Dear Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium:
Re: Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal
As a middle aged mother, I’ve been learning (and sharing what I’ve learned) about net neutrality, the importance of free software, free culture, nd an open Internet, ever since I began hand coding my own HTML web pages and participating on the Internet in 2009. As a creator from a creative family, as well as publishing my own content online, I run a blog for my eighty three year old father. I have come to consider myself a netizen.
One reason DRM is dangerous is that it can hide all manner of spyware and malware from users. Another is that most people don’t even know what it is, or if they do, how to recognize it. While governments have allowed large corporations and media conglomerates to cripple digital products with DRM, there is no requirement anywhere in the world to to inform customers or computer users of such application.
I have avoided DRM wherever possible, but even with the absurd extension of copyright laws, I have been certain that free culture will win out eventually. But that confidence presupposes a free market.
In Canada where I live, our new Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent DRM for any reason at all, even if the the circumvention is allowed under our “fair dealing” exemptions, or if the DRM is applied inappropriately. I consider the application of DRM to freely licensed or public domain creative works to be inappropriate.
This is a huge concern for me, both as a cultural consumer and as a self publishing author. Existing copyright law has prevented me from even seeing the finished production of one of my own works.
Independent creators and Internet users are already at a huge disadvantage, because the large media special interests have the wherewithal to successfully lobby governments around the world into maximizing copyright laws and the attendant copyright monopoly to their own great benefit, at our expense.
These large and powerful special interest groups have long had a seat at the W3C table. But where is there representation for Internet users?
Most of the public does not even know W3C exists, let alone how to comment on an issue such as this. Although I am passionately interested in the subject, until I read Harry Halpin’s Guardian article last week, I had no idea there was any way for Internet users or creators to express our dismay beyond signing the Defective By Design’s “Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal” Petition. But Mr. Halpin pretty much implies that petition wasn’t enough.
Although Canada has been a world leader in Internet adoption, most Canadians are still not online. For most of those who are, participation on Facebook signifies the height of technical prowess. Certainly most Canadians haven’t even heard of the Guardian, and so will not have even read the article.
Mr. Halpin essentially gave me the weekend to get the word out. This weekend Identi.ca, the social network of choice for a great many people who are aware of these issues, is undergoing a massive migration from a backend of StatusNet to pump.io software. Many users like myself have been consumed in setting up our own federated status net instances. As well, those of us with privacy concerns have been caught up in the NSA Prism news story. For myself, I’ve had two major family happenings this weekend in addition to those online issues.
Maybe a few people who understand the issue will have read the blog post I wrote, but a weekend is not much time. Especially considering that the special interests that want DRM written into the Web Standard have been at the table for so very much longer.
Until the W3C holds a widely publicized meaningful consultation process, that Free Software Petition must be given at least as much weight as the opinions of any other group of stakeholders. Perhaps more, since the inclusion of DRM in the standard panders to the direct benefit of a specific special interest lobby group. Internet Users are easily the largest group of stakeholders, and our exclusion from the process means that the W3C must look out for the public good.
Keeping even a whiff of DRM out of the Web Standard will not harm the corporate special interests who lobby so effectively for it. They can just continue on as they have been, locking their own content behind DRM. Allowing the DRM toehold EME provides will lead to DRM becoming the default.
DRM exists to break interoperability. If DRM is allowed into the W3C Standard, it will become the W3C Standard. If W3C supports this, it will sacrifice the free and open Internet, not just for us, but for generations to come.
Please don’t do this.
Laurel L. Russwurm
Unesco‘s “World Press Freedom Day 2013” is promoting the idea that people need to be able to use social media for freedom of expression, whether it’s on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Vkontakte, Tencent, Identi.ca, or blogs. Many people don’t know that they should be free and safe to blog, to upload pictures, to watch online video., or that the freedom to receive & impart information & ideas through any media is promised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As the western free press buckles under the control and demands of powerful special interests, the Internet has made citizen journalism possible just when we need it most. Unfortunately, sometimes people engaging in social media are targeted by repressive regimes.
In Canada, Byron Sonne’s Charter rights were violated by police, and charges were laid against him for posting photographs on Flickr and tweeting concerns about the billion dollar “security theatre” being staged in Toronto for the Toronto G20. He was punitively denied bail for almost a year, and when finally granted bail it was under onerous conditions, so he was effectively a political prisoner for nearly two years.
