02 December 2007

Copywrong for Canada

Time to gird for battle, circle the wagons, and (wo)man the barricades. Michael Geist warns us that Canada's copyright laws are about to be devastated by the Harper government, making Canada one of the most backward countries in the world with respect to intellectual and cultural creativity.
Sometime over the next two or three weeks, Industry Minister Jim Prentice will rise in the House of Commons and introduce copyright reform legislation. We can no longer speak of choices because those choices have already been made. There is every indication (see the Globe's latest coverage) this legislation will be a complete sell-out to U.S. government and lobbyist demands. The industry may be abandoning DRM, the evidence may show a correlation between file sharing and music purchasing, Statistics Canada may say that music industry profits are doing fine, Canadian musicians, filmmakers, and artists may warn against this copyright approach, and the reality may be that Canadian copyright law is stronger in some areas than U.S. law, yet none of that seems to matter. In the current environment and with the current Ministers, politics trumps policy.

The new Canadian legislation will likely mirror the DMCA with strong anti-circumvention legislation - far beyond what is needed to comply with the WIPO Internet treaties - and address none of the issues that concern millions of Canadians. The Conservatives promise to eliminate the private copying levy will likely be abandoned. There will be no flexible fair dealing. No parody exception. No time shifting exception. No device shifting exception. No expanded backup provision. Nothing.

The government will seemingly choose locks over learning, property over privacy, enforcement over education, (law)suits over security, lobbyists over librarians, and U.S. policy over a "Canadian-made" solution. Once the bill is introduced, look for the government to put it on the fast track with limited opportunity for Canadians to appear before committees considering the bill. With a Canadian DMCA imminent, what matters now are voices. It will be up to those opposed to this law to make theirs heard.
What can be done? Here are Michael's 30 Things You Can Do. If you are a member of Facebook, join the Fair Copyright group. If you think that this won't affect you because you don't download music or pirate videos, think again: imagine being prevented from recording your favourite TV show for watching later. Imagine being forced to repurchase music you already have if you want to listen to it on both a CD and your iPod. Imagine it being illegal to create a Jon Stewart-like parody of a politician's speech.

Despite the fact that everything the copyright lobby has been telling politicians for years has been a lie, despite the fact that many record labels have realized that DRM doesn't work and are abandoning it, despite the fact that in case after case, people who have legally purchased locked-down electronic content are shit-out-of-luck when something goes wrong with the technology, or when the vendor decides to change systems, the Harper government is planning to proceed with this regressive legislation... unless... unless the public outcry is sufficiently loud to resonate throughout Ottawa. It's time to stop the worst copyright law ever!

And for an inside look on how such a law could come to pass in an enlightened country like Canada, see what the Prime Minister has to say about it.

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