Events next week bring together related policy issues

Next week on Tuesday May 27’th is the Net Neutrality rally (Facebook event), and on Friday May 30’th is the GOSLING 6-year anniversary (Facebook event). There is also rumors about a Copyright bill being tabled soon, and it won’t surprise me if it is tabled next week now that parliament is back from recess.

Having a few events together always makes me realize the common thread between the areas of policy that I concern myself with most. We live in a society that is increasingly dependent on technology. These technologies often implement policy, but we as a society do not spend enough time thinking about who is authoring this policy, and how it impacts us.

For me, the Net Neutrality debate comes down to a simple issue. We have communications networks where there are various policy decisions that need to be made and then implemented in policy. Should we follow the original end-to-end design of the Internet and ensure that this policy is decided and implemented at the endpoints of the communication, or should we go backwards to the traditional “smart networks” like phone and cable where this policy was decided by the intermediary?

For me, the most critical issues in Copyright come down to those that are actually part of the Net Neutrality or media concentration issue, and those that are about who controls information technology.

ISP liability is directly related to Net Neutrality in that the more ISPs are expected to be aware of and held liable for traffic over these networks, the more we will move to a “smart network” model where all decisions (whether copyright related or otherwise) will be made and enforced by these intermediaries.

Legal protection for “technical measures” as proposed by the 1996 WIPO treaties, and further the legal protection for digital rights management (DRM) and prohibitions on unlocking technology proposed in the DMCA model, are all about deciding who retains the keys for the locks on our technology. The WIPO/DMCA model suggests that manufacturers of hardware and software should be able to apply locks which the owner of the hardware is not legally allowed to unlock or remove. Copyright holders are proposed to be given a new “right of non-interoperability” where they would be legally protected in locking their content such that only specific brands of locked-down devices can access this content.

There are far more issues than just copyright which are implicated by revoking owner control over communications technology, although it still baffles me when actual authors are supportive of legal protection for these foreign locks. They seem to forget that from a purely technological point of view of recording, editing and communicating/copying/distributing content that creativity and copyright infringements are identical activities. If the technology that private citizens use to access content is locked down and implementing foreign policy, then this will disallow those private citizens trying to act as creators to create.

My roll in GOSLING is as someone who focuses on how the government regulates software, with others focused on how governments acquire software. We need to have copyright, patent and related laws which fully protect personal ownership and control over technology, and embraces rather than deters emerging modes of production such as Peer Production.

I also believe that whenever the government uses technology to implement public policy that the technology must have the same level of accountability and transparency as the original policy. I believe that software used by the government should be seen as a translation of the human readable policy, and either proactive disclosed or available via Access to Information requests. I believe the government should be deterred from using software where the licensing agreements disallow them from properly disclosing this software.

I truly believe that in order to have a future just society as well as a healthy post-industrial economy we must ensure that the control over modern technology is kept with private citizens and not the manufacturers of the technology or the providers of the network.

I hope to see those of you who live in and around the Ottawa area at both the Net Neutrality and GOSLING events.

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