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COPYRIGHT REFORM PROCESS
SUBMISSIONS RECEIVED REGARDING THE CONSULTATION PAPERS
Documents received have been posted in the official language in which they were submitted. All are posted as received by the departments, however all address information has been removed.
Submission from Russell L. Magee received on July 28, 2001 5:15 PM via e-mail
Subject: Coopyright Reform Process
Mr. Russell L. Magee
As a Canadian citizen and computing professional, it concerns me greatly to hear that the Canadian government is considering implementing legislation similar to the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). I have read extensively on the subject, including the text of the DMCA itself, and have concluded that it is designed primarily to benefit businesses, at the expense of private citizens.
Proof of the DMCA's harmful effects on private citizens' freedoms has already come to pass; a Russian national, Dmitri Sklyarov, has been detained by U.S. authorities for speaking at a conference on inadequacies in the 'Acrobat' electronic book format produced by Adobe, Inc. The FBI, at the urging of Adobe Inc., detained Mr. Sklyarov, invoking the DMCA as the cause of his arrest.
In essence, Mr. Sklyarov has been arrested by the U.S. government for merely speaking at a conference on the results of reverse-engineering efforts. Until now, reverse-engineering, absent illegal knowledge of trade secrets, has been legal in most Western nations.
My objection to the DMCA, and any potential laws like it, is that they harm private citizens' rights by rendering traditional 'fair-use' provisions of copyright law moot. The DMCA, as currently practiced in the U.S., makes it illegal to reverse-engineer 'content-protection' technologies built into software or hardware products.
I would respectfully submit that reverse-engineering, and the freedom to speak publically on knowledge derived from such activities, is an essential part of scientific and technological progress. As examples of the benefits of such reverse-engineering, I point to the following examples:
1) IBM PC 'clones'. Most modern PCs manufactured today are not made by IBM. However, they all are able to run the same software. This reality is only made possible by the fact that another company, Compaq Inc., re-implemented the entire BIOS of the original IBM PC via a 'clean room' re-engineering effort. Without violating any of IBM's trade secrets, they built, from careful examination of existing IBM machines, their own version of BIOS. This has resulted in countless benefits to the consumer: lower prices, more choice, and enhanced reliability of design. Monopolies inevitably lead to higher prices and poorer quality. With a law like the DMCA, IBM could have prevented the formation of the modern PC industry and maintained a monopoly on its PC architecture. Would Compaq engineers have been jailed, like Mr. Sklyarov?
2) Fair Use of obsolete technologies. Customers who have purchased a product, only to find that the company producing the product has gone out of business, should still have the ability and right to use the product they have legally purchased as they see fit. If the product has 'content protection' mechanisms which prevent its use, then fair use has been denied the customer. A concrete example of this is video tapes; a user has the right, under fair use provisions, to make archival backups for personal use in case the original suffers damage. If a law like the DMCA is in force, and the tape has copy protection implemented, the customer can no longer legally make archival copies.
-Russell L. Magee
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