Recently James Moore, minister for Canadian Heritage, spouted off this piece of propaganda at the June 22 Conference on Copyright Reform for Canada.
This guy is either completely out of touch with what regular Canadians want, or a liar. He pretends to know the motivations of people opposed to the bill and attributes objectives to us that he paints as evil, wrongheaded, naive and obstructionist. He is wrong. We are concerned about culture and intellectual freedom, and not having our collective societal knowledge and wisdom locked up by media companies.
The copyright reform bill is necessary, and if you read the writings of the people who Moore claims are absolutists, you will discover that most are in support of many of the reform provisions, but the digital locks provision in the bill completely overrides fair and reasonable use and cannot stand. It allows rights-holders to circumvent the fair use provisions in the bill whenever they want, and criminalizes things like time shifting, device shifting, and using media that you legally obtained in any way other than on the specific device the rights-holder dictates. Criminalizing things that a MAJORITY of Canadians already do is obviously not what Canadians want, and is absolutely not in the interests of the public. Have you ever copied music from a CD to your iPod? The digital locks provision will allow BMG or Sony or Disney to put a trivial piece of software on a music CD that makes it illegal (!) for you do do that.
The United States has this kind of copyright legislation, and media companies and industry associations like the MPAA and RIAA have used the legislation to indiscriminately sue thousands of individuals, bankrupting them, causing them to lose their jobs, and causing all manner of harm, on the most tenuous of evidence. Security researchers have been persecuted as well, causing a chilling effect on intellectual pursuits. There is no net benefit to society from the digital locks provision.
James Moore clearly doesn’t understand that the overarching reason for copyright in the first place is to ensure that creative content producers have incentive to continue to produce new content, but to also ensure that content makes it into the public domain after a reasonable period. If content has digital locks on it, even after the copyright term is expired, it will still be inaccessible.
I want to give Moore the benefit of the doubt, that he is a sincere public servant trying to protect the interests of Canadians, but his position is difficult to understand except as pandering to media corporations. It is not good for Canadians, it is only good for (mostly foreign) media companies.
There is a bill in the works right now in Canada that will mimic the terrible Digital Millenium Copyright Act from the USA. The bill basically makes it illegal to take a CD or a DVD or even an eBook or digital music or movie file that you got legally, and copy it to another device for your own use, if the distributor decides not to let you do that. The current Canadian Copyright Act contains provisions that allow you to copy stuff for your own use, like moving music from a CD to your computer to your iPod, or moving movies from a DVD to your computer to your iPod, or moving eBooks from your Amazon Kindle to your Sony eReader, or backing up game discs in case your kid scratches the original. It also allows use of media in certain circumstances without permission for purposes of satire, parody, non-commercial mashups, or education.
However, the government now wants to add an onerous provision to the Copyright Act to make it illegal to circumvent content protection software, no matter how trivial, even if you are doing it to exercise your rights as listed above. That means, if the music or movie company doesn’t want you to listen to or watch content you legally obtained on a CD or DVD or legal download on your iPod, or your computer or whatever, you won’t be able to, and if somebody makes software that removes any kind of restriction protection on the media, and you use it, both they and you have committed a crime.
That, my friends, is bullshit. Canadians don’t want those restrictions. Our culture and knowledge are more and more being distributed digitally. We don’t want media companies to hold the keys to our heritage and education. Those belong in the hands of the public.
You can help by going to Michael Geist’s website and reading about what to do. I wrote a letter to my MP, the Industry Minister, and the Minister of Heritage and Languages. Here is my letter to my MP. If you are concerned about culture and education in Canada, and in not criminalizing the normal activities of everyday Canadians, please consider writing your MP. You don’t even need a stamp.