Archived - Hodson, Paul
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My name is Paul Hodson. I am a lifelong citizen of Ottawa. I write from the perspective of a computer engineer, a consumer of digital media, an owner of digital devices and a believer in fair discussion and involvement of all Canadians in matters that affect them. As such, I am pleased that Canadians are at last invited to participate in the copyright consultation process after the seemingly one-sided attempts at copyright reform in bills C-60 in 2005 and C-61 in 2008. Those bills were much criticized as Canadian versions of the American Digitial Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) based on their content and provisions. Also, at the time of the previous two bills, very little credence was given to the millions of Canadians who are ultimately impacted by the bill. Thank you for making a real consultation happen.
Bills C-60 and C-61 failed Canadian citizens in several ways. They:
- Imposed restrictions on how and when Canadians could access devices and content which they legitimately own;
- Enshrined in law the concept of digital locks, so-called Digital Rights Management or DRM;
- Forbade in any way the circumvention of digital locks, including for fair dealing (such as format shifting), education, research, security assessment and more;
- Forbade Canadians from altering devices they own if manufacturers included any digital locks;
- Discarded the concept of "fair and reasonable" with respect to punitive damages.
Here are some examples of reasonable day-to-day scenarios encountered by the people of this country, made illegal under Bill C-61 and punishable in a financially debilitating manner:
- A Canadian has purchased a cell phone that is compatible with multiple networks (for example, any network operating with the GSM technology anywhere in the world), but the originating carrier has locked the phone to their network. There is no contractual obligation to the carrier for any further funds and the phone's owner decides to switch to another carrier while keeping their phone. This requires the removal of a digital lock, so the owner of the phone "unlocks" it.
- A Canadian has purchased a movie on DVD or Blu-Ray and wishes to watch it on their portable media player while travelling. They re-encode the video for the new format.
- A Canadian has purchased a computer game, and has gotten bored of it. They give it to a friend or relative. The friend or relative finds him or herself unable to install the computer game because the maker has included DRM which limits the number of installations. They therefore install a "no-CD" patch which removes the digital lock.
- A Canadian has purchased some music from an online retailer, for instance the Wal-Mart music store. The music is locked by DRM and is unplayable unless a DRM server can be accessed. The online retailer (in this case, Wal-Mart) has shut down their DRM servers, thereby making the content permanently inaccessible to the purchaser. The purchaser recovers their purchased music using a DRM circumvention tool.
- A Canadian imports a rare movie which is not available in Canada, paying import duties as appropriate. The movie does not play because the movie player is region-locked to play only movies of a North American origin. The importer uses a region-removal tool.
The citizens of this country deserve to be treated fairly by any future amendments to copyright legislation. It is of utmost importance that future revisions feature the following key changes relative to Bills C-60 and C-61:
- Fair dealing must be defined as a right without being limited to specific technologies or mechanisms. Any means for format shifting, time shifting, device shifting or "owner shifting" (transfer of ownership) must be allowable.
- Damages for willful commercial infringement only. Personal-use circumvention of digital locks must be explicitly legal, because a reasonable fair dealing need will invariably arise, which legislators may not be able to define today.
- Leave researchers, educators and security specialists free to assess, alter, report on, disable or repair any security locks.
- Recognize that all digital property remains property. Hardware, software, devices and media are indeed property, and must be treated as such. Canadians should be free to alter their property should they wish. Treating circumvention of digital locks as a unique offense is indeed and offense — against Canadian citizens.
- The public domain must be acknowledged. Current copyright policy grants copyright for a fixed number of years after a creator's death. This must not be further extended. Legislation must acknowledge that created works become a part of culture and therefore must become part of the public domain.
It is my sincere hope that the present iteration of copyright reform in Canada will in fact be "fair and balanced", areas where previous reform failed citizens.