My submission to the Copyright Consultation

I just sent my submission to the Canadian Copyright Consultation. There’s still time to submit, if you haven’t done so already. I’d recommend reading Professor Michael Geist’s submission to get some ideas.

Here’s my submission:

Having read over the previous copyright bill (C-61), I would like to voice my opposition to the inclusion of anti-circumvention provisions in the new copyright bill. My reasons are as follows:

  1. The anti-circumvention provisions in bill C-61 would have made it illegal for consumers to unlock their cell phones. This would further stifle competition in Canada’s wireless sector by making it more difficult for consumers to switch carriers, since they would have to purchase new hardware. It is my view that competitiveness would be maximized by banning the practice of cell phone locking, rather than protecting it in law. The owner of a cell phone should be free to use it with the carrier of his or her choice.
  2. Users of the Linux operating system, myself included, must use a circumvention tool (libdvdcss) to play legally purchased DVDs on their computers. I see no reason why the use or distribution of this tool should be restricted, since it has many uses which do not infringe upon copyright.
  3. The anti-circumvention provisions in bill C-61 would have allowed copyright holders to take away users’ fair dealing rights simply by applying technological protection measures (TPMs) to their works. Fair dealing rights are a critical part of our copyright legislation, and we must not allow them to be taken away by anti-circumvention legislation.
  4. Technological protection measures can be harmful to consumers. For example, in 2005 Sony sold music CDs containing software intended to prevent unauthorized copying. This software installed itself without requesting the user’s consent and could not be un-installed. It also made the user’s computer unstable and vulnerable to attack. Other copy protection schemes use a central server to decide whether to allow users to access content they have purchased. When this server ceases to function, whether intentionally or unintentionally, users lose access to their content. In 2008, this occurred when Yahoo shut down its DRM server. I believe that rather than protecting TPMs in law, we should be protecting consumers from them by limiting their use.
  5. Technological protection measures can harm competition. For example, until recently, users who purchased songs through the Apple iTunes music store could only play such content on Apple iPods. A user wishing to switch to another brand of music player would be unable to do so without losing access to their purchased content. It is my opinion that users should be able to access legally purchased content on the device of their choice. Protecting TPMs in law would undermine this goal.

I would further like to make the following suggestions for the upcoming copyright legislation:

  1. Crown copyright should be abolished. I believe that the benefit to the public of putting works produced by the government into the public domain would greatly outweigh the resultant loss of revenue to the government. This model is used in the United States, where works produced by its federal government are not entitled to domestic copyright protection.
  2. The term of copyright protection should be reduced. In my opinion, twenty years from the date of publication should suffice, since most works cease to be comercially exploitable before that point anyway. This would vastly enrich the pool of works in the public domain, upon which creators could freely build.

Clayton Smith
Ottawa, Ontario