In Syria, Internet activist Bassel Khartabil has been unjustly detained for over a year, without trial or any legal charges being brought against him.
Since March 15, 2012, our colleague and friend Bassel Khartabil has been in prison in Syria, held without charges and not allowed legal representation. Bassel is an open-source coder and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons program. He believes in the open Internet, and has spent the last ten years using open technologies to improve the lives of Syrians. Not only did Bassel build the CC program in his country; he worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.”
Around the world, we’re seeing increased restrictions on free speech as the breadth of copyright laws have been expanded to allow censorship, and we face an unending barrage of laws like SOPA and CISPA that allow government and corporate incusrions into our personal privacy, and trade agreements like ACTA and CETA.
Unesco is promoting the free exchange of ideas & knowledge that is possible with social media, and wants everyone to have a voice and be able to speak freely and in safety, no matter where they are in the world.
There is a growing awareness that ensuring freedom of expression must also necessarily extend to safety online. World Press Freedom Day 2013 focuses on the theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media” and puts the spotlight, in particular, on the issues of safety of journalists, combating impunity for crimes against freedom of expression, and securing a free and open Internet as the precondition for online safety.”
Which dovetails nicely with the fact today is also the International Day Against DRM. If DRM becomes a built in part of the HTML5, any hope of a free and open Internet will be lost.
DRM restricts the public’s freedom, even beyond what overzealous copyright law requires, to the perceived benefit of this privileged, powerful few.”
DRM is “Digital Rights Management” or “Digital Restrictions Management” ~ either way it is “Technological Protection Measures” employed in the proprietary software and hardware we purchase. DRM controls how we can use our digital media and devices.
This year the W3C is in the process of hammering out the new standard for HTML5, the language that the Internet is written in. Some of the biggest, most powerful Internet corporations are trying to pressure the W3C to write DRM into the specifications. Adding DRM to HTML would cause a host of problems for freedom and interoperability on the Web, and we need to build the grassroots movement against it. Nobody except these big corporations want this change to the core of the Web, but most of the Web users that it would affect don’t know about the issue yet.”
Any DVD player would be able to play any DVD in the world but for region encoding, one example of DRM. If you move to a different region, don’t plan on bringing along your DVD collection, because it won’t play there. DRM is often employed to “protect” digital copies that are under copyright.
Corporations like DRM because it can be used to tie us in to their proprietary products — we need to buy this type of game machine to continue to use the games we’ve already purchased — or buy ink cartridges even though the ones in the printer aren’t actually empty but because the DRM says the ink is past it’s best-before date — or purchase the same music over and over again as digital media wears out or the device is declared obsolete.
A specification designed to help companies run secret code on users’ computers to restrict what they do on the Web would severely undermine that trust. ”
Nothing is stopping these big companies from deploying DRM on their websites now, with the exception of consumer choice. But if DRM is written into the HTML5 Specifications, DRM will become the default, and consumers will lose the few choices we have now. It will become harder to free our devices and ourselves from the shackles of DRM. And I rather expect it will have the unfortunate side effect of breaking the Internet.
- Free Culture Foundation: Don’t let the myths fool you: the W3C’s plan for DRM in HTML5 is a betrayal to all Web users.
Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License
Both social media banners, Day Against DRM Facebook cover and Day Against DRM Twitter Banner incorporate the Opte Project Internet Map, tand so are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) License
Naturally, while I am working to get Inconstant Moon launched, not only is there a Canadian Federal Election in full swing, but a new release of WikiLeaks cables− in particular the batch on Canadian Copyright pressure− the ones I have been waiting for − have been released.
Canadian DMCA Background
Ever since the United States passed their DMCA, Canadian Governments have been struggling to pass a Canadian DMCA.
First the Liberal Government tried to pass Bill C-60
Then the Conservative Government that replaced them tried to pass Bill C-61
Then the Conservative Government held the Copyright Consultation. More than eight Thousand Canadians responded to the copycon, and their submissions are still online.
The Conservative Government ignored the preponderance of feedback from the consultation and tried to pass Bill C-32
The DMCA is a bad law, and most Canadians that understand copyright issues are very much opposed to a Canadian DMCA.
When you realize that Bill C-60 was tabled by the Liberal Party of Canada, and Bill C-61 and C-32 by the Conservative Party of Canada, it was dreadfully clear that the law’s objectives were the same.
Both the Liberal and Conservative copyright law appeared to be made in the USA.
Now, however, it is no longer just theory.
