Digital Copyright and Bill C-32: My Ignite! Waterloo Presentation

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Local, Politics, Software | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A few weeks ago, I gave a shortened version of my C-32 and You presentation at Ignite! Waterloo. It was a great experience, and really challenged me as a speaker. Although I do quite a bit of public speaking, the format of this particular presentation required me to know my presentation cold, and to cut down on the rambling that usually gets me by when I inevitably forget everything shortly after taking the stage.

If you’ve never been out to an Ignite! event, I highly suggest that you check one out. It’s kind of like a TED talk, but each presentation is only 5 minutes long, and consists of 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds. Since the event had a videographer, you can choose to either watch my presentation or to scroll down to see my slides and notes. I won’t fault you for either.

Talking Pictures

For all you ADD-riddled folks with no patience, here’s the video version:

In Words

For those of you who like to read stuff, here are my slides and associated text. Keep in mind that the text below the slides is what I was supposed to say, and is not necessarily the same as what I actually said.

Slide 1: Introduction

Good evening everybody, my name is Jonathan Fritz. Tonight I’d like to speak to you about intellectual property. Before I begin though, I should stress the fact that I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a computer programmer who has spent way too much time reading way too much legalese. To save you from a similar fate, I’ll try to quickly brief you on everything that I’ve learned about copyright.

Slide 2: What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is a fancy name that lawyers have given to the ownership of ideas. Since ideas are non-physical, intangible, and infinite things, a new set of laws had to be developed so that they could be owned in the same sense as the physical objects that we’re all used to. This lead to the three primary types of intellectual property and their associated bodies of law.

Slide 3: Trademarks

The first type of intellectual property that I’d like to address is called a Trademark. This is a distinctive sign or indicator that is used by a business to identify itself, its products, and services to customers. Common trademarks include slogans, catch-phrases, jingles, and logos.

Slide 4: PatentsThe second type of intellectual property is called a Patent. This is a set of legal rights that can be issued to the inventor or discoverer of some method or process. Once a patent has been granted, its holder retains the sole right to benefit from any implementation of their invention or idea for a finite period of time.

Slide 5: Introduction to CopyrightThe third type of intellectual property, and the on that I want to focus on this evening, is called Copyright. Once granted, it gives the author of a recorded work the exclusive right to distribute copies of that work for a finite period of time. Throughout most of the world, whenever you commit something to record, you are immediately granted copyright to that work.

Slide 6: Differences

Now the differences between these bodies of law are key. Both trademarks and patents protect ideas and concepts – abstract stuff that isn’t tangible. Copyright on the other hand, protects the expression of those ideas, like a book or a compact disc. When a work is copyrighted, the copyright holder can control who makes and distributes copies of the work, but not the ideas or themes that the work deals with.

Slide 7: Balance

The idea behind copyright is to provide an incentive for authors to make more stuff. We all enjoy the stuff that they make, and so we agree to give up some of our personal rights to ensure that they can afford to continue to make it. This requires that we strike a careful balance; we don’t want to give up too many rights, but we do want authors and artists to be able to make a living.

Slide 8: Poorly NamedCopyright is a poorly named body of law. The truth is, the rights that it provides aren’t natural rights as the name implies. They are awarded by governments and courts. This means that we all have to agree on the rights that copyright provides to both the author and the user of her work. This fact is often lost in the rhetoric surrounding debates about the subject.

Slide 9: Creative Commons

The idea of copyright only works because of the temporary monopoly that it provides. When that monopoly expires, the works that copyright protects go into the creative commons. This means that anybody can use them in any way, shape, or form. As copyright terms lengthen, works enter the commons with less regularity, and we chance losing access to our history and culture.

Note: This slide should read public domain in place of creative commons. The two are distinct and equally important concepts that shouldn’t be confused. Sorry. – Jonathan

Slide 10: How Temporary?In order for this temporary monopoly to work out, it has to be just that: Temporary. When copyright was original proposed, the term lasted for only fourteen years. In present-day Canada, copyright terms last for fifty years past the death of their original owner. In the USA and the UK, terms last for seventy years past the death of their original owner.

Slide 11: Artistic Inspiration

Artists are inspired by the works of others. “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” That’s a Pablo Picasso quote that was stolen by Steve Jobs. Because artists don’t create in a bubble, they need access to past works in order to create inspiring and relevant art. If our works of art stop being distributed just as soon as they are no longer profitable to their owners, we as a society lose access to them.

Slide 12: Intro to C-32

Back in June, the Conservative Federal Government introduced Bill C-32. The goal of the bill is to modernize copyright law in Canada. This is a great idea, because our current laws date back to 1997.

Slide 13: The Rise of Digital MediaIf you’ve been on the internet since 1997, you’ll know that a lot has changed. The rise of digital cloud-based media like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Last.FM, and Pandora have really challenged our conception of traditional copyright. We don’t really have anything in our existing laws to handle these technologies.

Slide 14: You are a Criminal

In addition, common activities like ripping a CD or DVD to your computer, or taping a television show on your VCR or PVR to play back later are technically illegal under current Canadian law. The proposed bill includes lots of positive clauses that correct these problems with our current laws.

