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Submission from Mark Richards on July 29, 2001 11:53 PM via e-mail

Subject: Copyright reform

To whoever it may concern,
I have read the web page
( that discusses proposed copyright reform. I would like to comment on one of the points mentioned in this web page:

     "whether the Act should be amended to:

set out a new exclusive right in favour of copyright owners, including performers and record producers, to make their works available on-line to the public;

prevent the circumvention of technologies used to protect copyright material; and,

prohibit tampering with rights management information. "

The issue is the second amendment: preventing the circumvention of technologies used to protect copyright material. At face value, it would indeed appear that this would be in the best interests of the copyright holders. However, the ramifications of legislating this are far greater than imagined.

Some examples of perfectly valid reasons why technologies that "protect" work need to be circumvented:

1. Interoperability. 2. Security

I shall discuss these further:

1. Interoperability - Currently, computers are largely dominated by the Microsoft Windows operating system. This has been seen by many in the computer industry as a bad situation, since we must all follow where Microsoft takes us, and Microsoft cares only for themselves and their bottom line. A US judge has ruled (and this ruling was upheld by the Appeals court) that Microsoft is an illegal monopoly that engages in wrongful and hurtful business tactics. This means that there is a rising interest in many computer scientists and engineers to move to a different operating system. However, many businesses who create computer products do not yet support any other operating systems because the market is not yet big enough. The market is not yet big enough because no businesses support the alternative operating systems. This is known as the "barrier to entry".
The alternative operating system that currently has the most potential to breaking the barrier to entry is Linux. Linux is open source, which means that the source code is freely available and modifiable. Linux is coded entirely by volunteers. However, some companies choose not to support Linux. This means that in order to make certain things work in Linux, some volunteers must figure out how it works, and write the software to support the desired feature. This is currently happening at a great speed, and Linux is a very useful and powerful system. However, certain technologies are still not fully available for Linux. One good example is DVD. DVDs are protected under the US DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) which (like the proposed amendment) prohibits circumventing copyright technologies. This means that since no DVD company will support Linux (they are prohibited from releasing the source code because of Non-Disclosure Agreements), volunteers have to figure out for themselves how to read DVD movies. This has actually happened; a group of European programmers have figured out the appropriate algorithms. This means that Linux users can finally watch the DVDs they own on their operating system of choice. However, they cannot do this in the US, where this program is illegal. Obviously, when a person buys a DVD, they are buying the right to watch the movie whenever they want. But in the US, they are forced to use Microsoft Windows, because no other operating system (well, no other major operating system) is supported. This is a violation of the "fair use" clause of most copyright acts.
         Currently in the US this case is before the courts, and it remains to be seen whether or not the provision in the DMCA concerning circumvention of protection technologies will be upheld.
       The corollary of this is that if only approved operating systems are allowed, and the only approved operating system with any sizeable market share is Windows, the Microsoft monopoly remains strong (and indeed, unbreakable, since no one will want another operating system if it can not do all that Windows can do). This means that customer choice is not limited by the technology (for the technology exists for Linux, it is just illegal), but rather by politics. The government, then, in effect condemns the people to use a certain product. This is undemocratic, un-capitalistic, uncompetitive, and it can also lead to problems (Microsoft products are often plagued by security problems).

2.    Security - Security is rated as the number one concern for businesses who are expanding to the Internet. This is not a surprise, since there are frequent news reports about customer's personal information (including credit card information) being stolen. Obviously, security is something that must be thoroughly examined.      However, if content protection technologies can never be circumvented, they can never be analysed from a security point of view. The fact is that most security analysts don't use the details of the technology to break the security. They are capable of finding the holes without being first told how the protection technology works. An example is the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). The SDMI had proposed a means of uniquely identifying songs so that if someone copied a song, a player would not play it unless authorized. This would allow artists (or more specifically, record labels) to collect on their royalties. Again, on the surface, this seems reasonable. However, it turns out that the implementation of the SDMI security was flawed. SDMI issued a challenge to the world, with a cash prize offering, for anyone to prove that their security was flawed. A team of researchers in the US did so, without being told how SDMI actually applied the protection to a song. The terms of the contest stated that in order to be eligible for the cash prize, the winner would have to sign an NDA. Well, the researchers elected to not sign an NDA and forego the cash prize, in order to educate the world on the flaws in the security. However, they were then sued by SDMI under the DMCA, for circumventing protection technology. This case is still pending as well.
      The lesson is simple: if the researchers are prohibited from releasing their results, and SDMI's security is implemented on a large scale, every single song "protected" by SDMI is vulnerable. This means that every manufacturer of a music player, every musician and every record label stand to lose if SDMI is adopted. This is because the security is weak and effectively useless. Someone out there in the world will break SDMI again, even without the help of the research team that accomplished it the first time. This will open up everything that is believed to be protected. You can see what the consequences would be if it were something truly sensitive that were being protected, like bank transactions or credit card information. Good security requires analysing, and circumventing the existing security protocols. That's how security protocols improve. The DMCA in the US, and the proposed amendment above, prevent good security from evolving, since no one is allowed to find the holes in the existing security.

It's obvious that there are severe problems with restricting rights such as this amendment proposes to do. The stated goals of the amendments are to make Canada a better player in the new global economy. However, what they really do is make Canada a worse player. Currently in the US many programmers, computer scientists, engineers and researchers are recognizing the harm caused by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Some are boycotting conferences held in the US, after the recent arrest of Dmitri Sklyarov, who was arrested for creating a program (in Russia, where he is employed) that converts eBooks into PDF files, so that they can be read by a screen reader (see Obviously it is fair use for a blind person to be able to "read" a book they purchased, however since he had to circumvent technology to do so, he was in violation of the DMCA. He was arrested when he came the US for a conference. If the DMCA is upheld, many talented programmers and engineers may actually leave the US, thus weakening the US in the global economy, not strengthening it.

I urge everyone involved in amending the copyright act to closely examine the battles being fought in the US concerning the DMCA, and to not forget that information is meant to be shared; that is what "fair use" is. Copyright is supposed to protect the rights of the creator, but it should also protect the rights of the information user. If knowledge and content become so "protected" that the public is forced to use certain products to access the knowledge (thus enforcing certain businesses monopolies) and the public is at the mercy of weak security, which they are locked into (thus lowering their defences to attackers), the e-business arena that is desired will likely fail, and the public will lose.

Mark Richards
4th year Engineering student, University of Toronto   (email address removed)

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