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Copyright is exactly how it sounds. The right to copy a work for profit. When copyright was formulated, the only way to copy a work was extensive manual effort and with expensive machinery. Copyright as it was developed then does not take into account a world where limitless perfect copying can be performed. Copying a book carried a risk of typos and missed pages. Copying an e-book now, once the DRM, if there is any, is circumvented can happen endlessly, with not a single bit out of place. In the era copyright was devised, copying a work meant profit was almost invariably involved. Now, the same is not true. Copying could be innumerable reasons, like making backups, sharing a song or video a friend or family member would enjoy, or reusing parts of the work to make a new work. This is a tipping point in future's history. What we decide now about copyright will have repercussions for the worse or better of society. Concerns about individual companies or even industries pale next to these concerns. They will inevitably die or be replaced by new companies, new industries. But our society will change and continue, possibly in unpredictable ways.
I will eventually start a company when I graduate from school. We will produce creative works, from the efforts of many employees. We do intend to profit from these. But we do not intend to sue our customers. We do not intend to control or cheat our customers. We know that downloading works, and sharing copied works act as marvelous forms of advertising, and can lead many to spend more than if they had not downloaded or shared. I speak as a representative of this putative company, as I want to protect both our interests, and those of our customers.
Thank you in advance for reading this.
1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
Canada's copyright laws have affected me many times. Generally, they are better and more robust than the copyright laws in the United States, meaning I am protected from being sued in civil court for many multiples of what I earn yearly. However, this has happened to American citizens. These citizens made no profit from copying a work. They may have shared. But they either settled out of court for a few thousand dollars, or were sued in court to the tune of several million dollars. No profit was made from the copying activity. And yet they were punished. Canadian copyright laws as they stand now protect me from this, for downloading and accessing media I have no other legal way of accessing. I have also been protected from being considered guilty merely for the use of a program which has many legal uses as well as illegal uses. Just because a gun could be used for murder doesn't mean having one automatically makes one a murderer.
As well, under Canadian copyright laws, I have the freedom to use code called DeCSS to watch DVDs I legally purchased or rented on my non-Windows or MC OSX computer. I have benefited from the freedoms and protections of the copyright laws in Canada. Were I in the United States, I would have none of these freedoms, and none of these benefits.
To modernize copyright laws, Canada needs to return them to their original purpose: ensuring the creator or creators of a work gets appropriate recompense. Let us take the example of the music industry. Many smaller artists receive almost no return for the work they have performed, despite the profits the record labels produce. I now direct your attention to the article by Courtney Love, the widow of Kurt Cobain: http://archive.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/print.html
In it, she addresses the math by which record labels defraud and rip off new, struggling, and defenseless artists. These are verifiable facts. It is a crime. Yet, because contracts were signed, it cannot be enforced. The companies benefit, while the artists suffer. This is not how copyright is supposed to work. Copyright should be not transferrable to a corporation. Copyrights should not be enforced by corporations.
It has been expressed that people want to be able to give money directly to the artists. The high prices of works,like CDs and DVDs is distasteful, especially when one finds out how little makes it to the artist. As it stands now, there is no real service or way to do so, except by buying merchandise and tickets for live concerts. Any copyright law in Canada should provide a system whereby the consumers can reward an artist directly for their work.
Another reason people copy works, is because they have no money to buy the works legally. This is especially true of students and a good percentage of Canadians. If a student had no money in the first place, there can be no logical argument that the artist lost money. And it is typically not the artist that feels they lost money, but the corporation that now owns and controls the copyright. It cannot be said that every download is lost income, as you cannot guarantee that if there was no way to illegally download the work, it would have been bought as a final recourse. To say otherwise is a logical fallacy, which should be rejected and ignored in debates of policy.
A modernized copyright system would account for all of these interests, and seek to ensure that the works of the artists are protected and paid for, where possible. As well, a modernized copyright system would account for the interests of the consumers, in that consumers have a right to do as they wish with their product(doctrine of first sale), and cannot be controlled or restricted in the name of preventing piracy. Consumers must be guaranteed freedoms. They must be guaranteed freedom from invasion of privacy, the freedom of making new works from the old, and the freedom of not being shackled to any one company.
Last year's bill C-61 sought to make me a criminal for watching DVDs on Linux. Last year's bill C-61 sought to make me a criminal for talking about how to circumvent a DRM measure that prevented a product from working. Last year's bill C-61 sought to make many activities now considered normal illegal and punishable for amounts far greater than companies would lose. Last year's bill C-61 was wrong, and unconscionable.
1. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?
It depends on what you believe Canadian values and interests are. Canadian values and interests seem to lie in freedom and equality. They seem to lie in the interests of finding something that works for everyone, with less regard for the financial well-being of corporations than they demand. Canadian values and interests lie in human rights and civil rights and consumer rights.
Whatever system of copyright we end up with needs to ensure consumers are free to move their purchase items, even digital, to any format they wish. Consumers cannot be restricted to using only one kind of mp3 player for music bought from a store. Consumers cannot be restricted from making backups to ensure the safety of what they have purchased.
1. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
I believe that Canada needs to ensure artists are paid properly by the music industry. Public accounting needs to be done, and substantial fines need to be levied against companies that profited from any media sales while the creators received no money. I believe that Canada should create a fund to encourage and sponsor new, Canadian artists to develop their works, and be able to sell them via any media they choose. I believe that Canada should legislate specific protections of consumer rights in regards to DRM. No consumer should be prevented from working around and deactivating DRM if that DRM prevented proper technical performance of the work. No consumer should be made a criminal for activities many do. No consumer should be restricted in making backups into any format they choose.
The rights to create mashups should be protected, as new creative works will come out of those activities. The public begins to learn formerlly difficult skills like video editing, music composition, film direction, and so on, which can do nothing but benefit us all. Any system of copyright we develop should encourage people's desires to create, rather than legislate consumption. Yes companies will be hurt by these actions. No, we do not have a responsibility to defend their profits or business model. It is capitalism. They must be left alone, and they must adapt or die. Buggy whip manufacturers could not realistically sue auto manufacturers, could they for causing buggies to no longer be used? No. So why do we allow this to happen now?
1. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
Give the people control of what they make. Ensure the artists make their fair share rather than being ripped off by predatory corporations. Ensure and guarantee the freedoms of the consumer. Let the people learn and create. Where there is no profit made, civil suits should not be able to apply punitive damages, or even a fine beyond the loss of one single purchase. Recently a woman was sued for 2.9 million dollars USD, for downloading 28 songs. This is more per song than the Canadian government gives to the family of dead soldiers. Which loss is more real and more important?
1. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
Everything I've said above. Give people the freedom. Restrict the corporation's rights to restrict the public's freedoms. Defend the artists and ensure they receive their fair share. Doing so will encourage artists to come to Canada to produce, as we will be able to defend and support them. This can only improve our culture, with new viewpoints and creations.