Slide 15: Piracy and File-sharingIn recent years, file-sharing has kind of broken down traditional media economies. Today, it is possible to make an unlimited number of perfect copies of a movie or a song and send them to friends via the internet for next to nothing. This poses a serious challenge to traditional media companies who made their money by controlling the distribution of physical media.

Slide 16: DRM as a ResponseTo counter this trend, media companies started to encrypt their content and began selling licenses to unlock it. This practice is called DRM, or Digital Rights Management. It generally stops people from making copies of their media, and is currently used to protect video games, movies, television broadcasts, and other media. Bill C-32 aims to make it illegal to break this protection once it has been placed on your media.

Slide 17: So Where's the Problem?The problem with this approach is that it has already been tried, and has failed miserably. In 1998, the USA passed the DMCA, or Digital Millenium Copyright Act. It resulted in thousands of people being sued by record and movie companies, and yet piracy rates have only increased since its introduction.

Slide 18: Piracy TimelineIn 1999, Napster was introduced, and file-sharing became a household phenomenon. In 2001, BitTorrent improved on the technology, and file sharers started to move entire movies around the internet in addition to smaller music files. By 2005, YouTube had made a business model out of sharing largely copyrighted music and video clips that were all ripped from protected sources.

Slide 19: A Call to Action

So get in touch with your government and make your voice heard. Anti-circumvention laws like those proposed in C-32 don’t work, and just result in people getting sued by entertainment companies who are cannibalizing their own consumer base instead of modernizing their business practices. Slide 20: Contact MeI’ve only managed to touch on the tip of the iceberg during this presentation, so please check out my various online presences or come and talk to me after the show if you’d like to discuss copyright and Bill C-32 farther.

In Closing

That’s about it. Be sure to check out all of the videos from this and past Ignite! Waterloo events on their YouTube page, and to take a look at the reviews that my colleagues Tyler Burton and Phil Downey posted earlier this week.


The Minister’s Response

Posted: August 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »
This evening I received an email from the Honourable James Moore. At first glance, it appears to be a form letter in response to the letter that I sent to him and other federal government representatives well over two months ago. Perhaps his tubes were clogged. According to Mozilla Thunderbird, it also appears to be a scam.

Perhaps thunderbird is right... Bill C-32 could rightly be called a scam

And so without  further ado, here is the Minister’s response, as annotated by yours truly:

Thank you for writing to me about copyright policy. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me on this important issue.

No, you don’t.

My colleague, the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and I are pleased to inform you that our Government has introduced legislation to modernize the Copyright Act, bringing it up to date with the advances of the digital age.

Yes, three months ago. If I wasn’t aware that you had done such a thing, I probably wouldn’t have written you two different letters about said legislation.

This legislation will bring Canada in line with international standards and promote home grown innovation and creativity. It is a fair, balanced and common-sense approach, respecting both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers in a modern marketplace. We are working to secure Canada’s place in the digital economy and to promote a more prosperous and competitive country.

On this note, we disagree. Perhaps you should take some time to review the aforementioned letters instead of sending me back a useless form letter response.

The popularity of Web 2.0, social media and new technologies such as MP3 players and digital books have changed the way Canadians create and make use of copyrighted material. This bill recognizes the many new ways in which teachers, students, artists, software companies, consumers, families, copyright owners and many others use technology. It gives creators and copyright owners the tools to protect their work and grow their business models. It also provides clearer rules that will enable all Canadians to fully participate in the digital economy, now and in the future.

And with the anti-circumvention clauses that are built into the bill, it does all of this at the cost of consumer rights, and applies a Made in the USA approach to Canadian copyright law. Digital rights management schemes do not protect against wide scale piracy, and anti-circumvention laws that give them legal protection serve only to limit the ability of everyday Canadians to use their lawfully purchased media in a fair and open manner.

Detailed information about the bill is available on-line at http://www.balancedcopyright.gc.ca.

Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

The Honourable James Moore, P.C., M.P.

Hopefully his best wishes are better than his best efforts to acknowledge the concerns of people who disagree with his proposed legislation.

It’s probably silly of me to expect anything more than a poorly written form letter in response to my concerns. In truth, I didn’t expect anything at all, and was surprised when Moore’s ridiculously overdue response hit my inbox tonight. After all, Moore isn’t even my Member of Parliament. But as far as I’m concerned, nothing at all would have been better than this thoughtlessly canned response.


C-32 and You: My #kwdm Presentation

Posted: July 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Local, Politics, Software | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

This past Thursday, I did a presentation about the dangers of Bill C-32 for the Kitchener Web Design Meetup (KWDM). It went really well, and the audience had a lot of questions and provided some great feedback. Unfortunately, since I didn’t think to record the audio from the presentation, you’ll have to make do with my slides and notes. Enjoy.

