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Dear Copyright representatives,
I have addressed this letter both to the Canadian Copyright Consultation and to my local representative in hopes that our rights will be upheld in any future copyright changes.
I am glad that Canadians are realizing the risks of not getting involved in this consultation (another C-16 bill). I can only hope that there are hundreds of thousands of everyday citizens that have contributed their comments, to weigh in opposite many corporations and organizations representing large music and video rights holders (their own bottom line). The ordinary citizens and independent groups are the ones that have to speak up to ensure rights are not removed from Canadians. I am proud of the fact that we have more freedom than many of those in the USA (who adopted DMCA), and I would like to keep it that way. Maybe this time the few will not speak for the many.
Copyright laws affect me in much the same way they affect many of Canada's citizens. Nearly all of us use technology that are currently affected by copyright, or would be affected (in many cases adversely) by the new changes.
I currently have a digital audio player that contains all of my music. After I buy a CD it gets copied to my computer and then thrown into a box never to be seen again (unless I loose my backup). This simple act, which I fervently believe should be protected under Canadian law (and others), would be criminal under the DMCA and C-61.
First, C-61 would prohibit me making backups of the music files on my computer because there would be more copies than devices after I have copied the music to my digital audio player. I should not be restricted from making copies for personal use.
Second, many CDs and music file downloads contain some form of digital lock or other protection that DMCA and C-61 make it illegal to circumvent. Without breaking this lock I can't play my digital music, unless I break those locks. I say "can't" definitively here because I don't have the ability to use proprietary programs written for Windows (can't afford windows, so I use Linux) to play some of the formats provided. This makes it illegal for me to convert the files to my preferred format or a format supported by my computer and digital audio player. It also makes programs that break these locks to provide 'accessible' content to disabled or challenged people illegal. This is very wrong. I should not be restricted from shifting music I have purchased to a format of my choosing when it is for personal use.
Third, I regularly contribute to public, community and distributed sites. If we change notice and notice to notice and take down there is no way to prevent false notices from stripping legal material from these resources. Notice and notice is successful in most cases where the content infringes copyright.
There are many other cases where I would be turned into a criminal by the proposed C-61 bill, including using a PVR and not deleting the program after I watched it (because someone else in the house wishes to watch it later?), hacking a security program (with the intent of fixing or informing the source of vulnerabilities so they can be fixed), unlocking a cell phone to be able to use it with another provider, etc.
I have managed to avoid purchasing digital audio with digital locks (at least ones that are not easily circumvented) because our government currently thinks that breaking this lock would be illegal. However, there have already been several cases where locked files have become unusable because the distributor has shut down their verification site. This is ludicrous. What if a car company decided to include these types of locks in their cars. People would be left with car's that won't run.
I am glad that Canadian values and interests seem to be important in this process. We need to ensure that they remain so.
Why should we presume that these laws should stand the test of time when all others change to reflect the times? Shouldn't the question be, how do we change copyright laws to reflect the current situations? The most important change to help the copyright laws stand the test of time (as much as possible) is to remove any sections that are specific to one type of technology or format. We should be talking about 'digital audio' and 'private files' not mp3 players and mp3 files.
I have been using 'digital audio player' instead of 'mp3' player or 'ipod' because there are many digital audio players (including computers, phones, TVs etc) and many digital audio formats (including mp3, ogg, wav, etc). Whatever laws are introduced should not be dependent on a specific technology or they will quickly become useless.
Remove any specific reference to technology and formats (or use 'such as' or 'for example') so that we have the freedom to adapt to future innovations.
Don't focus on private use. Once we have purchased content we should not have to worry that the way we choose to use it privately is illegal. Once the boundary is crossed into public use, that is another issue and should be regulated much more closely.
We need to find a way of keeping the user's rights to their purchased content in perspective. This can't be done with restrictive laws on personal use and proprietary digital formats and locks that can easily be removed from the user. The recent example with the Kindle emphasizes this. When Amazon removed books from the user's Kindles, after they purchased it, they stole from them. The user did not agree to sell back the copy of the book for the purchase price, so there should not have been any way that Amazon could have taken it back.
Keep the growing Open Source community in mind. These groups work together, usually with no formal membership or position in the group, to produce some of the most useful software for us today. This especially applies to people who can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars for basic programs ($150+ for MS Vista; $100+ for MS Office; etc) on top of the price of a basic computer. Not to mention that many providers hike the minimum system requirements in their next version so much that you can't run it on your old system. These organizations are either informal groups or not for profit organizations that do not have the funds to pay for proprietary copyright software support. We need to keep media in formats that can be used by all, not just corporations and those with cash to burn.
I haven't mentioned research, education much because they are not currently affecting me (although they likely will at some point), however I do believe that there should be many provisions to ensure that copyright is not a barrier to research and education. These fields are the primary source of Canada's future innovation and creativity. We must encourage it as much as possible. Our libraries, essential to research and education, must also have provisions in order to operate effectively. It is not realistic to expect them to ensure that users can't make copies and to destroy interlibrary copies after 5 days. Why is the restriction different than physical copies? There must be another way, this certainly can't work.
If copyright is meant to protect the interests of the creators of the content, why does copyright extent past their death? The only advantage is to corporations. Copyright should be limited to the creator's lifetime, or 70 years, whichever is greater. This would allow much more innovation and creativity from public domain works, not to mention the benefits to education and research.
I believe that the comments I provided in question 3 also apply here. Don't focus on specific technologies, let private use include copying and format shifting (including those that break digital locks), ensure that open course and distributed programming projects have the same rights as big corporations when it comes to copyright, exclude education and research from many/all of the restrictions, and shorten the copyright time line to enrich the public domain.
Again, I would say that some of the same solutions could be taken from questions 3&4.
In addition, Canada is being left behind in the digital market with applications like Hulu and Pandora only offering their content to the US. It also appears that there are several becoming popular in Europe with the same mentality (Europe only). Is it fair that others are being offered unlimited music for about $10/month, when the most we could get in Canada would be 10 songs? We need to ensure that protectionism is discouraged so that Canadians have access to these new markets, and ensure that copyright laws encourage Canadian companies to create their own solutions.
To sum up, here is where I stand many of the major issues (as summarized by Michael Geist):
I thank you for reading this and sincerely hope that any future copyright changes are to the benefit (not detriment) of Canadian citizens (both creators and purchasers).