while to a corporation, the only value of art is the bottom line.
enter the lawyers
Here in the Twenty First Century, Intellectual Property Law has become the “sexiest” area of the legal profession because it is both one of the most lucrative areas of law and the source of mind boggling power. IP law has been changing the world.
The primary changes to copyright and lawmaking have been driven by the big media interests.
Music, movies and television “rightsholders” have been driving the changes since those are some of the most lucrative forms of intellectual copyright product.
All the changes to Copyright Law over recent decades have been made to benefit corporations at the expense of both creators and culture; the rules of copyright have been quietly becoming madder and madder (as in the hatter).
writers and publishers
Ironically, although copyright began to provide incentive for the creation of literary works by making it possible for good writers make a living, the publishing industry has not been in the forefront of the current copyright war. The American book publishing industry was built on commercial piracy, more properly called bootlegging.
In the early days of twentieth century paperback novels sold for less than a dollar and writers were paid only a few pennies a word.
Nearing the end of the century I was surprised to learn that writers were still being paid mere pennies a word although paperback novels sold for upward of ten dollars.
The justification was always the great expense borne by the publisher. Printing and distribution costs rose with inflation while payment to the creators did not keep pace. Publishers impressed upon writers that demanding better pay would make books too expensive and lead to fewer books sold. Physical costs were tangible and so always managed to take precedent over the writer’s intangible creativity.
The 21st Century we have seen the introduction of ebooks. Digital books differ from physical books in one crucial way: they cost next to nothing to copy.
Yet customers have been conditioned to spend on the order of twenty dollars for a physical book. Naturally publishers have been happy to sell the average ebook in the ten dollar range. After set-up production costs are negligible, making the revenue stream approach 100% profit.
Amazingly, these same publishers begrudge any change in the royalty payments to the authors. Instead of sharing this good fortune with their writers, the golden egg laying geese of the publishing industry, most publishers have been trying on the same power grab movie companies tried with video: laying claim to legal rights they had not been granted.
One of the most compelling reasons I never seriously considered placing my novel with a traditional publishing house was the problem William Styron’s heirs had with the publisher.
Mr. Styron’s family believes it retains the rights, since the books were first published before e-books existed. Random House, Mr. Styron’s longtime publisher, says it owns those rights, and it is determined to secure its place — and continuing profits — in the Kindle era.
The discussions about the digital fate of Mr. Styron’s work are similar to the negotiations playing out across the book industry as publishers hustle to capture the rights to release e-book versions of so-called backlist books.
That was my tipping point. Would you trust this industry to do right by you? I wouldn’t. Given the choice, I’m not willing to hand over my creative work to traditional publishing. Particularly since this same digital revolution gives me choice: technology has made self publishing a valid and viable option.
The arrogance of publishers to assert claims to ebook rights by default– simply because they’d published traditional physical paper version– is ludicrous.
At issue is who holds digital rights in older titles published before the advent of ebooks. Publishers argue that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents respond that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author.
On Friday (June 23rd, 2010) the Wylie Agency shook the world
by taking a stand for authors and against the publishing houses. (And for themselves, never forget that. Wylie has launched a whole new business here; this may well be straying into anti-trust waters.)
This Literary Agency is setting up the Odessey Books imprint under which they will release older works as ebooks; specifically books whose digital rights have not been signed over to the physical publishers.
The publishers who believed themselves entitled to this copyright are of course greatly outraged that works they believed safely under their control has been snatched out from under them.
Odyssey certainly appears to already be a going concern, with a set of clean simple text based digital book covers for the classics they are releasing exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle for the first two years.
Good for Wylie, good for Odyssey.
From a consumer’s point of view I have reservations. I only looked at the pricing for one book, so the prices may vary, but I have to wonder how the ebook version of a books could cost more than the physical paperback version also sold through Amazon. Yes, the ebook version is sleek and lightweight, but the Kindle is after all a reader laden with DRM that I understand prevents copying for both format shifting and backups. In other words, the ten dollar ebook will be locked inside a brick if the Kindle breaks down or becomes obsolete. But that’s another story.
From an author’s point of view, there may be financial problems. Odyssey doesn’t seem to be offering authors such a great deal.
“Yes, there are costs of creating a digital version, but offering a 25, 30% royalty is insulting.”