  1. Introduction

    • Good evening, my name is Jonathan Fritz. Tonight I’m going to attempt the nearly impossible: I’d like to discuss copyright law, while not putting you to sleep
  2. Not a Lawyer

    • Copyright law is something that I’ve taken an interest in during my spare time. I’d like to make it clear from the outset that I am not a lawyer.
  3. I am a Programmer

    • During the day, I’m a programmer for a small company called Skybound Software, and the co-owner of another small company called inScope Software and Solutions
    • The only reason that I mention these is because I want to make it clear that everything that I talk about this evening is 100% my opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employers or business partners
  4. The Crowd

    • Now that the boring legal crap is out of the way, let’s jump into some more boring legal crap
    • Ok, so I’d like to see what kind of people we have in the audience tonight. Show of hands if you’re a:
      • Web developer
      • Web or print designer
      • Artist, photographer, or musician
      • Programmer or engineer
    • You may not realize it, but copyright law affects each and every one of you every single day
  5. Copyright

    • Any time you commit something to record, be it a computer program, a photograph, a piece of music or art, it is covered in Canada by copyright.
  6. What is Copyright?

    • Copyright is a poorly named body of law that gives people who make stuff a monopoly on the distribution of that stuff for a finite period of time
    • This is an effort to ensure that they make a decent living off of their stuff, and thus have an incentive to make even more stuff.
    • As a society, we enjoy the use of the stuff that they create, and so we give up some of our personal rights and freedoms to ensure that the people that create stuff can afford to continue to do so.
  7. Poorly Named

    • I say that copyright is poorly named because it isn’t actually a right
    • It’s a privilege awarded by law, and thus by society as a whole.
    • In order for this to work, we have to all agree that the terms set out in copyright law are an appropriate balance between personal freedoms, and creators’ ability to make a decent living.
  8. Lord Macaulay

    • During an 1841 debate in the British house of commons, one Lord Macaulay did a great job outlining this dilemma:
  9. Evil Quote

    • “[Copyright] is a tax on readers for the purpose of giving a bounty to writers. The tax is an exceedingly bad one… It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good”
  10. Inspiration

    • So here’s the thing: In order for the temporary monopoly to work out as planned, it has to end within a reasonable period of time.
    • Society has to get their rights back at some point, or else they aren’t getting a fair deal.
    • Artists’ work is informed and influenced by the work of their contemporaries.
    • Without the ability to access, borrow from, or outright steal inspiration from other pieces of art, most artists wouldn’t be able to create with any kind of regularity.
    • Pablo Picasso by way of Steve Jobs: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”
    • Imagine taking a photo haven never seen another persons’ work with lighting and composition.
    • Writing a song without ever nicking a particularly nice chord or melody?
    • Artists don’t create in a bubble – they filter and combine all kinds of different influences into works of their own.
  11. Ghosts

    • Way back in ancient history, the monopoly awarded by copyright only lasted 14 years.
    • After that period, it was assumed that the rights’ holder had made his money (and it was always his money), and the work moved into the creative commons, meaning that anybody could use it however they saw fit.
    • Today in Canada, copyright lasts 50 years past the death of the rights’ holder.
    • Some countries have pushed that up to 70 years past death
  12. Afoul of the Law

    • This means that far less media ends up in the creative commons while it is still relevant to society, which makes it increasingly hard for artists to create without running afoul of the law
  13. Preservation of Culture, intro to C-32

    • More importantly, when reinforced by something called digital rights management, copyright laws make it very possible that our culture will not be preserved in the same way that past cultures were – but more on that later
    • Back in early June, the conservative government released Bill C-32, “The Copyright Modernization Act.”
    • It has been sponsored by the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Heritage and Official Languages, and the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry.
    • Just like the title says, this bill aims to modernize Canadian copyright law. This is a really good idea, because our current laws were haven’t been revised since 1997
  14. 1997 Websites:

    • In 1997, the top five websites on the internet were:
      • Geocities
      • Yahoo (including services called yahooligans, yahoo sports, and my yahoo)
      • Starwave corporation “where more people click”
      • Excite, Magellan, and City.net
      • PathFinder, and the family of Time/Warner and CNN sites
  15. 2010 Websites:

    • In March of 2010, the to five websites were: (15)
      • Google
      • Facebook
      • Yahoo
      • YouTube
      • MSN
  16. You are a criminal

    • As you’ve probably noticed, a few things have changed.
    • Old folk may also remember that the infamous Napster, the first file-sharing service, wasn’t invented until 1999.
    • And BitTorrent, the American entertainment industry’s nefarious arch-enemy wasn’t invented until 2001.
    • Similarly, YouTube, harbinger of all things evil, didn’t hit the tubes until 2005.
    • Simply put, our existing laws don’t cover any of these massive shifts in technology, and many of the things that Canadians do on a daily basis are actually considered illegal under current laws.
  17. The Good

