Dr. Michael Geist, Canadian copyright watchdog, mentioned on his blog that the public may still have one more chance to have their opinions heard regarding Bill C-32, the new Copyright Act:
In order for briefs on Bill C-32 to be considered by the Committee in a timely fashion, the document should be submitted to the Committeeâ€™s mailbox at CC32@parl.gc.ca by the end of January, 2011. A brief which is longer than 5 pages should be accompanied by a 1 page executive summary and in any event should not exceed 10 pages in length.
I’ve spoken endlessly about this before, both in digital and (exhaustive, just ask my girlfriend) verbal arenas. Bottom line: this act, as currently written, puts locks first, rights second. In other words, it will be illegal to break any lock (i.e., digital security measure), even if you are doing so for completely legal reasons (such as ripping a Blu-Ray movie to your computer, or playing a clip from a CBC news story to your class).
As apoplectic as I get when ranting about this to friends and family, I try my best to be as eloquent and concise as possible when discussing the matter in more formal situations, or in a context such that may actually reach someone of knowledge or influence on the subject. Even rational opinions, when expressed with extremist sensibilities, are easily dismissed as only belonging to the extremists. Most Christians do not agree with Fred Phelps and his “ministry”. MostÂ marijuana smokers are nothing like the scrawny, dread-locked, unwashed, half-conscious deadbeat sleeping under his “420″ placard.Â And the vast majority of those that believe in fair dealing with copyright are not Bond-villain-esque uber-hackers bent on the destruction of society, capitalism, and the entire entertainment complex!
And so, in the spirit of honest and constructive dialog, here is the email I sent to the Bill C-32 Legislative Committee (cc’d to my MP James Rajotte):
To the members of the Bill C-32 Legislative Committee;
As per your news release: “STUDY OF BILL C-32, AN ACT TO AMEND THE COPYRIGHT ACT” of December 06, 2010, I would like to add my support to the advocacy of maintaining a fair approach to copyright that does not result in digital locks trumping consumer rights and that advances fair dealing for the benefit of creators, consumers, education, and business.
I feel that Dr. Michael Geist has done an acceptable job of defining certain beliefs about Bill C-32 that I share, and so in an effort to maintain clarity I will quote his words as they match my opinions:
- I agree that Bill C-32 “…must retain legal protection for digital locks…”, but must also “…ensure that digital locks do not trump all other copyright rights by preserving fair dealing and consumer rights.” I believe that Bill C-32 must clarify “…that it is only a violation to circumvent a digital lock where the underlying purpose is to infringe copyright. This approach – which has been adopted by countries such as New Zealand and Switzerland – would ensure that the law could be used to target clear cases of commercial piracy but that individual consumer and user rights are preserved.” (emphasis mine)
- With regards to defining “Fair Dealing”, the Copyright Act should codify the six-part fairness text as identified by The Supreme Court of Canada:
- “The Supreme Court of Canada has identified six non-exhaustive factors to assist a court’s fairness inquiry: (1) the purpose of the dealing; (2) the character of the dealing; (3) the amount of the dealing; (4) alternatives to the dealing; (5) the nature of the work; and (6) the effect of the dealing on the work.”
I strongly believe that these two issues form the heart of what both the proponents of Bill C-32 believe needs to be addressed, and of which opponents of the Bill are most concerned with the consequences. I strongly believe that no one in this committee or administration wishes to see the abuse of copyright that takes place when unquestionably fair, non-damaging (or even beneficial) use of a piece of work is prevented, punished, or even “chilled” due to a rights-holder taking advantage of poorly-written legislation. All that needs to happen to guarantee that the rights of Canadian users and institutions are held in priority is to enshrine “Fair Dealing” as the defining concept behind any claims of wrong-doing, regardless of the method or means of the wrong-doing.Please listen to Canadians. Thank you.
The unfortunate reality of these sort of highly technical issues is that there tends to be few parties with a full grasp of the situation and potential consequences. Unfortunate because there is often a significant disparity between the level of access and influence these parties have to those entrusted to make decisions. This results in a situation where only one side is being heard, the other marginalized, and major legislative decisions being made without all the facts. The marginalized side screams “BIAS” and “BRIBERY” and “SELLOUT” while the general population dismisses them as a bunch of paranoid geeks and petty thieves… until 5 or 10 years down the road when everyone starts to feel the results and wonders how such horrible and obviously harmful laws ever came to pass.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the US’s copyright legislation that much of Bill C-32 (and even more of it’s predecessor’s) is based on. It was passed unanimously in 1996, and took almost 10 years before enough of a public outcry over the endless lawsuits, overly punitive damages, impeded competition, stifled speech, and frivolous abuse that the government began discussing reforms.
If the people could have seen how harmful and unproductive those parts of the DMCA would be, it never would have passed in it’s form. Right now Canadians are looking at our own DMCA, with egregious oversights and corporate/foreign priorities just as dangerous as those passed in the US 15 years ago. We can look South and see just how bad the consequences will be. There is still a chance to make your voice heard. Don’t wish you had, do it.