~Kassia Krozser, Today in Publishing: A Skirmish
Although I don’t believe the Guardian’s assertion that Wylie’s Amazon deal brings the end of the publishing world nigh, I certainly do think this is a good thing.
It sounds to me that the Wylie Agency is stepping in and performing the service that that publishing houses should have performed for their clients. Adaptability is key to any business long term survival. The total control they have long held seems to have seduced the publishing industry in much the same way it has the recording and movie companies into believing that they deserve control of these copyrights.
this story can help start the copyright conversation
Technology has changed the world indescribably, and corporations have exerted untold amounts of pressure on lawmakers the world over to legislate anti-progress in the form of copyright laws and treaties.
The changes being made to the world in the name of copyright are still largely unnoticed by most people. Demographically young computer savvy people are among the most knowledgeable sector of society about these issues, but they are a minority. And the fact remains that the whole world NEEDS to be part of the conversation. Allowing corporate interests to control the conversation is increasingly leading to greater and greater imbalance.
copyright and the public domain
I’ve never understood how anyone besides the creator is entitled to the proceeds from copyright. License the work to the publisher sure, but giving them copyright? No legal system should ever have allowed this. Copyright was meant to encourage creation for the good of culture.
In the beginning there was the commons. Ownership of the songs and stories of belonged to everyone. Story tellers preserved and shaped the culture, and in return society made sure they could make living at it. Minstrels telling a good tale or singing a good song were fed. The introduction of the printing press changed things in that the words of the writers could now be spread and shared through this artificial means. Copyright is an artificial right assumed by society in an effort to encourage creators to continue to create by controlling the monetization of their work for a finite period of time. When the term was up, the work went into the public domain so that all of society could get the benefit.
tweets from ORGcon
The UK Nonpartisan Open Rights Group, working to fight the UK’s ill advised hastily passed Digital Economy Act, today held #ORGCon. Cory Doctorow tweeted highlights. Copyright and the Public Domain were central to the convention, and much of what @doctorow and other attendees shared online, particularly comments by keynote speaker James Boyle provide some powerful background for this article:
- For the 1st time in human history, all the works produced by our contemporaries are inaccessible to us
- Paradox: absent Creative Commons etc, none of us will be able to share/use/mix anything made by our contemporaries in our lifetime
- Most works exhaust all commercial viability in 5 years
- Prior to 1978, 85% of works went into PD after 28 yrs b/c most authors didn’t think it was worth renewing copyright
- Of works in British Library > 28 yrs old, only 3-5% are commercially available
- Retrospective copyright extensions cut us off from our own culture to the benefit of no one
- If industry norms on copyright clearance were given as exam answers in law school, you’d flunk out
- Why not say “Hell with it. Copyright is dumb… ignore it.” Because culture’s viability shouldn’t be dependent on lawlessness
- Copyright maximalists have created a generation of lawbreakers, some guilty, some joyful. This is a great harm
- Prior to GOOGLE Book Search, books had been transformed into the least accessible place to put information
- Jennifer Jenkins: What used to be considered creativity is now thought of as theft.
- We’re the first generation in history to deny our own culture to ourselves.
- The Digital Economy Act was the result of the biggest lobbying operation @tom_watson (not speaking on behalf of his government) has seen in his political life.
- “An entire generation has given up the idea that breaking the law is wrong”~ James Boyle
For further first person #org coverage read:
Elmyra’s ORGcon 2010 Livejournal
rt @doctorow: Until the tenth Century a musicians just needed to play.
Until the 19th century musicians just needed to be literate.
In the twentieth century, musicians needed to be geeks,
But in 21st Century musicians need to be lawyers.
These laws will force all of us to be lawyers.
Everyone from professional media makers to children putting together school projects.
The United States has enacted the DMCA. The UK the DEAct. Canada has tabled Bill C-32, copyright legislation misleadingly titled “The Copyright Modernization Act”. And the secret international copyright treaty A.C.T.A. seeks to subjugate the copyright laws of the whole world.
Copyright is no longer simply an area of special interest to publishers and writers. Changes being made in the name of copyright effect culture and the the way we access culture in every country of the world.
We all need to be part of the conversation.
