Just under the wire: My Copycon Submission

I just completed and submitted my submission for the Canadian Copyright Consultation. Complete and unabridged:

My name is Laurel L. Russwurm, and I’m a Sheridan College Media Arts Graduate who went on to write drama and children’s programs in the Canadian television industry. Currently I am in the process of returning to the world of words following a prolonged stint as a full time parent.


1 How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you?

As a writer it particularly bothers me when I read of “lost works”. There are many books that I know exist but I’ve never been able to actually find. Books that are now out of print. I will probably never find many of them. It saddens me that I may never get to read them. As a writer it upsets me more to think that some of those books will eventually cease to exist. Many already have because they were confined by copyright, and they were not important enough to keep in print. No one will ever have the opportunity to read them. That loss is a loss to the sum of human knowledge and I find it indescribably sad.

The argument can be made that the books that go out of print and stay out of print were unpopular, so perhaps they deserve to go out of print. I would have to disagree. As someone who re-reads books, a book is different the second time around because the reader is different. Popularity isn’t always an indicator of what stands the test of time, it may simply be due to a fad.

Terms of copyright have been getting longer and longer. In many cases the “popular” book isn’t always the one that can stand the test of time, sometimes the true classic is positively overlooked initially. I expect publishers find it advantageous to keep only best selling books in print. By keeping the slow starters out of print, traditionally the public has been forced to choose from a shallower pool.

Allowing copyright to survive the death of the creator strikes me as absurd. Allowing copyright to continue seventy years after the death of the creator is inconceivable. This practice is bad for the public, because we may in fact not get a chance to read, see or hear the work. Ever. As an writer, I want my work to be out there.

Canada’s copyright laws affect me as a Canadian citizen, consumer, mother, and writer, coming from a family of writers, artists, programmers, and musicians.

The impact of copyright can be felt in both Canadian culture and the Canadian economy. As a citizen my ability to access Canadian writing, art, photography, music and software is important. As a consumer the copyright laws impact on what I can and can not do with things that I have accessed or purchased. As a mother the copyright laws impact not only on the Canadian culture I expose my child to, but will also affect my child’s future pursuits. These consultations may well change the world he will inherit. As a writer, copyright should neither hinder my ability to access research or disseminate my work.

The single most important change should be a reduction of Canada’s copyright term to no more than twenty years. In particular, since copyright is supposed to protect the rights of the creator, there is no reason why copyright should continue after the creator’s death. I have heard no reasonable explanation as to why the term of copyright is so much longer than the term of patent.

It should be the right of any Canadian creator of intellectual property to place that work directly into the public domain on creation.

If a publisher allows a work to go out of print, or if a distributor stops actively distributing art, music, movies or software, this is an act of overt non-distribution which acts to effectively to suppress dissemination of the intellectual property. Copyright law should allow the creator of this work the right to place it directly into the public domain regardless of contractual obligation, because absent this relief this kind of artificial suppression of the work could well damage the creator’s ability to generate future income.

2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time

As technology has changed Canadian consumers have had a hard time understanding what is legally allowable. Canadian cable service providers openly encouraged Canadian viewers to “time shift”(videotaping the movie in conflict with the favorite TV show).

Then came the CD levy. Canadians pay a levy on every blank CD we buy, which is supposed to be divided among Canadian recording artists. Although I can’t speak for anyone else, the bulk of the blank CDs I’ve purchased have been used to back up my hard drives, not record downloaded music, so most of the levy money collected from me has been collected unjustly. Within the existing CIPPIC system there is little chance that the musicians whose work I enjoy will receive any of the levy money, since I tend to buy my music direct from the artist and never willingly listen to the radio.

These two things clearly send the message that personal use copying is permissible in Canada. The very existence of the CD levy was a government acknowledgment of the perceived Canadian right to legally make copies of music for our personal use.

The world has changed, and how we get exposed to works has changed too. When radio was new, the content providers had no problem with people listening to their content. When TV came along that content too was offered free of charge.

I stopped listening to the radio years ago because my tastes were not reflected in the music that got air play. I would rather listen to my own recordings than have to put up with hours of music I don’t like in the hopes of getting one song I do. So there are limits on how music can reach me. My exposure to new music is through attendance of festivals and concerts, and occasionally listening to downloaded music.

Yet if the lawmakers enact new legislation explicitly stating that listening to downloaded music is illegal, as a good Canadian I’ll stop listening tp downloaded music. That would hurt new Canadian recording artists because the only opportunity they will have to bring their music to my attention will be by performing a live show I might attend in my geographical location. If I don’t, I’ll never know their music, so I’m unlikely to buy any.

When Canadians listen to downloaded music it actually benefits recording artists.

