Archived - Hlynka, Markian
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Dear Governent & Laurie Hawn.
I am writing this email so that my voice may be added to those expressing concern over Canada's copyright 'reform' and Bill C-61. While I am aware of the issue, and probably better informed than many citizens, I do not have the time I would really like to invest in writing a carefully researched email on the issues of copyright and the related subject of intellectual property. However, my research has shown that others have an extremely good grasp of copyright. Michael Geist and Richard Stallman are two names with which you are no doubt familiar. These men (Well, Michael at least, as a Canadian) and others like them should be acting as consultants to the entire C-61 process. That is under the assumption, of course, that what is important in this debate is the rights of Canadians.
As I cannot state the arguments neither as convincingly nor as eloquently as others, I will say the following. Canada has a chance to be a world leader in copyright in the digital age. Rather than catering to the demands of industries scrabbling for profits with outdated business models, the government needs to represent the interests of this coutry's citizens. It is not in the interest of Canada's people to fear a lawsuit for what they consider reasonable usage; it is up to the government to protect them from such foolishness as we have seen in the United States. Here are some guidelines and ideas which I believe to be pertinent.
- Once a person owns a copy in some medium, nothing they do with that copy, nor any attempt to acquire or convert it to another medium, can be considered illegal. There are shades to this. Someone who buys DVDs and then downloads HD content is clearly cheating, though only a bit. Someone who buys a DVD, transcodes it, and proceeds to sell copies is cheating a lot.
- It cannot be illegal to 'share' what you own. Users will find a way to do this, so rather than making it illegal, laws must recognize its inevetability and its benefit. Distributing digital copies via methods such as bittorrent is not necessarily an illegal activity in and of itself. keeping such a downloaded copy may be; I am not an expert, but I believe the distinction is clear.
- Downloading or otherwise obtaining a copy of something that has been broadcast, whether publically or paid, can not ever be illegal. There must be no difference between setting my "VCR" to record something, and downloading it after the broadcast via bittorrent.
- Similar to 3, it must be illegal for service providers to prevent users from storing/recording/accessing broadcast content as they with with whatever means they wish. A recent case in point is Shaw Cable's disabling of firewire recording for its set top boxes. This must not be permitted; if it comes into my home, I can record it, keep it, and share it with my friends. I may not profit from it. This includes requiring providers to allow the users choice of hardware other than their own, such as the cable card system in the United States (but properly implemented and enforced).
- It is important to consider that many, I daresay most, honest Canadians will buy things they consider worthwhile. I will buy a DVD of the new Doctor Who series, for example, because it is well done, and I wish to own it. However, there are other things I will never buy. I enjoy watching Hell's Kitchen, but I would not buy DVDs of it. If I can download it free rather than set up a recorder, I will do so (see number 3). The point here is that many honest Canadians posess potentially "illegal" content which they would never buy. These are not lost revenues, as the industries would have us believe. Rather, they are chances to attract new customers when this content is viewed and shared. I may not ever buy Hell's Kitchen, but some of the friends I show it to may eventually do so.
- As an addendum to number 1, I charge the Canadian government with this challenge: Region encodings and copy protections (such as those on DVDs) should be illegal. It is entirely unacceptable that if I move, permanently or temporarily, to another country, I have to re-purchase my movie collection. I have watched this happen to several friends. It is an outrageous insult to the consumer which drives up downloads even of those who try to act in good faith. To reference number 5, I will buy those Dr. Who DVDs as soon as I can use them as I please, easily putting them on a portable player, enjoying them with riends, and taking them with me when I spend a year in Europe.
- The onus of the law should be to assume that Canadians are acting in good faith when they copy materials. Companies should have to prove with extremely convincing evidence that infringement has been for-profit, for example. Consider this an extension of "innocent until proven guilty".
I'm sure I could come up with more, but these are the thoughts most pertinent to my mind. As I said at the opening of this letter, others have explored this issue with more knowledge and depth than I can. It is my hope that the Canadian government is willing to become a leader, and to dictate to corporations the facts of the rights of its citizens, rather than the other way around. In this way Canada may return to the spirit of copyright as it was originally intended, thus fostering an environment conducive to continued creativity and experimentation in a manner beneficial to all Canadians and, by example, to the world.
Thank you for taking the time to read this email and for leading our country to new triumphs of democracy.
Information Systems Analyst
Office of the Registrar
University of Alberta