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To Whom It May Concern,
It is my pleasure to respond to this copyright consultation, as I am deeply concerned about the direction copyright law is taking in Canada.
Here are my answers to your questions:
The sole purpose of copyright is to encourage innovation by providing a temporary financial incentive to creators (authors, musicians, etc.). It is necessary to remember that, strictly speaking, copyright law violates Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a citizen, I am willing to tolerate a short-term infringement on my right to free expression, allowing creative individuals a short-term monopoly on ideas.
I believe, however, that the current duration of copyright (life of the author plus 50 years) is excessive. The 20th century's experiment on long-duration copyright has proved to be a failure. Large corporations monopolize cultural expression, simultaneously suppressing the creativity of authors who build on prior art and infringing on my right to free exchange of ideas. In our fast-paced modern world, terms of copyright need to be brought in line with the short terms of patent law. A 20 year maximum copyright term would be more than adequate to encourage innovation.
Existing laws stifle innovation and prevent the free exchange of ideas. Creators must realize that they do not own their ideas — they temporarily borrow them from the public domain. An idea is not property. An author should take joy in seeing his or her work enter the public domain, after a very short period of financial incentive.
As I expressed above, copyright terms need to be shortened, and the public domain strengthened. Originally, the maximum term for copyright in the U.S. was a flat 28 years! In our fast paced world, 28 years would be more than adequate to provide financial incentive to artists and creators —doubtlessly more adequate than it was two centuries ago, when the pace of life was slower! Copyright will better stand the test of time by being shortened. I would be delighted to see every work move into the public domain within ten years of its creation.
Shorten copyright duration to create a larger public domain. The public domain provides a wealth of inspiration to modern artists. By including modern works in the public domain sooner, a rich pool of cultural material becomes freely available for artists to work with and build upon.
It is absolutely necessary that consumer rights be created and upheld. Strong consumer rights encourage competition between business to best serve the consumer, driving the economy. Most important is the right to "fair use." If ideas are to be sold as property, then they must have the same consumer protections as real, material property. If I buy something, it's mine to keep. In order to uphold that consumer right, it is often necessary for me to copy the work for my own private use. Sometimes, I will need to circumvent a digital lock to do so. If I buy a product containing a lock, I have the right to break that lock, regardless of whether it is digital or physical. The lock, too, is mine to discard if I please to do so. Digital locks should be given no more special legal status than physical ones. There should be no anti-circumvention provision in any new copyright legislation.
To the contrary, if legislation regarding circumvention of digital locks must be written, it should be written in the consumer's favour. I would be happy to see digital locks and digital restrictions management (DRM) outlawed in Canada.
Shorten copyright. Encourage competition by outlawing (or at least not encouraging) the use of digital locks. Strengthen and foster a larger public domain. Free expression, not copyright protection, is the true well-spring of innovation and creativity.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Calgary