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Submission from Dennis Grant received on July 30, 2001 12:44 PM via e-mail

Subject: Comments on the Canadian Copyright Reform

Ladies and Gentleman of the Intellectual Property Policy Directorate,

I cannot find words that describe my relief upon discovering that you are seeking public comment on the issues of Intellectual Property and Copyright in the digital age before going forth and making a law similar to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as it exists in the United States. This means there is still time to affect the law-making process, to prevent such a travesty of justice being imposed upon the Canadian citizenry.

It is far, far better to prevent a bad law from coming into existence than to have it struck down after the fact.

The issue here is that undoubtedly the majority of opinion that has been reaching your forum has been sponsored by the people with the most to lose, those being the movers and shakers in the music and entertainment industries - and perhaps more to the point, the people involved with the distribution and sale of pre-packaged entertainment media. These "middlemen" have made their fortunes profiting off an artificial limitation in the way that content is distributed from artist to audience (please note that I did not say "consumer"!) and now that technology has arrived that threatens their business model, they are pulling out all the stops seeking legislative protection for their cash cow,

Ladies and Gentlemen, the automobile has been invented, and the representatives of the buggy-whip industry are before you seeking legislation to have the "horseless carriage" banned, lest the country (which we all know rests on the pillars of the horse-drawn carriage industry) collapse all around us. No doubt the people profiting from the sale of so-called "Intellectual Property" are describing the threat digital media poses to them in all manner of apocalyptic language.

Allow me then, please, to raise a voice in defense of the "consumer".

We have reached a new height in the course of human civilization, in that the duplication and dissemination of information and knowledge has never been easier or cheaper. Consider the Middle Ages, before the development of the printing press, where every book extant had to be laboriously copied out by hand. The vast majority of humanity was illiterate and uneducated, not because people were stupider, but because the rate of production of literary material was so slow that demand far outstripped supply.

Furthermore, because the number of books was so small, it was entirely possible that the knowledge contained within them could be lost if all existing copies were destroyed - either by misadventure, or by purposeful suppression by those who disliked the views expressed in them.

As time went on, and as the printing press, moveable type, and industrial paper production were developed, this became less and less true. Costs came down, availability came up, and books (and eventually audio recordings, and then video recordings) became more and more widespread. Along with this came a better informed, more educated public.

We are now at the point where perfect copies of information - be they the written word, music, movies, or even computer software - can be made at zero cost, and the cost of distribution is near-zero as well. Any piece of human knowledge can be duplicated and published to any other human on the planet nearly instantly and with NO COST.

It's worth taking a look at that statement "no cost", as I'm sure that those profiting off the current laws will take objection to it. When one has a digital copy of a work, it exists only as a number. There is no physical media associated with it - the supply of numbers is infinite. Thus, producing a copy consumes no resources (aside from the trivial amount of electric power needed to keep the computer operating) More importantly, the act of producing the copy does not degrade or reduce the original in any manner whatsoever, and the copy, being perfect, can also be used to produce other perfect copies. Note that at no time does the act of producing and publishing a copy deny the work to anybody - so nobody is "hurt" in the process. When I choose to provide a copy to someone else, my personal copy is unaffected. This, coupled with the ease of producing the copy, produces a strong motivation to share with others.

One might argue that the middleman who sold the original work is being "hurt", by being denied sales of the information being duplicated. But nowhere in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor in the Constitution of Canada, is it written anywhere that people - or corporations - have the fundamental right to make money. If I buy a watermelon at the supermarket, it is mine to do with as I wish. If I choose to extract the seeds and grow them (thus denying a watermelon farmer and a grocery store the sales my future watermelon needs would produce) nothing wrong or illegal has taken place. Furthermore, if I decide to give away (or even sell!) my surplus watermelons, raised from those initial seeds (thus compounding the loss of watermelon sales) this is regarded as an act of altruism on my part, not an act of theft against the watermelon farmer. Why should digital data be any different than watermelons?