Canadian copyright law should state explicitly that personal use is allowed. Peer to peer file sharing should also be explicitly legal. Copyright law must clearly state that commercial infringement is a criminal act. Instead of criminalizing citizens for activities that have been encouraged and allowed by both distributors and government, the law should be focusing on the real criminals who are mass producing counterfeit copies of music and movies.


I have purchased the same music on records, eight track tapes, cassette tapes, and CD’s. I have purchased movies on video tape and again on DVD. Now there is a new kind of DVD. As a consumer I am tired of buying the same movies over and over again. I am tired of buying the same music over and over again.

No one told us that eight track tapes would become obsolete. Maybe that should have been the tip off about video tapes. Even worse, is the deterioration. Videotape is aging fast, and I’ve had enough commercial CDs and DVDs fail that I know that they won’t last forever. Yet it may be illegal under Canadian law for me to copy this material.

Why is it that consumers are expected to pay for the same movies or music over and over again. When I buy a book, I don’t have to buy it again a few years down the road. I am legally allowed to lend it out, and resell it. Copyright should not prevent consumers from copying the their own media for their own use so that it will last for a reasonable length of time.


Technology is changing so rapidly it is dangerous to try to micromanage it. DRM (Digital Rights Management), and TPM (Technical Protection Measures) attempts to control our use of both hardware and software and in the process cripple the use of such software.

As a Sheridan College Media Arts graduate I am well aware of the principles of editing. Yet I have been frustrated by commercial video editing software when attempting to edit my home movies. I had to purchase two different programs before being able to even burn one home movie DVD. Even so, I have ended with an absurd proportion of spoiled DVDs that either won’t play in my DVD player, or if they do they won’t play in a relative’s DVD player. The point of making home movies is to be able to share them with family members, many of whom are not computer literate. Anyone should be able to put their home movie DVD in their DVD player and play it.

But because of DRM and TPM the hardware and software are crippled to the point of preventing the software from working well, if at all. So legitimate purchaser and users can’t use them easily. The supposed point of DRM and TPM is to stop media piracy. The unfortunate effect is that the media pirates have the equipment and expertise to circumvent these supposed “protections” while the law abiding citizens can’t make use of legally purchased software.

A new computer owner I know was frustrated by an operating system which refused to allow her to put her own digital photographs directly from her own digital camera onto her new computer because the operating system insisted she didn’t have copyright to these images.

When we purchase hardware and software, we assume that we will be able to use it as much as we want until it wears out or breaks. However, like everyone else, I’ve purchased both hardware and software that I should still be able to use, but can’t. In some cases the manufacturer has stopped manufacturing or supporting the product. Or has gone out of business.

All we consumers know is that something we’ve paid for doesn’t work anymore through no fault of our own.

It may be something as simple as suddenly not being able to get the printer drivers for WordPerfect. So software purchased in good faith that still works can no longer perform the necessary functions. Maybe your printer is programmed to stop accepting ink after a certain point, whether the cartridge is actually empty or not. When you discover the cartridges are no longer for sale and you find out that new printer was such a good deal because its been discontinued, even refilling your cartridges doesn’t work because the printer’s programming won’t allow it. The programming tells the printer that the cartridge is empty even if its full.

DRM/TPM programming consigns all this perfectly good hardware and software that should still work properly for years in the landfill.

Perhaps we need legislation to ensure a minimum timeframe for corporations to support their software and hardware, beginning from the last day of Canadian product sale. Say, twenty years?

Far better for Canadian Copyright law to specify that circumvention of DRM and TPM is allowed under Canadian law. The dissemination of knowledge and tools to perform the circumvention must also be legally protected.

If companies wish to practice DRM/TPM that’s up to them, and given a choice I’ll buy the one that doesn’t use it. But if there’s no choice consumers must have the right under law to have the thing reverse engineered to keep it working.

3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?

The most important thing for any artist or creator, is for people to see, read, hear or use our creations. Certainly, deriving income from the work is reasonable, and necessary. But not as important as allowing the art to be disseminated.

Throughout my life there has been talk of the lack of a “Canadian identity” and the dearth of “Canadian culture”. These problems are intertwined. Canadian culture develops as Canadian arts flourish. Artists give voice to the underlying culture and our voices must be heard.

In my youth Canadians were offered precious little exposure to Canadian art, music or movies in spite of or perhaps because of Canadian Content regulations. Canadian culture was at an impasse because it was controlled by the large media companies. Most creators who were not chosen by the big media concerns fell by the wayside. Because if no one reads the words you write, if no one sees the pictures you paint, if no one hears the music you make or watches your film, art won’t flourish. Artists of every kind need an audience.

The more people can see, hear or read the work the greater the chance that the artist will find an audience. A long term of copyright is not conducive to the dissemination of art, because it limits and curtails the free dissemination of the work. It does not help the artist. The single most important thing to any artist starting out is to have their work seen, heard or read.

