On his recent speech to the Canadian Federation of Students, Michael Geist writes,
After highlighting the remarkable array of new developments for content creation, content sharing, and knowledge sharing, I have emphasized the need for copyright laws that look ahead, rather than behind. In particular, I have pointed to the dangers associated with anti-circumvention legislation, to the need for more flexible fair dealing, to the desirability of eliminating crown copyright, and to the benefits of open access and open licensing. I typically conclude by stating that this can be Canada’s choice and that we must choose wisely.
In case you are unaware, anti-circumvention legislation would mean that a if the manufacturer has implemented a copy protection scheme, any attempt to bypass such a copy prevention scheme may be actionable. This could mean just about anything, simply creating backups for your music (ripping to .mp3) or making your purchased music playable on other devices, could be against the law. If you missed Lessig’s “How Creativity is Strangled By The Law“, this would be a good time to review this important message.
Then Geist warns,
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.
I just noticed Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing is also covering this story. He warns,
If this law passes, it will mean that as soon as a device has any anti-copying stuff in it (say, a Vista PC, a set-top cable box, a console, an iPod, a Kindle, etc), it will be illegal for Canadians to modify it, improve it, or make products that interact with it unless they have permission from the (almost always US-based) manufacturer. This puts the whole Canadian tech industry at the mercy of the US industry, unable to innovate or start new businesses that interact with the existing pool of devices and media without getting a license from the States.
If this law passes, it will render all of the made-in-Canada exceptions to copyright for education, archiving, free speech and personal use will be irrelevant: if a technology has a lock that prohibits a use, your right to make that use falls by the wayside. Nevermind that you’ve got the right to record a show to watch later — or to record a politician’s speech so you can hold him to account later — the policeman in the device can take that right away with no appeal.
If this law passes, it will make Canada into a backwards nation, lagging behind the UK, Israel and other countries that are passing new copyright laws that dismantle the idea of maximum copyright forever and in all things.
What can you do about this? Last year Geist wrote a letter listing 30 things you could do to stop the former bil from passing. The specifics may be a bit different now, but the strategies are the same. Geist stresses that the most important of these is to write a letter (not an email) to your Member of Parliament, the Ministers of Industry and Canadian Heritage, and the Prime Minister. I know I will be.
Fight for these freedoms while we still have them.