    • Some important sections of proposed law that aims to fix these problems:
      • Network Services section:
        • a safe harbour clause for Internet service providers and other network operators.
        • Provides legal protection for hosting service operators whose customers may have uploaded copyrighted works to their servers
      • Copyright Infringement section:
        • sets maximum monetary awards for copyright owners who successfully charge an individual with infringement of works for personal or commercial use.
        • Given the astronomical awards granted by American courts in both the Capitol vs. Thomas (2007) and RIAA vs. Tenenbaum (2009) cases, this is an extremely important clause
      • Non-commercial User-generated Content section:
        • Makes it totally legal for you to sample copyrighted works for the purposes of creating a non-commercial mashup.
        • Now you can legally use whatever music you like as the soundtrack to your cute kitten and dancing baby videos.
      • Reproduction for Private Purposes section:
        • Allows for time and format shifting practices, thus making TiVo and iPods legal technologies in Canada, which sounds like something out of that old Rick Mercer bit, Talking to Americans.
  18. The Bad

    • Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information section: counteracts every positive aspect of the proposed bill
    • Bans any technology or device capable of circumventing any technological protection measure (TPM) or called digital rights management (DRM) schemes that have been placed on the digital content by its distributor
    • The bill is written in such a way that this clause takes precedence over every one of those really cool sounding amendments that I just mentioned.
    • Basically, should C-32 pass, you’ll get a whole bunch of rights. But if the distributor of some media decides to put DRM on their products, they don’t matter, and you become a criminal if you attempt to exercise any of them.
    • At this very moment, DVDs, BluRay discs, video games, Cable television, Netflix digital downloads, eBooks, computer software of all sorts, online television services, and an uncountable number of other current and future consumer media products are all protected by some form of DRM.
    • Under the proposed law, none of this digital content can be backed up, moved to a different device, transcoded to a different format, or otherwise tampered with, because to do so would require that its owner break the DRM that has been placed on it, thus making that person a criminal in the eyes of Canadian courts.
    • So why do manufacturers use DRM anyway? Well, they seem to have gotten this idea that it somehow prevents people from pirating their media. Unfortunately, this belief could not be further from the truth.
  19. Passive Systems

    • To demonstrate this problem, I’ll give you a bit of background on how DRM technologies generally work, demonstrate why they often fail, etc
    • There are basically three kinds of DRM
    • Passive Systems: The distributor of a file encrypts that file with a secret key that’s so big that it is theoretically impossible to guess.
    • She then makes a deal with the manufacturer of the device that is used to play back that file, and embeds the secret key into that device.
    • When a user attempts to play back the media file, the device is able to unlock it, and everything is cool. This is how DVDs work
    • Why they Suck: These systems tend to be very insecure, because they’re susceptible to what cryptographers call a class break.
    • Because all copies of the media file are encrypted with one of a finite number of keys, if somebody figures out a way to break through one copy of the protected media, he can usually manage to break through any piece of media that is protected with the same scheme.
    • Further, all of those keys are stored inside of some piece of software or some device in your living room that you have access to. It is only a matter of time before one is broken into, and the scheme is broken.
  20. Active Systems

    • Just like before, the distributor of a file encrypts it with a massive secret key.
    • This time, however, she buys some servers, and makes a different deal with the people who distribute playback devices.
    • Now, when a user tries to play a file, the player connects to the server and asks for permission to play the file.
    • The server checks if the user is legitimate, and if so, gives the encryption key to the device. The media is then unlocked, and you can hear your tunes.
    • This is how video game DRM from services like Steam and Electronic Arts work.
    • Because these types of protection call home for permission to start playback, they require that the user has an always-active internet connection.
    • For those with dial up or using mobile devices, this is not always possible, so the scheme has to allow a certain number of plays without speaking to the home server.
    • By definition, this means that they can be attacked, because they can be fooled into thinking that they are always in this limbo state
    • Hybrid Systems: As the name implies, these present some combination of the previous two. In general, the media is encrypted, but in order to unlock it, the playback device executes some program that is embedded in the media that performs the authorization step.
    • This program can usually be easily updated, so that if the scheme is broken, it can be fixed in the field. This is how BluRay discs are protected.
    • These are far more complex than their simple cousins, but also quite a bit more resilient to attack.
    • Unfortunately, in the past, programmers have included malicious code in these types of systems that do some nasty low-level stuff to the users’ computer, potentially leaving it open for attack.
    • This is what happened in the Sony Rootkit case of 2005, in which Sony BMG released 52 CD titles that altered the way that Microsoft Windows functions in an attempt to block users from copying their contents
  21. Consumer Suck

    • From a consumer perspective, all DRM systems suck.
    • By design, they intentionally limit what users can do with their digital media (see Defective by Design). This means that using digital media that is protected by a DRM scheme is more like licensing it than like purchasing it
    • Additionally, all types of DRM can result in property loss.
    • In the case of passive systems, this can happen if the devices used to play back the media are no longer produced.
    • In active systems, this can happen if the servers that are used for authentication are shut down. This often happens when a digital store ceases to be profitable, or if the company that operates it goes out of business
  22. Getting in the Way

    • DRM systems that are designed to prevent people from pirating media also tend to get in the way of legitimate customers who are attempting to use their media in perfectly legal and acceptable ways
  23. Smart Cows

