A new proposal regarding Canadian copyright legislation is coming. It will have serious implications for computer data in
particular, as well as lots of other issues related to information exchange. Canadians need to consider it and speak out (against it).
[ Update: Dec 12, 2007: The law was not introduced as expected and will be deferred until at least January 2008. Let's hope was due to popular expression of dissent. This is the time to contact your MP. ]
(Shortcut: Email letter generator form here, but read on for tips on how to draft and where to send a more-effective real paper letter.)
Quoting from a recent article in the Globe and Mail newspaper:
"A new copyright law is coming.
Ottawa copyright circles are buzzing with hints that the government is preparing its new revised copyright bill, and will be tabling it soon, perhaps as early as next week.
And the buzz is that the new law will basically be a copy of the controversial U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)" There are also rumors that the Canadian proposal is worse than the DMCA as it omits some of the exceptions in the DMCA, as well as leaving out some positive aspects of the DCMA as well.
Full article here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/ servlet/story/RTGAM.20071127.WBcyberia20071127170629/ WBStory/WBcyberia/
prohibits not only the downloading of commercial music files, but also allows web sites to be served "take down" notices with minimal procedural overhead, and prohibits the exchange of information which could be used to circumvent digital rights management (even if it has other
uses as well).
The DMCA has generally been regarded as being bad for consumers, bad for science and bad for freedom of expression, but aimed at serving the interests of large media conglomerates. Interestingly, it seems not even to have helped them, in terms of actual revenue generation. See the documents Unintended Consequences: Seven Years under the DMCA [eff.org] to hear about the experience in the USA (including the chill on free expression and scientific research, and the way it impedes innovation and education).
One of the very bad aspects of the DMCA is the anti-circumvention clauses. These restrict technologies that could be used to circumvent (defeat) anti-copying mechanisms, and these clauses can be interpreted quite broadly. This includes a prohibition of exchange of information that could be construed as promoting circumvention, and seems to extend as far as prohibiting you from opening up your own devices (in hardware or software) that might be used for copy protection. If I can't get my HD-DVD player to put high-quality pictures on my old TV set, but I post a trick that explains how to do it, I'd be in trouble since the manufacturer presumably didn't want me to be able to do this. In fact, I'd be in trouble for doing it even in the privacy of my own home, even if I didn't tell anybody. [This is just an example, I don't actually own any HD-DVD or high-def video gear.] There are worse examples yet, but they get more technical.
Michael Geist, the Canadian law professor & CRC Chair also
has an interesting discussion of several issues [michaelgeist.ca]
and suggests: "There is every indication this legislation will be a complete sell-out to U.S. government and lobbyist demands" which is pretty consistent with what I have heard personally from an Intellectual Property expert who is a personal friend (who may give a CS colloquium here next term).
( full reference http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2419/125/ )
One good aspect of the DMCA is that it circumscribes the responsibility of
operators of sites where arbitrary people can post material, rather than making the operator personally responsible for everything that gets posted. Let's hope this pro-freedom-of-expression aspect of the DMCA makes it into the Canadian legislation
as well (to be announced soon), but the rumor and my inference
is that it is absent.
The problem seems to be part of an ongoing and pernicious erosion of the public information rights in Canada (as well as the USA). Margaret-Ann Wilkinson (lawyer, ethicist) observes: "... following the appearance of the Charter of Rights for Creators, groups representing user interests were persuaded that copyright reform was being packaged as a two-phase process. The first phase was to be Bill C-60 which, when enacted in 1988, created the amendments to the Copyright Act that largely favored copyright owners. A second phase was promised, which was to focus on the needs of information users and intermediaries. The promised second phase, however, failed to appear in a timely manner." [from "Filtering the Flow from the Fountains of Knowledge"]
Personally, despite this erosion, I have been proud and relieved that we didn't have legislation like the DMCA here. Furthermore, even the US DCMA allows limited forms of
duplications of a work in order to create a parody. Canada's law does not even include that exception, nor other
important exceptions like being allowed to record a television program for subsequent playback.
If this interests you at all, you may want to browse the links above and then make your voice heard. Personally, I think legislation is a terrible and disastrous move.
If you think this is problematic, as I do, Geist has been generous enough to post a list of 30 things you can do to express your distaste for this initiative.
The link is
http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/1447/273/ (30 Days of DRM: 30 Things You Can Do)
There is another interesting post regarding the action of the CAUT in this regard. See the blog from Howard Knopf [blogspot.com].
( I've been told this issue was also mentioned is Slashdot recently. )