Deadlines to hear your views on Copyright

There are two deadlinesquickly approaching for those who wish to have their views knownabout Copyright in general, and Bill C-32 in specific.

The Legislative Committee onBill C-32 sentout a press release last month indicating that briefsshould be sent to the Committee's mailbox by the end of January,2011. Details about the format and length are in the press release.

Parliamentarians are setreturn to the House of Commons Monday, January 31, 2011 .When parliamentarians are not in Ottawa, they are in theirconstituencies and are far more available to set up meetings andotherwise talk with constituents. This is not time off for them,and it should not be for those of you who are concerned with thedirection that Canadian copyright law is taking.

I haven't sent my brief to thecommittee yet as I want to ensure I have the wording right. If youhave feedback, it would be appreciated (OpenDocumentformat, PDFformat).

The committee requires thatany submissions longer than 5 pages should have a 1 page executivesummary. I am including my summary in case this will entice otherswith similar views to ensure the committee is aware of these issues.

Executive Summary

Over the past decade I havehad an opportunity to speak with many fellow creators and otherCanadians about copyright. I have come to form opinions on nearlyall aspects of the Copyright Act, and the various commercial andnon-commercial activities that are regulated by it. While I havecommented on many of them in a set of Frequently Asked Questions (andanswers), for the purpose of this brief I must focus on the primaryissue of technological protection measures.

I have been a self-employedtechnology consultant since 1995, working as a hardware repair personand system administrator before that. My technology experiencestarts in the early 1980's. As part of my job I author software.

As a technical person I cantranslate marketing and brand terminology into real-world technology.I have found that much of the analysis and discussion of technicalmeasures in the context of copyright has not included discussion ofreal-world technology. In nearly every case when the term “copycontrol”, “use control” or “Digital RightsManagement” is used, what is actually being discussed is avendor-dependant content delivery platform.

The problem is that ifnon-technical people believe that “copy control” issomething other than a marketing term, they will push forward lawswhich regulate these technology platforms as if they were somethingother than a technology platform.

How these technologies areregulated is critically important. If we treat these technologyplatforms as if they were a matter of copyright law, we are allowingthe creators of these technology platforms to circumvent thetraditional contours of contract, competition, consumer protection,copyright, e-commerce, privacy, property and trade law.

The current language of BillC-32 offers legal protection for this circumvention of thetraditional contours of these laws. It is critical that thecommittee take the time to learn how these technologies work, andregulate appropriately. Ideal is if technical measures are notmentioned in copyright law at all, but in the appropriate lawsconnected to the activities regulated by the technology (IE: contractlaw for TPMs protecting contracts including copyright licenses). Aless ideal alternative is to ensure that anti-circumvention incopyright law is closely tied to infringing activities, as suggestedin the 1996 WIPO internet treaties.

I believe it is better forcreators, other copyright holders, the competitive technology sectorand Canadians as a whole to not update copyright law at all than topass a bill which legalizes technology platform providerscircumventing copyright and other laws. I consider the currentanti-circumvention rules in Bill C-32 to be a show-stopper thatwarrant rejecting the bill as a whole.

Russell McOrmond is a self employed consultant,policy coordinator for CLUE:Canada's Association for Free/Libre and Open Source Software,co-coordinator for Getting Open Source Logic INto Governments (GOSLING),and host for DigitalCopyright Canada.

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