Right now is probably the very best time for all of the Canadian arts thanks to the internet. Internet access has made the dissemination of works of art extraordinarily easy. Any artist is free to find their own market.

Some publishers and distributors may feel threatened by this, because suddenly they are no longer the sole arbiter of what art will be disseminated. They no longer need to spend vast sums of money to disseminate the artist’s works while the artist is getting established, so they are losing the ability to control the art. Artificial control of art is not good for artists or culture. Certainly the old system made for some very big success stories, but there were many more failures. Even worse, we have quite probably lost out on some amazing Canadian art over the years because the artists were prevented from even getting in the game.

The good publishers and distributors will benefit by this new way of doing business, because once they are successful, artists would rather pursue their art than waste their valuable creative time and energy in publishing and distributing their work. Artists will continue to need publishers and distributors to do the work of publishing and distributing, but now there is a greater chance of entering into mutually beneficial agreements.

Canadians are publishing a vast amount of their words in blogs. Canadians are distributing great quantities of their photographs on internet photo sharing services. Canadians are sharing their home videos. In the new model of commercial music young Canadian musicians won’t have to suffer the back breaking struggle Stompin’ Tom Connors did in order to become a Canadian recording superstar. The tools provided by the internet help Canadian musicians self promote and self publish their music and distribute it online. And they are finding their audiences.

Any Copyright laws that interfere with this will stifle innovation and creativity in Canada.

4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?

A free copyright registry would be an invaluable service to Canada. As well as identifying all Canadian copyrighted works it should register works that are in the public domain. Once in place, it would make it easy to determine who holds the copyright on any Canadian work, which would certainly make it easier for interested parties to license Canadian intellectual properties.

More importantly, we need to ensure that Canadian works of intellectual property don’t fall through the cracks and become lost simply because copyright status can’t currently be determined. That is the last thing any creator would ever want to happen.

Public domain intellectual properties are an important resource. Creation of derivative works can be a good thing. However, once a work is in the public domain it should not be possible for it to be removed and copyrighted by any one.


Crown Copyright should be abolished. Since taxpayer dollars are used to generate these works they should be freely accessible. Digital media and the internet render physical publishing costs a non-issue. This Canadian material could be released under Canadian copyright law approximating a creative commons “attribution only” license. It would certainly be in Canada’s best interest for our government to follow the lead of our American neighbors on this.


Canadian comedians and writers have lead the world in parody and satire. Incredible in light of Canadian copyright law. Perhaps if there were parody and satire exemptions to Canadian copyright law allowing these uses to be legal in Canada then some of our future stars would stay home.

5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?

In order for Canada to have a hope of being a leader in the global digital economy, all decisions about copyright must be home grown. Under no circumstances should our copyright laws be dictated by foreign interests. This consultation would prove to be an exercise in futility should there even be an appearance of pandering to a foreign lobby.

To lead in a global digital world Canada needs to allow her artists, musicians, film makers, programmers and writers to make full and effective use of the available technology.

A copyright term that runs for twenty years would make it possible for intellectual property to enter the public domain in the author’s lifetime. So the book that I write this year would go into the public domain in twenty years. At that time a publisher who might not have been able to afford afford to license my new work will be able to publish my old work. Because the material is now in the public domain, the publisher can retail the work for a much lower cost. Any time works are disseminated in a new way or a different market they have the opportunity to add to the audience. So although I will not receive license fees for this publication, it will nevertheless increase the market for my new material.

It does a writer no good to have dormant works protected under copyright. Having the term of copyright continue for fifty years after my death may support my estate, but is does me no good. In fact, by preventing my work from being disseminated, the end result may well be that my work is lost. Works in the public domain are more likely to survive.

I don’t see any good justification for the term of copyright to exceed a term of patent.

Copyright law is intended to benefit those who create, whether it is written work, fine artwork, photography, written music, recorded media or software. The voices of the creators of works of intellectual property should have far more weight than the voices of those who have traditionally made money from our creations.

Laurel L. Russwurm

CC The Hon. James Moore, MP, Minister of Canadian Heritage
CC The Hon. Tony Clement, MP, Minister of Industry
CC The Hon. Harold Albrecht, MP

CC submissions@faircopy.ca


13 thoughts on “Just under the wire: My Copycon Submission

  1. […] 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. […]

  2. […] of the comments I’ve been reading in online articles to do with weighty issues like UBB and copyright, many of us have thought about this and have a lot of good ideas. This is a good place to put them. […]

  3. […] of the comments I’ve been reading in online articles to do with weighty issues like UBB and copyright, many of us have thought about this and have a lot of good ideas. This is a good place to put them. […]

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