ARCHIVÉE — Christopher Allen (En anglais seulement)
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Suggestion de Christopher Allen reçue le 13 septembre 2001 par courriel
Objet : Canadian Copyright Reform
To all Canadian politicians and governmental officials who care about our rights and freedoms, and most especially
The Intellectual Property Policy Directorate,
Mr. Andrew Telegdi, Member of Parliament,
Mr. Brian Tobin, Minister of Industry:
It has recently come to my attention that the Canadian government is considering modifications to the Copyright Act similar to those of the United States' recent "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" (DMCA). The proposed modifications are apparently part of the Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues (CPCDI).
As a computer scientist, I find it very worrisome that Canada is proposing to follow the U.S.'s lead in imposing severe and unjustified restrictions on individual personal freedom in the name of copyright protection.
- The Anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA have already had a profound and negative effect on the ability of computer scientists anywhere in the world to pursue basic research on almost any subject related to encryption, data compression, or other multi-media "content-protection" related topics for fear of being prosecuted in the U.S. Already researchers have been arrested not for violating anyone's copyright but simply for having done research that is necessary in order to enable people to exercise their fair dealing / fair use rights, simply because that research could in principle also be used to circumvent copyright.
- Freedom of speech has been dealt a severe blow, as scientists and researchers are no longer able to openly discuss their research. The freedom of speech and freedom of expression supposedly enshrined in the U.S. constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights has effectively been trumped by giving corporations the right to prosecute computer scientists when we attempt to discuss our work.
- The consequent chilling effect on research and discussion will ultimately either hinder technological progress globally or simply force it to move to countries with more reasonable laws; in either case, the U.S. will suffer more economically in the long run. There is no reason to make Canada into another research-hostile environment.
- The main beneficiaries of the DMCA (as well as, not surprisingly, its main advocates) have been large, primarily U.S.-based media conglomerates. They claim that they are worried that the ease of with which digital media can be copied will harm their business interests; while this is definitely a reasonable concern, it is unquestionably the case that:
- copying of copyrighted material is already illegal under existing legislation in both the U.S. and Canada,
- similar concerns were raised around the widespread adoption of other non-digital technologies (cassette tapes, analog video tape), and although these previous technological innovations certainly did facilitate illegal duplication of copyrighted material, the "media giants" that once pushed for further legal restriction of these older technologies have undoubtedly benefited from their widespread adoption far far more than they have been harmed by the increase in unauthorised duplication.
- it appears that, in the vast majority of the prosecutions made so far under the DMCA, there was no actual violation of intellectual property rights, nor was there any intent to violate them on the part of the defendants.
- illegal duplication on the scale that could seriously harm business interests is not generally affected by the DMCA; bulk distribution of copied DVDs, for example, does not require the use of deCSS, a program whose author is now being prosecuted under the DMCA.
It is very far from clear to me as a Canadian citizen why I should desire to give up my freedom to serve the interests of foreign corporations, especially when it *does* appear clear that the proposed legislation will not in any significant way assist the supposed beneficiaries in achieving their stated interests.
- The DMCA is now under legal challenge in the U.S., and it is quite reasonable to expect that it may be found to be unconstitutional, especially given the breadth and scope of its anti-circumvention measures. Although our constitution is not identical to that of the U.S., the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms does guarantee freedom of speech, and it is absurd to suppose that legislation similar to the DMCA would not face serious constitutionality questions in Canada as well.
It is regrettable (but clear) that the U.S. is quickly and effectively legislating itself into the role of a pariah state - at least for anyone concerned with freedom of speech, fair use of copyrighted material, or pursuing legitimate research in computing; there is no conceivable reason why Canada should wish to follow in its path.
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