Sunday, February 05, 2012

MPs in Canada weighing in publicly on C-11

On Reddit, some people shared thew responses they got from their MPs when they raised concerns regarding Bill C-11, the impending new Copyright law for Canada.

Here's an example of an MP who gets the picture:

Thank you for your email regarding C-11, the Conservative government’s new copyright bill. Since 2004, New Democrats have pushed to have Canada’s copyright legislation brought into the digital age.

We believe that copyright in a digital environment must be based on two fundamental principles – access for consumers and remuneration for artists. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has failed to meet these two fundamental principles. On one hand, the government directly attacks millions of dollars in existing copyright royalty to artists all the while undermining rights of consumers through their digital lock provisions.

Given the above, we will not be supporting Bill C-11 unless the government is willing to amend the digital lock provisions and restore royalty provisions for artists. 

New Democrats are concerned about a number of measures in this legislation. First, we oppose the digital lock provisions in Bill C-11 as they go well beyond our obligations under the WIPO treaty. Legal protection for TPMs (Technological Protection Measures) should not override rights that are guaranteed to citizens under existing copyright legislation. Another concern is that this bill offers consumers rights they will not be able to exercise. The blanket provisions for digital locks will allow corporate interests to decide what legal rights you may or may not exercise. This unbalanced approach will ultimately hurt artists, educators and consumers. There are also serious concerns over the impact this bill would have on long-distance education. In particular, we are totally opposed to provisions that would require students and educators to destroy their class notes after 30 days. While we support the right of consumers to time shift and back up legal works, we oppose the government’s
attempt to erase the right of artists to receive compensation for private copying of works. Further, the refusal of the government to update the private copying levy into the digital realm will cost artists millions of dollars a year in lost royalties. Finally, we oppose plans to remove mechanical royalties for radio as well as attempts to erase collective licensing rights in schools. While there is much we dislike in this bill, there are measures that we can support — for example, provisions that would bring Canada into compliance with the WIPO copyright treaties including the “making available” right of artists. We also support the move to ensure photographers are given copyright over works their works. We support efforts to extend fair dealing rights for satire and parody.

For our part, we will try to improve this deeply flawed piece of legislation. First, we will look to amend the digital lock provisions to ensure there is a balance between the right of a creator to protect their work and the right of the consumer to access content for which they are legally entitled. In addition, we are committed to clarifying the fair dealing rights in terms of education so that students and educators are able to access works in the classroom while, at the same time, ensuring collective licensing regimes for the fair remuneration of creators are not undermined. Again, I appreciate knowing of your interest to have Canada adopt improved copyright legislation for the 21st century.

And now for the governing party's response, rife with talking points and my arguments (in bold) against each erroneous or misleading statement:

Thank you for your letter regarding Bill C-11.

This bill will provide legal protection for businesses that choose to use technological protection measures (TPMs) or “digital locks”, to protect their intellectual property as part of their business models. Even if those protection measures restrict consumer rights, trump fair use provisions and even if the owners of the locks or content creators who chose them go out of business or stop supporting them.

This legislation will bring Canada in line with international standards and promote homegrown innovation and creativity. By standards, we mean WIPO, which we haven't ratified for decades, and SOPA/PIPA, which died as soon as non-government, non-entertainment industry people got invloved. It is a fair, balanced, and common-sense approach, respecting the rights of creators. Of course, the only people who truly believe that are the cartel of entertainment industry corporations. The federal government is working to secure Canada's place in the American digital economy and to promote a more prosperous and competitive country (the US).

This bill gives creators and copyright owners the tools they need to protect their work in a manner never before seen in the history of creativity and to grow their business models, and by 'grow', we mean monopolize the market and stifle creativity born of remixing and inspiration of previous works. It provides clearer rules that will enable all Canadians to fully participate in the digital economy, now and in the future. What's not very clear is why the government is trying to make criminals out of ordinary consumers by making actions considered reasonable by most users of content into illegal acts.

Digital locks are an important tool for creators and copyright owners to protect their work except that they prevent purchasers of content from using that content in a variety of legal and appropriate ways. Software producers, video game and movie distributors, for example, continue to use digital locks as part of their business model because they wish to protect the significant investment each makes in developing the products. Instead, they could be adapting their business model to the 21st century and earning even more than the billions of dollars they earn in profits now. Canadian jobs depend on their ability to make a return on this investment.  Actually, jobs in the distribution network for content have been lost because the industry still relies on an outdated business model. But they don't want to talk about that.

In other markets, however, in light of consumer demands, some businesses have chosen not to use digital locks because they actually respect and value their customers. Copyright owners may decide whether to use a digital lock, and consumers can then decide whether to buy the product. Unless you own DVDs, which all have digital locks - no choice there. Or, unless you own locked music CDs, because if an artist you like sells their CDs through a company that uses locks, it's not like you can buy one of their CDs from another source.

The bill also provides a regulation-making power to allow the circumvention of digital locks in certain cases, for example, where the presence of a digital lock unduly restricts competition in an after-market sector. In other words, here's some legalese that sounds terrific, but only means that we're allowing for the unlocking of cell phones when you switch service providers. There's no other examples of where this provision is helpful. If a digital lock creator goes out of business or stops supporting a type of lock, owners of content with that type of lock are on their own and the breaking of the lock is still illegal.

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