Image Credits: spider web used under a CreativeCommons Attribution 2.0 Generic license (by) 2004 cybershotking
Fate of videotape (en:obsolence) © 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license
William Styron, Santiago, Chile, 1988 photo by Marcelo Montecino Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Wikipedia cropped cinema image of Peggy Lee, used under the public domain in the US and fair dealing in Canada
[on May 21, 2010 I simul-posted an article about the Canadian Digital Economy Consultation in three of my blogs in hopes of encouraging participation in the consultation process. I felt this was necessary since thousands of Canadians were still so angry after participating in the Copyright Consultation only to be ignored by the Government. My direct participation was limited because I was getting my debut novel "Inconstant Moon" ready for publishing. I did manage a submission, but as I look at how the digEcon went I regret I was unable to participate more.
There are digEcon issues to write but what started as an Oh! Canada post grew too big (even for me). Instead I'm breaking it down into a three part series across my blogs. The first part is published here in the wind because this is where I generally look at copyright issues because they affect me as a content consumer and a writer. The second part will go into Oh! Canada and the final part into StopUBB. When all three are complete I'll add link arrows.]
If you’ve followed the Canadian Copyright debacle you might want to skip the recap & go straight to the last paragraph.
The Canadian Government put on a Copyright Consultation last year, inviting Canadians to offer input on copyright so the government could take it into consideration when drafting new copyright law. Sounds good, eh? Democratic Government.
The copyright consultation wasn’t produced out of governmental good will. You have to look at the back story to “get it”.
The last time the Canadian Liberal Party was in power in a minority Government, they tabled a draft copyright law known as Bill C-60 back in 2005. Fortunately for Canada this law did not slip through. Once the contents of the draft legislation became known it was generally reviled by Canadians. We were quite fortunate that we had a minority government and that it folded before this bad law might have passed.
[Not because it was a good law, but because the worst part of our electoral system is that a so-called "majority party" can pass whatever legislation they like, even if the rest of the country is against it. Canada needs electoral reform (check out Fairvote Canada to get involved. But that's another story.]
The subsequent minority government was formed by the Conservative Party of Canada. They tabled draft copyright legislation known as Bill C-61, which was also universally reviled. Again we were fortunate that we had a minority government and that it folded before this law might have passed.
Both of these efforts came under fire at least partially because they were handed down like tablets from “on high”.
There had been no discussion with or input from citizens.
More unusual, it appears that the rich and powerful corporate and collective stakeholders– the ones ordinarily be counted on to back the government up– had been left out of the process as well. Meaning there was essentially there was no support for either version of this legislation.
[The key question that has to be asked is "Why?"]
The ensuing election did not result in the Conservative Party majority they expected. After all, under Canada’s current electoral system, a majority government can pass any law it likes. So instead of just dusting off Bill C-61 and trying again, the pressure to “strengthen” Canadian copyright law led to the Conservative Government surprising us all with the announcement of a Canada wide “Copyright Consultation”.
Strategically this was brilliant: instead of trying to push essentially the same law through a second time, they gave Canadians a chance to be heard. Holy democracy Batman!
It didn’t quite come off without a hitch: the Copyright Consultation had a traveling ‘dog and pony show’ that raised more hackles than it calmed. Accusations of stacking the deck at the so-called ‘Town Hall’ meetings, citizens– including Canadian Federation of Students members and elected Member of Parliament Olivia Chow– were prevented from distributing copyright info flyers to people attending the “Town Hall” meetings. You can read about the whole gory extravaganza on Michael Geist‘s public service Speak out on Copyright site.
With such heavy handed efforts being made to control the outcome, it was actually quite depressing to sit down and write my own copyright consultation submission.
But it was important and so I did it.
Even though copyright law had already impacted on my life in many ways over the years as both a consumer and creator I’d never really thought about copyright before. I was actually surprised by all the things that bubbled up out of my life experience into my formal submission.
Over the months following the #copycon I’ve taken the time to read through some of the other submissions. I learned a great deal I did not know, and my opinion and feelings about copyright have been enriched by things I have read and learned. They are all still there online, ready to be read. Over eight thousand Canadians responded to the #copycon.
I have been amazed at the depth of thought, the intelligence, the innovation and creativity expressed by many of my fellow Canadians. I’ve learned so much. But even more, reading these submissions made me proud to be part of this great land. Almost all of the Canadians who made submissions firmly rejected anything like a DMCA style copyright law for Canada.
The Copyright Modernization Act
Perhaps change for the sake of change is a reasonable when you’re tired of your home decor, but it’s not a good reason to change law. Before making new copyright law, we must have a Canada wide consensus on the issues. What is copyright for?