You can read the cables yourself, here:
WikiLeaks cable Viewer: Canadian Copyright
Michael Geist is understandably working his way through them and blogging his findings
- Wikileaks Cable Confirms Public Pressure Forced Delay of Canadian Copyright Bill in 2008
- Wikileaks on CRIA and the U.S. Government: How They Combine to Lobby on Canadian Copyright
- Wikileaks Cables Show Massive U.S. Effort to Establish Canadian DMCA
Drew Wilson: ZeroPaid:
Russell McOrmond: Digital Copyright Canada
WikiLeaks Central: GeorgieBC
Those of us who suspected this are gratified these manipulations are now confirmed facts.
Thank you WikiLeaks.
NOTE: although “published” I will be working on editing & adding to this post through the day.
Copyright is a big issue for me, and seems to crop up more often than not all through this, my personal blog.
Because of Bill C-32 and ACTA, my Oh! Canada blog also has an increasing number of copyright posts. And of course since copyright is being used to attack net neutrality, it also features in my tech issue blog StopUBB.
As my personal Software Freedom Day initiative I’ve decided to begin compiling a list of important information about copyright law. As a writer, I am passionately opposed to Bill C-32, the supposed copyright reform currently before the Canadian Government. Written as though by foreign special interest groups, if passed Bill C-32 will place horrendous barriers to Canadian artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, citizens, and students through it’s ironclad protection of DRM/TPM.
This law will make it possible to stop anyone who uses the Internet or other digital means to distribute/disseminate/share their own creative work. Currently 30% of the Canadian recording Industry is Independent of the big labels. This renaissance of Canadian culture could be stopped dead by Bill C-32. This is bad.
For me personally, passage of Bill C-32 would impede my ability to self publish and distribute my novel.
Copyright Links: Bill C-32
My initial StopUBB summary: Copyright Modernization Act: Bill C-32
One of the leading copyright authorities and resources is the University of Ottawa’s Professor Michael Geist who always makes available a good translations of copyright legalese that might be used to choke Canada’s creativity.
Russell McOrmond is my other leading source for copyright information and analysis although he’s not a lawyer, he is very knowledgable about copyright issues. McOrmond’s Digital Copyright provides a Conservative Copyright Bill C-32 page which guides visitors through the Copyright Bill C-32 issues.
Practicing Canadian IP Lawyer Howard Knopf provides insight into copyright law in his blog Excess Copyright
Like me, Wayne Borean is affected by copyright issues on a number of fronts. He’s been putting together some excellent material in the copyright segment of his blog Through the Looking Glass.
TechDirt always has lots of good coverage, but I particularly liked this one TechDirt: Canadian Music Industry Spokesperson Claims User Generated Content Supports ‘Piracy’ since this is what I believe to be the real purpose: to stop people from putting their own content online. The growth of independent creativity is cutting into the bottom line of powerful corporations.
Jesse Brown is a good resource in general; this copyright podcast highlights the idea that Canadians are tired of fighting the same issue over and over again.Search Engine with Jesse Brown: Audio Podcast #43: So Bored of Copyright
CBC online is the only mainstream news media to cover StopUBB issues. Along with the other mainstream media they seem willing to cover some of the Bill C-32 issue, although none of them seem willing to cover ACTA. I think C-32, the UK Digital Economy Act ( DEAct) and the American Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) are all “warm-up acts for ACTA. One of the key stumbling blocks to completing the ACTA negotiations is that each country will have to alter domestic law in order to be able to ratify it. The DEAct succeeded remarkably well in passing domestic law even worse than ACTA requires, which is why UK
It is disturbing that this has been revealed: Michael Geist: “We Don’t Care What You Do, As Long as the U.S. Is Satisfied”
One of the byproducts of laws like this one that have been playing out in the UK (Digital Economy Act) and the USA (DMCA) has been the rampant often specious lawsuits which often have no merit, but can be very profitable when used to extort people into settling them from fear. We can assume that this is one of the things Canadian will have to look forward to as well.
Of course since these negative effects have already happened as a direct result of the American DMCA and the UK DEA, should the Canadian government pass Bill C-32 it will be way past “unexpected” when the same effects ensue here.
Which is why I wanted to include this link The RIAA? Amateurs. Here’s how you sue 14,000+ P2P users
Why I don’t Like DRM: DRM is BAD
Thank you, Nina Paley, for this cartoon which made my day:
[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