    • Perhaps the most compelling evidence against the legislation of DRM systems is that they simply do not prevent people from pirating media.
    • In general, if you can open a legitimately purchased file, its contents can be copied out to a non-protected format, which can then be distributed.
    • If you can’t said file, but happen to be a hacker or encryption expert, you can usually figure out how to do so in short order
    • As soon as the DRM scheme is broken by one person, they can distribute it all other interested parties by way of the internet.
    • This is called the Smart Cow Problem (it takes only one cow to learn how to open a latch, and then a method can be developed that allows others to follow), and is the biggest issue facing companies relying on DRM to protect their products.
    • Combine this with the fact that every DRM system that I have ever heard of has been broken, often within weeks of release, and that the cost of creating and maintaining a DRM infrastructure can easily run into the billions, and you can see that it isn’t really a great technology to rely on to protect your digital media.
  24. Ineffective Laws

    • If anti-circumvention laws were truly effective, piracy should never have become the problem that media companies claim that it is today
    • In the United States, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) put anti-circumvention laws like the ones proposed in Bill C-32 in place a full year before the invention of Napster and three years before the introduction of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol
    • Although laws don’t translate directly into persecutions, they give authorities the tools to stop piracy.
    • In the United States, the MPAA and RIAA have used these tools to bring lawsuits against more than 20,000 of their own customers – and yet, piracy is still a major problem for their member organizations.
  25. Locks

    • DRM schemes are no more than the digital counterparts of real-world mechanical locks. There has never been, and will never be, a lock that cannot be broken by any determined party with time, knowledge, and resources on their side.
    • Because of these reasons, it is my opinion that the anti-circumvention clause in Bill C-32 makes its current form unacceptable to the Canadian people.
  26. What We Can Do

    • I’ve been trying to get the word out about this issue in my own way. Obviously, I’m here speaking to you tonight. I’ve also tweeted about the issue, written blog posts on my website and others, written letters to various members of parliament, and spoken personally with Peter Braid, my member of parliament up in Waterloo
  27. Contact Me

    • If you’re interested in getting involved, in telling me that I’m wrong, or just in talking more about this issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me

MP James Moore: Please Drop the Rhetoric

Posted: June 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

We tried to be civil. Unfortunately, Conservative Heritage Minister James Moore has decided to take the battle over Bill C-32 to a new low:

In the video, Moore frames all opposed to his precious copyright reform bill as fear mongers and evil doers who are against any kind of copyright reform. This kind of false rhetorical framing will not result in a copyright solution that benefits all affected parties. Instead, it just muddies the waters and makes it tough to have a real discussion about the important issues that are at hand.

As many have probably guessed from the contents of my website and twitter stream, I am against the current iteration of Bill C-32. That said, I believe strongly that copyright reform is necessary in this country. Our current laws were written before the internet really took off, and need to be modernized in order to effectively deal with new technologies and situations. Most of the proposed bill is quality content, but the Section 41, Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information, is not.

Mr. Moore needs to step down from his high horse, cut out the rhetorical bullshit, and join in on the discussion that we are having about his proposed bill. Plugging your ears and screaming ‘na-na-na-na-boo-boo’ just doesn’t cut it when you’re an elected representative of the people.


A Letter to the Federal Government Regarding Bill C-32

Posted: June 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This week, I sent the following letter the a few key members of the Federal Government, outlining my concerns with the proposed Bill C-32. Those who have read my other posts regarding the bill may notice a great deal of similar language. As always, feel free to borrow this letter and to modify it in any way, shape, or form. Printed letters can be sent to Members of Parliament free of charge, and all Members’ contact information is available here.

To: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
To: The Honourable Tony Clement
To: The Honourable James Moore

CC: Marc Garneau (Liberal Industry critic)
CC: Pablo Rodriguez (Liberal Heritage critic)
CC: Charlie Angus (NDP Digital Affairs Critic)
CC: Peter Braid (MP, Kitchener-Waterloo)

Dear Members of Parliament:

Last week, our Conservative government introduced Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act. As its title suggests, the aim of the bill is to modernize Canadian copyright law, an admirable goal considering the incredible changes that the internet has had on our economy since our copyright laws were last reviewed in 1997. With respect to its stated goal, Bill C-32 is a reasonable proposal. It contains some much needed legislation that will indeed clarify and modernize our copyright code.

For example, the Network Services section of the Bill provides a safe harbour clause for Internet service providers and other network operators. In particular, the section provides legal protection for hosting service operators whose customers may have uploaded copyrighted works to their servers. Likewise, the Copyright Infringement section sets maximum monetary awards for copyright owners who successfully charge an individual with infringement of works for personal or commercial use. Given the astronomical awards granted by American courts in both the Capitol vs. Thomas (2007) and RIAA vs. Tenenbaum (2009) cases, this is an extremely important clause.

