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August 4, 2009
Government of Canada
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter contains my formal response to the Copyright Consultations currently underway by the Government of Canada.
My name is Douglas Stebila. I am a researcher in cryptography, which studies the mathematics of securing information and communications using encryption. I received my PhD in mathematics from the University of Waterloo and am currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Information Security Institute at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
I am concerned about the impact of digital locks (also known as digital rights management (DRM) or technological measures) on cryptography research. The United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the previously proposed Canadian legislation, Bill C-61, contained provisions making it a violation to circumvent technological measure protecting a copyrighted work. Such "anti-circumvention" clauses will negatively impact the quality of research and innovation in Canada and must be avoided in future copyright legislation.
An important part of designing secure encryption systems is analyzing the security of existing systems; this is a subfield of cryptography called cryptanalysis. It is essential that cryptographic research not be artificially constrained due to anti-circumvention clauses. Bill C-61 contained some exemptions regarding circumvention of technological measures for the purposes of encryption research and security testing. However, the exemptions would still have severely hindered encryption research. The exemptions in Bill C-61 required a researcher to inform the owner of a protected copyrighted work that the protection was being circumvented for encryption research purposes. This requirement of notice would impose a large burden on encryption researchers, may be difficult or impossible to satisfy, and would have a chilling effect on research in this area. Additionally, the exemption in Bill C-61 did not allow for peer review of encryption research related technological measures.
Rather than trying to craft more detailed, and consequently more onerous, exemptions for encryption research, I believe that any forthcoming copyright bill should not prohibit the circumvention of digital locks in any way. Copyright legislation should prohibit the unauthorized distribution or acquisition of a copyright work, not the use of a legitimately obtained copy, regardless of any technological measures. This should apply for all citizens in all media.
This approach of prohibiting unauthorized distribution, not the act of digital lock circumvention, will alleviate the concerns I raised above regarding encryption research. Researchers will be able to analyze the security of encryption schemes without risking violating copyright legislation.
Furthermore, there should be no restriction on the distribution of circumvention research, instructions, or software. Cryptanalysis need to be able to communicate their results with other researchers in order to advance the state of the art. Researchers in the United States have faced legal pressure to avoid publishing or discussing encryption research as a result of the DMCA, and this must be avoided to maintain Canada's position as a global leader in the field of cryptography.
To summarize: any restrictions on digital lock circumvention will negatively impact encryption research and innovation in Canada, even with exemptions that try to allow for encryption research. Digital lock circumvention should not be considered a violation of copyright.
Douglas Stebila, PhD