Randal Leavitt

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Randal Leavitt



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 Randal Leavitt received on September 9, 2001 via e-mail


Dear People ....

Comments from:

Randal Leavitt
(address removed)

Here are my comments about:


June 22, 2001

Let's get right to the point - I find this paper dangerous, tricky, and detrimental to my interests. I find it highly biased toward the interests of big corporations, when it should be trying to protect the little guy. It lays out a sweet smelling arrangement of ideas that seems attractive the first time through, but has a rotten tinge when sniffed more intensely.

Let's try to make some sense out of this...

For example, the following quote from the paper is simply wrong:

"Cultural and other industries, such as the software industry, consider copyright to be a key factor in generating the return needed to stimulate the creation and marketing of a wide range of new content."

The Open Source segment of the software industry does not make this assumption and has the success of Linux and GNU to prove it.

In this and many other statements the paper is heavily biased toward the interests of large, restrictive corporations.

However, at times the common decency of the authors shows through. Consider this quote:

"The departments are concerned that changes to the policy framework for copyright should not operate to hinder the development of the full potential of the Internet and other digital platforms."

This is exactly the problem. We can restrict the use of new technology, creating social and legal channels that pump money to the wealthy and stifle change. This is what WIPO and other similar initiatives are trying to achieve. We can do this. We should not.

Tricky - why do I say the paper is tricky. Well, in many places it starts a discussion in high flowing language that sounds good to me. For example:

"The government's efforts in building a knowledge-based society and economy is focussed partly on fostering the capacity to generate and disseminate the creative endeavours of Canadians."

Great, I am going to be free to think and say what I want. Fantastic! Then the hammer comes down:

"In so doing, the values that define our society should continue to be upheld."

In other words, all dissent will be crushed, totally, immediately. Enforced by electronic surveillance and lightning fast response from the police, no one need ever worry about hearing a different point of view. Unity and harmony will rule.

We want to encourage the participation of individuals. Free software is crucial for this participation. Just like the use of roads is free, the use of software must be free. This is the "grease" that makes the Internet move forward. Imagine the slump that we would be in if the Microsoft monopoly had been allowed to strangle all innovation, locking everyone down into an eternal pay, pay, pay process with minimized benefits at each round. Only the pressure of the free software movement (i.e. Linux) broke this lock down, and prompted some progress that is beneficial to users. Large monopolistic corporations are now turning to the copyright laws for reforms that will allow them to harass individuals, and thereby allow them to grind away at the free software community until it disappears. Canadian copyright law reform must empower the individual, and encourage competition and progress. We have gotten ourselves free of the robber barons and their toll roads. Now we have to get rid of information barons and their secret codes.

If we want Canada to provide exciting new software we have to encourage a business model that emphasizes skill, knowledge, hard work, honesty, and true benefit for the end user. It is this kind of environment that allows smaller Canadian companies to be competitive. In the global market large corporations can dominate business situations using secrecy, overwhelming publicity, legalized harassment, and FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). The best way to oppose this monopolistic market domination is to use techniques that are clearly easier to understand and allow the end user real choice. Free software is one such means. Free genetic data is another. Our revised laws must be heavily biased toward this kind of openness. Some very expensive lobbyists are going to argue that other approaches should be used.

The discussion of cultural works must include software. If a musician records a song in an MP3 file we all agree that it is a cultural work. It may be new to some that if a programer creates a new software component and stores it in a file, that is also a cultural work. For the song to be used it has to be played and heard. For the software component to be used it has to be compiled into a system and operated. However, it is still a cultural work. Thousands of Canadians are creating these cultural works within the free software community. They are advancing Linux and many other software repositories. Hollywood does not want Canadians to watch Canadian films. Microsoft does not want Canadians to use their own software. Protecting our culture in these domains requires us to create laws that empower Canadians citizens. Our copyright laws must not be reformed into instruments of suppression.

Software should be paid for when it is created, not when it is used. This rule could also apply to many data constructs such as pictures, stories, sound files. Copy restrictions are too difficult, just like water use accounting is too difficult. We pay for water using taxes, and anyone can drink for free. Similar logic should be used for software.

Implications for Copyright Policy - this whole section is biased toward restriction, constraint, and collection. What we need is the exact opposite - openness, freedom, community, and progress. The law must not be usurped by corporate interests to become a device for suppressing innovation. For example, with the constrained collection-oriented model envisaged we would never have created the internet itself, the web as a layer on the internet, or Linux, the software that makes the Internet secure and fast.

We are all familiar with the tragedy of the commons. All the farmers have one cow and they put their cows in a common pasture. Things work out fine until one farmer buys a second cow. Now he gets more than his share of the pasture and everyone else is poorer by comparison. As a result everyone else gets a second cow too. Things are fair again, but the pasture is overgrazed and all the cows die. Greed leads to poverty. However, imagine the case where adding a second cow also caused the pasture size to increase. This is what happens when software components are placed on the Internet in a freely available manner. The more the better. You can think of this as the comedy of the commons. This is the situation that our procedures should encourage - openness and free availability, not restriction and constraint.