- What is reasonable to Canadians?
- What is sharing?
- Or personal use?
- Or piracy?
- are we willing to lower previously accepted standards of evidence?
- What kind of penalties are reasonable for non-commercial copyright infringements… in other words, should children who share music go to jail?
Intellectual Property is the most unnatural kind of law possible. Because it runs contrary to the natural inclinations of both creators and society it’s the kind of law that can’t simply be handed down by corporations and lawmakers. It must be an agreement between creators and society– that’s the balance that has to be achieved for it to work. The foundation has not been laid to allow for changing the copyright law we have now.
Changes being made to copyright law at the behest of corporate special interest groups in recent years have troubled me greatly, but they have been counter balanced by offering creators recourse to the marvelous Creative Commons Licensing. CC allows the creator to decide how copyright can best serve us in creation and distribution of our work. It has been excellent for our culture; the Canadian Arts are entering a golden age.
Yet this year the Government has just tabled “new” legislation called Bill C-32 “The Copyright Modernization Act.” Not the healthy balanced copyright law that most of us had hoped for, but rather the long dreaded Canadian DMCA. Thousands of Canadians, like myself, feel betrayed because our government totally ignored our input. Input that the Government asked for through the Copyright Consultation.
As it stands this legislation would remove copyright control from creators by making it subject to manufacturers DRM/TPM or “digital locks”. Digital locks of any kind shouldn’t even be part of the conversation about copyright.
As a creator, as a writer, this is horrifying. For hundreds of years copyright has existed with the intention of allowing content creators a means of making a living. And the very first content creators were writers. Copyright was made for us.
Canadian creators will lose our ability to control our work with Creative Commons Licensing if Bill C-32 is passed because digital locks will appear on all blank media and all media devices from e-readers to hard drives. Bill C-32 will give sole control of copyright to manufacturers.
So far this dreadful law has not passed.
There has been a big outcry. Many Canadians have been speaking out against it.
During this uproar, suddenly we have the announcement of a new initiative:
The Digital Economy Consultation
Many Canadians have viewed this with skepticism. Many intelligent, informed and thoughtful Canadians did not participate at all, wondering why they should bother when the Government won’t listen anyway? Isn’t this Digital Economy Consultation website just a sham?
A Digital Economy con? A way to deflect the criticism from Bill C-32?
I don’t think it matters. It is important to speak out even if they don’t listen.
The Copyright Consultation resulted in a volume of clearly Canadian work. Together the online #copycon submissions make up an online reference work that other Canadians can read online.
Canadians are smart. We can learn from each other even if this Government won’t. Some future Government may be clever enough to act on our ideas even if this Government will not. That’s why I wrote an article urging people to contribute to the digEcon and simulcast it across all my blogs. Yet for most of the consultation period I’ve been hard at work on my novel.
It wasn’t until quite late in the game I was able to spare the time for it, but I just managed it. I’m not entirely happy with what I submitted. But I was running on empty to make the deadline, and I did. It wasn’t as brilliant as I would have liked, but that’s life. I even had the better part of an hour before midnight, just in case there were technical difficulties.
When I went to make the submission I was surprised to see that the consultation period had been extended. Great. The extension meant that I could actually proof my submission and perhaps minimize the incidence of spelling mistakes and typographical errors. But why?
No explanation, just an extension. I wondered what that was about.
Looking back at the Copyright Consultation, there were so many people making eleventh hour submissions that the government granted a 24 hour “grace period”. They didn’t open that all up again, as they did here.
For the digEcon, they added four days. What an odd number. If they were going to extend it a useful amount, a month would have been good. And it wasn’t just submissions that were allowed over the four days, it was everything. Like voting on Idea Forum ideas. Keeping the Idea Forums open for a month might have been really productive. Just think of the collective brilliance that might have come out of that. But no, it was four days.
Not enough time to allow most ordinary Canadians enough time to create a submission or participate in the forums. So why did they do it?
Reference Material – Canadian Copyright Law
Reference Material – Information on American Copyright Law
- H.R.2281 aka`Digital Millennium Copyright Act’
- Electronic Frontier Foundation: Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Image Credit: Copyright jail Question Copyright Sita Distribution Project remixed with my “Inconstant Moon” cover art by laurelrusswurm