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Dear Sir or Madam,
Like virtually every other Canadian, I create and consume information, most of it digital, and so copyright law has a big impact on my life. For me the very technological reality of widespread file sharing and the continuing criminalization of this reality signals that our copyright laws are hopelessly out of date. However, more restrictive copyright law is not the way forward.
The lobbying for more restrictive copyright is an attempt to legislate away a failure to innovate, and the beneficiaries of such legislation would not be Canadian artists and consumers, but large multi-national corporations. As much as these corporations insist on ethics to pressure our country to adopt legislation that would harm almost all our citizens, our current system of media production and distribution has nothing to do with morality — it is an accident of technological limitations. Until recently, recording and distributing music required access to a large amount of money, something only media corporations could provide. Now anybody with a computer and an internet connection can produce music and distribute it as widely as any media corporation. These companies never actually produce the media, they only act as the gatekeeper, and because of this lucrative position, they are the ones who fight hardest for stricter copyright law, not artists. Contrary to oft repeated myths from media corporation lobbyists, freer copyright law gives artists more control and more opportunity to benefit from their creations. Without corporations acting as a middle man, artists have direct control over their rights, more direct access to their audiences and do not owe the company the lion's share of their earnings. The most common problem artists have is not piracy but obscurity. Corporations decide which artists get to make a living and which don't based on commercial return for the company. Consumers benefit by having access to cheaper content. This means consumers can spend the same amount of money on more artists, and with artists directly connecting with their audience, they get the lion's share of the revenue, meaning more room for more artists to make a living.
From a more long term perspective, it is essential to understand that file sharing is not going to go away, because the technology to do so is widely available and easy to use. Because information can be infinitely replicated at marginal cost, it is no longer tied to physical scarcity, but media corporations want to keep information artificially scarce to engage in lucrative rent seeking behavior, negatively impacting economic efficiency as a whole.
Attempting to enforce copyright law against file sharers would require a massive invasion of piracy by scanning Canadians' private digital information to identify and prosecute file sharers. This becomes even more absurd when we live in an age where an entire generation of Canadians, myself included, have been raised with the radical idea that freely sharing files is as normal as lending a book to a friend. In short, we understand that the whole point of information is to replicate and the easier it is to do so, the better it is for everybody.
It is very important that we as Canadians discuss copyright reform and arrive at a solution that benefits both creators and consumers, because a forward thinking piece of legislation will guarantee Canadian competitiveness and innovation in the years to come. It will also help define our relationship between information and freedom in a democratic society, because freeness of information should be a right too.