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Submission from Mike C. Fletcher received on August 29, 2001 3:41 AM via e-mail

Subject: Copyright Reform Process

In "A Framework for Copyright Reform" are stated requirements to:

prevent the circumvention of copyright protection (i.e., as technology is developed to protect copyright, circumvention of such protection would be made illegal; and, prohibit tampering with rights management information.

These requirements from the WIPO treaty are ill-considered, and I am deeply concerned that our government has entered into such a potentially stifling agreement as this. Far from encouraging and promoting creation and new development, such measures serve to shore up an increasingly irrelevant and predatory industrial infrastructure.

We have seen the civil rights disaster in the United States with the introduction of the DMCA, why would we in Canada want to duplicate that legislation here? Why are we not asking how to create a system that meets the needs of our citizens, both those who create and those who consume content? Why are we following a corporate lobbyist's agenda to limit freedom of expression and academic research without demanding a corresponding movement from those lobbyists to the benefit of our citizens?

We need to create a system which provides fair, reasonably priced, convenient, and universal access to content, which promotes alternative voices (not merely those with corporate backing), which compensates and encourages new artists. We as a nation have a strong history of promoting the non-corporate arts in our cultural programmes, not least of which is the CBC. Why have we suddenly decided that the profit imperative of a handful of corporations should dictate our cultural policy, not to mention the freedom of our academics and our citizens?

Have we received legally binding agreements to reduce price gouging from these corporations? Have we received any binding assurance that alternative voices will be given access to the restricted data channels which are being legislated as the only legal alternative to the current systems?
Have we received any binding assurance that artists will be compensated? Development in the United States where the major record labels seek to block compensation for digital distribution to song writers would suggest such assurance isn't in place there. Without it, the often-touted compensation to artists argument falls rather flat as the corporations maximise their profit at the artist's expense. The system was not designed with the artists' needs in mind, it was designed for the benefit of the corporation.
Do the systems being proposed as alternatives to the current systems have any benefit for the citizen of Canada? For the artists? For the new and struggling artist? For the academic seeking to research newly restricted content?

Have we thought seriously about the distribution system we wish to create? When making laws, reacting to a particular special-interest group is a poor substitute for designing a balanced system which addresses the needs of all parties.

Do we believe that a content creator should be granted dictatorial control over the use of content to the point that a non-technical user has no control whatsoever over the content they have purchased? I certainly do not. Do we believe that a license should control the user's rights beyond all reason? For instance, many current schemes dictate a time-limited license such that as soon as a piece of content is viewed in part a timer is started to disable the content. The effect is that the user must view the entire content at a sitting or within a brief period which may be totally at odds with their preferred means of enjoyment. Similar restrictions such as "you may not pause or rewind the content while playing" would, to some people, be considered egregious infringement on the rights of the citizen who has purchased the content. Are such restrictions to be allowed, indeed encouraged, by our legislation? I believe their must be some set of universally allowed actions, of a set of fair-use requirements which transcend any licensing or technological limitation.
Do we believe that academics should be persecuted because they study how things work? I believe that inquiry should not be stifled merely to support a corporation's convenience and huge profit margin.
Do we believe that maintaining an increasingly irrelevant industrial infrastructure unwilling to embrace new operating methodologies warrants such sweeping and draconian legislation?

We are throwing away a wide swath of freedoms with this legislation, I worry that we as a society have received nothing in return. Academic freedom, freedom of fair use, freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech should not be so lightly bargained. I would strongly suggest that the government take action to void or withdraw from the WIPO agreement's ill-considered resolutions, or design a system that can address the needs of all Canadians.

Michael Fletcher
Toronto, ON

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