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.
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.”
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"]
Bill C-11, the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act” will not actually modernize Canadian copyright law.
Instead, if this law is passed as it stands, it will harm my interests as a creator, as well as Canadian culture and heritage.
I’m working hard to master eBook conversion of my debut novel, so I have been valiantly trying to avoid looking at what’s happening with Bill C-11 (an exact revival of Bill C-32, which was itself the Successor to Bill C-60, or Bill C-61). No matter what number, nor which political party is driving it, in every version this law has been a Canadian DMCA.
I became interested during the Canadian copyright consultation when an unprecedented number of Canadians responded to the Government’s call for input into the new draft copyright law. To be fair, this new incarnation actually does do some of the things that Canadians asked for. The problem is that it won’t matter because chances are good we will never be able to make use of these benefits because they will be blocked by what are sometimes called “digital locks”. Or Digital Rights Management (DRM), or Technical Protection Measures (TPM).
It doesn’t matter what you call it.
I thought you might be interested in the best summation of the worst problem with Bill C-11 [the emphasis is my own]:
… the keys to the locks are held by someone other than the owner that is what is locked.
It is not the owner of the copyright that has the keys (to the lock on the content or the lock on devices),
and it is not the owner of the device that has the lock on the device.
It is the device manufacturer and/or software distributor that controls the keys.
In any type of lock, digital or otherwise, it is the interests of the entity with the keys whose interests are protected.
This is what will make it far worse for Canadians and our culture than what American’s have had to cope with in the original DMCA.
It will be illegal to break the digital lock, even if you have the right to access the content. Bill C-11 will make digital locks the single most powerful element in Canadian copyright law. Copyright will be subjugated to software and device manufacturers. It won’t be publishing companies that decide what books Canadians can access, nor the writers or even the readers of those books.
The company that distributes the software or manufactures the device will hold the keys to copyright law.
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.
[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?
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?