Unfortunately, every positive aspect of the proposed law is counteracted in the Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information section of the bill, wherein the proposed law explicitly bans the use, manufacture, import, distribution, sale, or rental of any technology or device capable of circumventing any technological protection measure (also called digital rights management, or DRM) schemes that have been placed on the digital content by its distributor. Should the bill become law, any use of the aforementioned technologies will constitute an immediate infringement of copyright and make the responsible party liable to all damages outlined within. Therefore, this section effectively removes all of the rights granted in earlier portions of the bill, including Non-commercial User-generated Content and Reproduction for Private Purposes, the two sections that the government is using to desperately peddle this bill as consumer-positive, when in fact it is nothing of the sort. In particular, the latter section proposes that it be made legal to create personal reproductions of copyrighted material (often referred to as time- or format-shifting, an activity that the vast number of Canadians already take part in) so long as a number of conditions are met, one of which is that “the individual, in order to make the reproduction, did not circumvent, as defined in section 41, a technological protection measure, as defined in that section, or cause one to be circumvented.”

Just like that, with a single sentence, all of the ‘rights’ that the Conservative government is waving around as they insist that their approach to copyright reform is not bought and paid for by foreign media conglomerates are struck from the record. With an anti-circumvention clause built into our copyright law, the ability to use legitimately purchased digital media in a fair and open manner (generally called fair use in the USA or fair dealing here in Canada) ceases to exist. The reason for this is that an excruciatingly small minority of the digital media that is sold today is unencumbered by some form of digital rights management. DVDs? Encrypted. Your player contains software that allows them to be read. BluRay discs? The very same. Video games? Every one. Perhaps this is the real reason that Bill C-32 was introduced at video game developer Electronic Arts’ Montreal studios. Cable television, Netflix digital downloads, eBooks, computer software of all sorts, online television services, and an uncountable number of other current and future consumer media products are all protected by some form of DRM. About the only type of digital media that you can actually buy that does not come coated in some form of technological protection measure is music, and yet millions of Canadians who purchased music from Apple’s iTunes store prior to January of 2009 still have affected tracks in their music collections. Under the proposed law, none of this digital content can be backed up, moved to a different device, transcoded to a different format, or otherwise tampered with, because to do so would require that its owner break the DRM that has been placed on it, thus making that person a criminal in the eyes of Canadian courts.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about laws of this sort is that they are known to be ineffective at stopping internet piracy. In 1996, before popular file-sharing services like Napster, KaZaa, Limewire, and BitTorrent were even invented, a group of countries that included Canada signed the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty (WIPO), a document that required that signatory countries enact laws prohibiting the circumvention of digital rights management schemes. The United States did so in its 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and twelve years later, the Canadian government is seeking to ratify the treaty under pressure from the United States and the European Union. Unfortunately for the government, a great deal has changed since the turn of the century, and many consumers are now aware of the problems that rights management schemes can cause them while trying to use their legitimately purchased media in seemingly normal and socially acceptable ways. In those same twelve years, the digital piracy situation faced by media companies worldwide has grown exponentially, and various media industries attribute billions of dollars per year in losses to digital piracy. If anti-circumvention laws were truly effective, piracy should never have become the problem that media companies claim that it is today; the DMCA put anti-circumvention laws in place in the United States a full year before the invention of Napster and three years before the introduction of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol.

In truth, anti-circumvention laws styled after the United States’ DMCA serve only to reduce consumer choice while failing to prevent digital piracy in any capacity whatsoever. Lawmakers would do well to understand that DRM schemes are no more than the digital counterparts of real-world mechanical locks. There has never been, and will never be, a lock that cannot be broken by any determined party with time, knowledge, and resources on their side. Further, it is essential that lawmakers understand that a single defeat of the DRM scheme designed to protect digital media often results in the widespread availability of that media to any and all interested parties by way of the internet. Therein lies the problem with DRM as an anti-piracy measure: One does not have to be a determined hacker to access the media that a DRM scheme is intended to protect; one simply requires access to the internet, and knowledge of a website that distributes media that has been helpfully unlocked by other, more capable parties. The global nature of the internet ensures that the parties most interested in defeating digital rights management schemes need not operate in countries unfriendly to their cause. For these reasons, a government mandate that protects the sanctity of digital locks will not have the desired effect of preventing widespread domestic piracy. Instead, such a ruling will serve only to impact the ability of consumers to utilize their rightfully purchased digital media in a fair and open manner.

Since anti-circumvention legislation has not reduced piracy rates in countries where it has been introduced, and since the DRM schemes that it aims to sanctify do little to stop widespread piracy, but do make common criminals out of legitimate customers on a wide scale, it is a simple matter to conclude that this type of legislation is not, and never will be, in the best interests of the consumer. Gentlemen, I urge you all to reconsider the laws proposed in Bill C-32. As a young entrepreneur and a professional employed in our strong technology sector, I cannot help but be concerned about the potentially stifling effects of the proposed legislation on our economy, and on our ability to innovate and to create the technologies of the future.

Thank you for your time,

Jonathan Fritz, BSc.


