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Canada is a heterogeneous society. We cherish and value our mixed culture. The value that we place on the cultural products and artifacts we create, compose, inherit and consume is not, and should not be, a purely commercial value.
Copyright law should give as much consideration to cultural, educational and social interests as to commercial concerns. It should balance the aims of some producers and distributors to see large returns on their investments, with the needs of less commercial artists to fund their work by finding small, loyal audiences. It should respect the traditional sharing of culture between friends that is at least as old as human society itself. It should also recognize that cultural development is an important part of formal education, irrespective of the course of study.
1. The duration of copyright should be brought in line with the duration of patents, i.e. 20 years from publication.
This will help eliminate the problem of orphaned works. It will also allow each generation to share with the next the works they love; irrespective of commercial availability and without fear of prosecution.
2. Transcoding materials for personal use should be legal, even if it involves cracking DRM and breaking region codes.
Having purchased a copy of a work we should be able to transcode it to watch on any device we own. Having purchased a work in one country we should be able to watch it on hardware purchased in another.
3. Sharing copyright materials with immediate family members should be legal, irrespective of geographic locations.
Society has changed. Families are more dispersed. We should have the right to share digital goods in the way that we once shared physical goods.
4. Sharing copyright materials within education institutions should be legal and encouraged.
Educators should not have to worry about copyright clearance for the inclusion of particular images in handouts and on learning management systems. IT administrators should not have to concern themselves with the internal sharing of mp3 files by students that may be free podcasts, personal voice memos or 'fair use' copyright materials.
Students should be using their time in education to engage with culture, as well as with their course materials. The costs of policing are better spent on other things. Education is a special case, and should be allowed broad freedom without fear of prosecution.
5. Images of publicly owned artworks, or artworks whose copyright has expired, should be automatically available under an attribution non-commercial license.
The public should have free access to high quality images of great and minor artworks. Photographs of the artwork should inherit the copyright of the artwork without turning the clock back to zero.
6. Prosecution for copyright infringement should be a civil matter that can only be initiated by the copyright holder, not by a trade body.
It is important for society that we distinguish between large scale, for-profit, counterfeiting and a child on her mother's computer sharing a few songs. Trade bodies have taken a scatter-gun approach, criminalizing individuals, equating torrenting with terrorism and seeking punitive damages. The effect has been to ruin a few lives and damage the reputation of the industry as a whole. If copyright holders are made to take direct responsibility for prosecutions they will be more likely to show some dignified restraint, particularly when encouraged by artists to not sue their fans.
Liberalization of Canadian Copyright laws could reflect and anticipate societal and technological changes. Digital distribution, peer-to-peer sharing and Creative Commons licensing are already important factors in the creation and sharing of culture. These are not going to go away, and will become increasingly important. Micropayments and high definition streaming is growing. DRM is being abandoned. Through liberalization Canada has the opportunity to create a media environment in which the next generation of production, distribution and reward mechanisms can quickly evolve. It should help the industry, and society, by taking that opportunity.