The statement is made that copying must be restricted on the internet. This is totally wrong. Businesses that are built on a model involving secrecy and constraint are obsolete and should not be encouraged on the web. As much as possible we need to encourage free copying and information dissemination. The good news has to get out. Consider science - scientists benefit by learning about the findings of other scientists. Restricting the information flow restricts science. The same idea applies to web oriented business.

It is very important to get this right. We can lock ourselves down in a stagnant morass of regulations and policing. Or we can promote a free and exciting culture. The lock down option greatly benefits a few, and hurts many. The free option benefits many in a modest manner. The greedy few are trying to lock us down for their own benefit. We must not fall victim to this ruse.

There are many flaws in the arguments about protection. If I copy a file and then play it on my computer I am somehow violating some principle of copy protection. However, if I listen to the same song broadcast over an internet radio station I am not doing anything wrong. Two means for listening to a song - one is good and one is bad. This is madness. There are hundreds of thousands of internet radio stations and more coming on line all the time. I could not listen to all of them in a 100 lifetimes. Trying to throw a net around this torrent is misguided. It can be done - we can police the internet to such an extent that it will be boring and useless. What a cowardly way to live! Is our model the Netherlands or Afghanistan? I choose the Dutch way.

ISP liability is wrong headed. If two people plan a bank robbery over the telephone we do not charge the telephone company for the crime. The people who install and maintain the equipment and software that makes the internet useful are not responsible for the ideas that people have when using it. Yes, we can squeeze these exposed equipment maintainers, and cripple the reach of the internet as a result. We can burn all our books too. Surely we can live on a higher plain.

Are legislative measures needed to deter the circumvention of technological measures that are used by rights holders to protect their rights? No - this is wrong headed. Canadian cultural czars have been trying for years to control the content of my brain. They label some sound material as Canadian, and then force broadcasters to include this crap in their signal. The hope is that I will hear it because I cannot avoid it if everyone in Canada broadcasts it and broadcasts only have a limited range. So the government is using legal and technical techniques to force me to hear and think things that I don't want to hear and think. Now we have the internet. I spend all day listening to radio broadcasts from Africa and China. I am free from the Canadian culture cult. How do I benefit by having the government intervene in this new world and doing something garish like making African internet sites illegal? I want freedom. I want information. I want truth. The government should be on my side. Legislative measures are needed to deter rights holders who cannot figure out the new technical potentials and who want to bring in the police to shore up their crumbling and obsolete businesses.

Internet technology has the potential to evolve quickly. The phenomenal growth of Linux is a good example. A free environment based on fast information exchange made Linux possible. We must preserve this environment if we want this kind of progress to continue. Or if we are afraid of progress we can huddle down in a restricted world where nothing changes, and every thought is owned by the person who thought it first (and the leaders thought of everything first). I have the feeling that we are building the jail one brick at a time, and the builders do not know if they are inside or outside.

The legal means set up to prevent people from cracking protection devices will not work. We will soon have machines that will do these things for us. Are we going to put machines in jail for following their ambitions? This whole framework of secrecy, protection devices, control, and the extraction of payment is about to be overwhelmed by technical innovations.

Quote: "It could serve to transform a measure designed for protection into a means of impeding legitimate uses." Every now and then the truth pokes through. This is exactly the problem. However, change "It could serve" to "It will massively and totally serve". You are building the jail and you think you are on the outside. I am screaming to you - "You're inside the walls!"

Quote: "4. Are there non-copyright issues, e.g. privacy, that need to be taken into account when addressing technological measures?" There sure are - freedom, privacy, and community rights to knowledge and information. The internet permits enforcement to extend much further than most people understand or believe. If I whistle a random tune in public, a listening computer can pick that up, match it to the world database of owned tunes, often find a match, and convict me of a public performance without permission and delete all my bank accounts before I get across the street. What is more, it could do this selectively so we could get rid of our least liked subgroup of people pretty quickly. People creating new information ownership laws have to ask what happens when the genie gets out of the bottle.

Rights management information raises all kinds of problems. How do we prevent large interests from marking things as theirs that they should not? How do we decide who is the owner of all this stuff? Do we really want scientifically discovered truths locked in drawers? Instead of creating all this friction and tension we should be thinking about an open society where the concern is about truth instead of ownership. The more untrue an item is the harder it should be to access. We could start by locking all the drawers with bibles in them. A paradigm shift is called for if we intend to deal with technical progress successfully.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
An organization dedicated to protecting free speech and the free flow of information on the Internet.

The Right to Read - by Richard Stallman
This article appeared in the February 1997 issue of Communications of the ACM (Volume 40, Number 2).

a short history of the DeCSS affair http://www.lemuria.org/decss/hal2001.html

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