The Problem with Bill C-32

Posted: June 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

This past week, the Honourable James Moore, Conservative Minister of Heritage & Official Languages and the Honourable Tony Clement, Conservative Minister of Industry introduced Bill C-32, “Copyright Modernization Act at the Electronic Arts studios in Montreal, Quebec. As its title suggests, the aim of the bill is to modernize copyright law in Canada, an admirable goal considering that our copyright laws haven’t been reviewed since 1997. In Internet time, that’s nearly an eternity, and a lot has changed since then. With respect to its stated goal, Bill C-32 is a reasonably good proposal of law. It contains some much needed legislation that will indeed clarify and modernize our copyright code.

For example, the Network Services section provides a safe harbour clause for Internet service providers and other network operators. In particular, the section provides legal protection for hosting service operators whose customers may have uploaded copyrighted works to their servers. Likewise, the Copyright Infringement section sets maximum monetary awards for copyright owners who successfully charge an individual with infringement of works for personal or commercial use. Given the astronomical awards granted by American courts in both the Capitol vs. Thomas and RIAA vs. Tenenbaum cases, this is an extremely important clause.

Unfortunately, these positive aspects of the proposed law are counteracted in the Technological Protection Measures and Rights Management Information section of the bill. In this section, the proposed law explicitly bans the use, manufacture, import, distribution, sale, or rental of any technology or device capable of circumventing any technological protection measures (also called digital rights management, or DRM) schemes that have been placed on the digital content by its distributor. Under the proposed law, any use of the aforementioned technologies constitutes an immediate infringement of copyright, and makes the responsible party liable to all damages outlined therein. The problem with this section is that it effectively removes all of the rights granted in earlier sections of the bill, including Non-commercial User-generated Content and Reproduction for Private Purposes, the two sections that the government is using to desperately peddle this bill as consumer-positive, when in fact it is nothing of the sort. In particular, the latter section proposes that it be made legal to create personal reproductions of copyrighted material so long as a number of conditions are met, one of which is that “the individual, in order to make the reproduction, did not circumvent, as defined in section 41, a technological protection measure, as defined in that section, or cause one to be circumvented.”

And just like that, with a single sentence, all of the ‘rights’ that the government is waving around as they insist that their approach to copyright reform is not bought and paid for by foreign media conglomerates are struck from the record. You see, with an anti-circumvention clause built into our copyright law, the ability to use legitimately purchased digital media in a fair and open manner (generally called fair use in the USA or fair dealing here in Canada) ceases to exist. The reason for this is because an excruciatingly small minority of the digital media that is for sale today is unencumbered by some form of digital rights management. DVDs? Encrypted. Your player contains software that allows them to be read. BluRay discs? Same deal. Video Games? Absolutely. Why do you think the government introduced the law at Electronic Arts’ Montreal studios? Cable television, Netflix digital downloads, eBooks, computer software of all sorts, online television from Hulu and other major providers, and an uncountable number of other consumer media products are all protected by some form of DRM. About the only type of digital media that you can actually buy that doesn’t come coated in some form of protection measure is music, but millions of people who purchased music from the iTunes store prior to January of 2009 still have affected tracks in their music collections. Under the proposed law, none of this digital content can be backed up, moved to a different device, transcoded to a different format, or otherwise tampered with, because to do so would require that its owner break the DRM that has been placed on it, thus making that person a criminal in the eyes of Canadian courts.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about laws of this sort is that they are known to be ineffective at stopping internet piracy. Way back in 1996, before Napster, KaZaa, Limewire, or BitTorrent were invented, a group of countries got together and signed the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty, a document that required that signatory countries enact laws prohibiting the circumvention of digital rights management schemes. The United States did so in its 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and 12 years later, the Canadian government is seeking to ratify the treaty under pressure from the United States and the European Union by following suit. Unfortunately for the government, a lot has happened since the turn of the century, and many consumers are now aware of the problems that rights management schemes can cause them while trying to use their legitimately purchased media in seemingly acceptable ways. In those same 12 years, the piracy situation has yet to stabalize, and the various media industries still attribute billions of dollars per year in losses to digital piracy. So what’s going on? If anti-circumvention laws were truly effective, wouldn’t the rate of piracy drop in countries where they are introduced?

Allow me to explain with a quote from one of my previous posts, An Open Letter to the Conservative Government of Canada:

Anti-circumvention laws styled after those of the United States’ 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act serve only to reduce consumer choice while failing to prevent digital piracy in any capacity whatsoever. Lawmakers would do well to understand that digital rights management (DRM) schemes are no more than the digital counterparts of real-world mechanical locks. There has never been, and will never be, a lock that cannot be broken by any determined party with time, knowledge, and resources on their side. In the digital case, a single defeat of the DRM system designed to protect digital media often results in the widespread availability of that media to any and all interested parties by way of the internet. Therein lies the biggest problem with DRM schemes: One does not have to be a determined hacker to access the media that a DRM scheme is intended to protect; one simply requires access to the internet, and knowledge of a website that distributes media that has been helpfully unlocked by other, more capable parties. The global nature of the internet ensures that the parties most interested in defeating digital rights management schemes need not operate in countries unfriendly to their cause. As such, a government mandate that protects the sanctity of digital locks will not have the desired effect of preventing widespread domestic piracy. Instead, such a ruling will serve only to impact the ability of consumers to utilize their rightfully purchased digital media in a fair and open manner.