Ladies and gentleman, it is not the place of the Government of Canada to enforce business models, especially BROKEN business models. If people have decided to sell a product that is easily duplicated and given away for free, that is their problem, not the Government's. A high-profile attempt at selling pet food over the Internet failed recently - should have sought legislation requiring that the sales of pet food at the local depanneur be halted, in order that they be able to make money? Should the automobile have been banned to support the buggy-whip industry?

But most importantly, there is a very real and dangerous cost that accompanies the attempt to enforce copyright law as it now stands in a digital world, a cost that our neighbors to the south are just now discovering - they having made the law before working out the repercussions. This is the REAL danger a law like the DMCA entails. Not that the entertainment industry might loose money, but that the fundamental rights and freedoms of the public are invaded and raped in order to satisfy the desires of corporations. Real people, in real prisons, for the heinous crime of providing duplicates of information to their friends!

If a law like the DCMA is passed in Canada, then the simple act of copying a file and providing that copy to someone else becomes a crime. In order to enforce the law, it will require a level of monitoring of ordinary citizens that put George Owell's most paranoid works beyond the pale. Any company will be able to make a claim that their copyrights are being infringed, and the police will swoop in, confiscate computers, and send people to jail.

If that sounds like the melodramatic claims of a Chicken Little, consider that it has already happened in the US

Adobe Software (of California) produces a product called an "e-book" This is exactly what it sounds like, an electronic representation of a book. In order to help alley the fears of the publishing houses, Adobe's product encrypts the data in such a way as to (notionally) prevent copies from being made, and in fact, attempts to tie the data to a specific computer.

In Russia, there exists a law that states that people are entitled to make copies of computer software and data for their own use - I believe this is to allow archiving and backup of one's computer programs. Adobe's e-book software violated this law, so an enterprising Russian computer firm reverse-engineered the encryption format on the e-books, and wrote a program that converted an e-book to a more standard, copyable format, so that Russian citizens might have access to their legal copies. The program in question was sold to Russians, and under Russian law, was totally legal and legitimate.

Adobe was not particularly happy about this development. So when the principle programmer for this product arrived in the US for a conference (in which he made a presentation describing how the decryption of an e-book may be accomplished) Adobe had him arrested under the terms of the DCMA preventing "circumvention of a digital copy protection scheme" He was taken directly to jail, where he is being held on felony charges _without bail_. He is still there, awaiting trial.

Imagine if the Soviet Union (back when the Soviet Union still existed) had made playing hockey illegal. Imagine Wayne Gretsky visiting the USSR to give a presentation on how to play hockey, and being arrested and thrown in jail, held without bail until his trial. This situation is exactly parallel to what has happened in the "Home of the Free" down south - and the irony of the person being detained by the oppressive state being a citizen of the former "Evil Empire" I trust is not lost on you.

I'm certain that we'll be seeing more examples of this Orwellian behavior in the future. The Americans have passed a law that places corporate interests over the liberties and freedoms of the people, and in order to enforce that law, liberties and freedoms must be trampled.

I would strongly dispute any claims made by the "IP Industries" that they are in any danger - in fact, there was strong evidence that increased exposure to new music via Napster was resulting in _increased_ music sales, not decreased sales, despite what the RIAA has claimed. But even if Napster et al was the kiss of death for the music industry, even if it resulted in the total collapse of that entire segment of the economy (the ultimate Chicken Little Scenario) is preventing that worth the cost to liberty and freedom? Do we want to create a police state in order that Sony Music may make money? Is the bottom line of Paramount Pictures so important, that we would send people they dislike to jail?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not exaggerating the scope of this decision. It is within your power to either support the greatest blossoming of education and literacy in human history, or to start the descent of Canada into a police state. That is what is at stake here. I served my country for one third of my life in order to protect it (as we thought at the time) from threats from a police state. Please do not undo my sacrifice by handing the country to those who would see progress and freedom stifled for their own purposes and profit.

Thank you for this opportunity to present my view. Rest assured that I am not the only one with this opinion, and that I hope others choose to speak up an express it.


Lt. Dennis Grant RCAC, (retd)
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

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