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When the copyright lobby uses the word pirates, their rationale is simple: people who copy are pirates, hijackers, and thieves, so they have no rights. If that's true, the only side whose rights matter in the relationship between content producers and the public is the side of the content producers.
As you know, that's a distorted view of copyright. Copyright legislation must also protect the public's rights. It must provide a net benefit to society. It must not ignore the changing times or be used to protect business models that are no longer viable to the detriment of ordinary Canadians.
And it must not look anything like Bill C-61.
Good legislation will:
- not prevent Canadians from circumventing DRM. Fair dealing gives the public rights to use copyrighted works in certain special ways; DRM takes these rights away. The term itself is offensive: why is a corporation managing my digital rights? Aren't my rights supposed to be guaranteed by my citizenship? The idea that the government ought to criminalize mechanisms that defeat DRM when those mechanisms are sometimes the only way to claim legally protected rights is absurd.
- expand fair dealing provisions. Canadians ought to have all of the same protections that Americans do under fair use laws.
- reject the "notice and takedown" approach to dealing with copyright infringement claims. It is unrealistic to expect the average Canadian to understand how to defend themselves against potentially baseless allegations of infringement. As a friend of mine remarked recently, organizations like the RIAA don't have an army of lawyers, they are an army of lawyers.
- reject the escalating penalties (three-strikes) approach, where alleged copyright infringers would have their Internet access revoked. The Internet is simply too important to take away from people on the basis of allegations that are not proven in court. It is not a stretch to compare it to prohibiting people from reading after catching them making photocopies in a library.
- protect the rights of Canadians to time– and media-shift.
- reduce the term of copyright. Creative works become irrelevant quicker than they used to, besides, the parts of copyright law intended to promote creation of works are presumably ineffective for the deceased. I think we would see an explosion of creativity based on existing works if the copyright term were halved to twenty-five years after death.
- end Crown copyright, enabling Canadians to freely use the information we paid to have created.
Inspired legislation will:
- introduce a new model for file-sharing that legalizes it while still ensuring artists, musicians, and film-makers are compensated for their work. The current situation cries out for a creative resolution that fairly balances the rights of both sides in the copyright bargain without criminalizing file-sharers or revoking their Internet access on the basis of allegations.
I firmly believe a better model exists, even if no one has thought of it yet (what an opportunity for you to demonstrate a internationally recognized, revolutionary example!) This could take the form of a file-sharing levy, but I'm not convinced this is the best approach.
- provide a robust framework that does not need adjustment when new technologies are developed. This legislation will eventually have to cope with a world where huge quantities of information will be able to be duplicated flawlessly and transmitted to any place almost instantly, on devices that have not yet been invented.
- recognize that when it comes to technologies like file-sharing, the genie is out of the bottle. Groups that want harsher, more restrictive copyright legislation advocate for this because they believe doing so is in their economic interests. They're wrong: first of all, they are wasting valuable resources fighting against an unstoppable change in the way people communicate. Second, they are incurring a massive opportunity cost: other, more progressive companies are moving into the online space and finding it profitable.
Creating truly inspired legislation will not be easy, but Canadians deserve nothing less on this crucial issue. We need bold legislation and a made-in-Canada approach.