Michel Dagenais

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Michel Dagenais



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Submission from Michel Dagenais eceived on September 12, 2001 via e-mail

Subject: CPCDI

(Address removed)

Comments - Government of Canada Copyright Reform
c/o Intellectual Property Policy Directorate
Industry Canada and other concerned agencies

235 Queen Street
5th Floor West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5 Canada
fax: (613) 941-8151

Engineers are not generally most active on the legal and political arena.
However the issue of copyright protection techniques circumvention devices
is fundamental, and you will certainly receive a small, but unusually high
for our profession, number of letters. I deeply respect the right of
copyright holders to receive due compensation for their efforts. My concern
is about making reverse engineering (studying the copyright protection
techniques), and subsequent publication, a criminal offense.

Copyright protection techniques are inherently limited. If the video, image
or text is visible to the viewer in some form, there is necessarily a way
to intercept and copy it. However, these techniques may be a sufficient
deterrent to keep copyright infringments infrequent. Furthermore,
circumvention techniques may be developed and published anymously rather
easily, despite almost any sensible legal framework.

Thus, the consequences of making circumvention devices a criminal offense
may have relatively little impact on copyright infringments. However,
its impact on freedom and privacy of individuals, and on
scientific work can be far reaching and most dangerous. Here are a number
of specific cases where reverse engineering should be usable and yet could
be a criminal offense. All these cases have happened recently.

- Real Networks instrumented their popular music listening program to
gather statistics about users listening habits. Someone discovered
this fact through reverse engineering and published it. Informed users
are now more careful about their privacy and the company apparently removed
this function. Had reverse engineering been a criminal offense, no one
could have easily published these important results.

- Adobe corporation makes a book distribution scheme where the content is only
available through their copy protected viewer, with no support
for blind people. A russian engineer studied the protection
algorithm, discovered that it offered a very low level of protection,
and created a viewer that could access the document and output it to
a special braille output device for blind people. This russian engineer
was arrested in the US, yet he helped blind people who paid for the book
to access it, and informed copyright holders that the protection offered
by the scheme was grossly inadequate.

- Engineers frequently have to connect together heterogeneous equipment and
make them interoperate. For this purpose, they often have to reverse
engineer protocols. If this was a criminal offense, their only choice may
be to buy all the equipment from the same corporation, if such equipment for
their specialized needs is at all available from a single corporation.

In conclusion, freedom and privacy are some of the most prized values in our
society and should certainly not be diminished in favor of the very little
help it can bring to copyright protection techniques.


Michel Dagenais
(Address removed)

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