Since anti-circumvention legislation has not reduced piracy rates in countries where it has been introduced, and since the digital rights management schemes that it aims to sanctify often do little to stop widespread piracy, but do inconvenience legitimate customers on a wide scale, it is a simple matter to conclude that this type of legislation is not, and never will be, in the best interests of the consumer, who also happens to be the voter responsible for electing the officers of government that attempt to introduce it into law. So why are your elected representatives being complacent in protecting your interests? Perhaps you should ask them about it.

Those readers with an interest in copyright law, internet piracy, and the effects of anti-circumvention legislation are encouraged to read Ripped by Greg Kot and Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars by William Patry, as well as to check out Professor Michael Geist’s excellent Blog.


An Open Letter to the Conservative Government of Canada

Posted: May 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

To: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
To: The Honourable Tony Clement
To: The Honourable James Moore

CC: Marc Garneau (Liberal Industry critic)
CC: Pablo Rodriguez (Liberal Heritage critic)
CC: Charlie Angus (NDP Digital Affairs Critic)
CC: Peter Braid (MP, Kitcener-Waterloo)

Dear Members of Parliament:

It is with much consternation that I view the continued efforts of the federal Conservative government of Canada to ‘reform’ Canadian copyright law. I fear that the government has lost sight of the original purpose of copyright law, and has forgotten their sworn duty to protect the interests of their constituents over those of foreign media conglomerates.  This week brought the news that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ordered the Honourable James Moore, Conservative Minister of Heritage & Official Languages, to proceed in drafting a copyright reform bill that is likely to include strong anti-circumvention clauses and an inflexible approach to fair dealing exceptions. As a Canadian citizen and an entrepreneur in our strong technology sector, I must make clear my view that these types of laws fail to benefit the end users of technology, and Canadian industry as a whole.

In particular, anti-circumvention laws styled after those of the United States’ 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act serve only to reduce consumer choice while failing to prevent digital piracy in any capacity whatsoever. Lawmakers would do well to understand that digital rights management (DRM) schemes are no more than the digital counterparts of real-world mechanical locks. There has never been, and will never be, a lock that cannot be broken by any determined party with time, knowledge, and resources on their side. In the digital case, a single defeat of the DRM system designed to protect digital media often results in the widespread availability of that media to any and all interested parties by way of the internet. Therein lies the biggest problem with DRM schemes: One does not have to be a determined hacker to access the media that a DRM scheme is intended to protect; one simply requires access to the internet, and knowledge of a website that distributes media that has been helpfully unlocked by other, more capable parties.

The global nature of the internet ensures that the parties most interested in defeating digital rights management schemes need not operate in countries unfriendly to their cause. As such, a government mandate that protects the sanctity of digital locks will not have the desired effect of preventing widespread domestic piracy. Instead, such a ruling will serve only to impact the ability of consumers to utilize their rightfully purchased digital media in a fair and open manner. Taken to their fullest extent, anti-circumvention laws prevent consumers from watching legitimately purchased films on their computers and from listening to personally owned music on their mobile devices. They encourage a marketplace that limits consumer choice and promotes vendor lock-in; a market that licenses media to consumers instead of selling it. This situation often results in the loss of personal property when DRM servers that consumers rely on to enjoy their media are inevitably shut down for economical reasons.

Last summer, the federal Conservative government conducted public copyright consultations under the auspices of creating what they advertised as a “made in Canada approach to copyright reform.” Unfortunately, it seems as though the thousands of voices that participated in those deliberations were largely ignored by this government, contrary to the very concept of a representative democracy. While we can all agree that copyright reform is necessary, it is important that the reforms that are ultimately enacted accurately represent the interests of the majority of Canadians, whose lives are impacted by their access to media technology on a daily basis. We must remember that the primary purpose of copyright law is provide a monetary incentive for artists to contribute to our society, and not to enrich foreign media conglomerates.

Thank you for your time,

Jonathan Fritz,

A concerned citizen

This open letter was emailed and posted to all listed Members of Parliament. If you are interested in joining in on the discussion and want your voice to be heard by your representatives, feel free to borrow my letter and to modify it as you wish. Alternatively, head over to the website of the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights and use their automated form to accomplish the same task.


When Copyright Goes Bad

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Just wanted to share this fantastic short documentary about the recent shifts in copyright law from Ben Cato Clough and Luke Upchurch.

The film features Fred Von Lohmann, Michael Geist, and others, and discusses the problem of physical-age copyright law in our digital age.


A ‘Made in Canada Solution’ My Ass

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Today, Michael Geist, law professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law from the University of Ottawa, tweeted a link to some leaked documents allegedly pertaining to trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union. While there are quite a few documents available, I took a moment to flip through the one focused on intellectual property negotiations, and found some rather shocking proposals that would both lengthen existing copyright terms and dismantle what few fair-use laws currently exist in Canada.

It’s no secret that our federal copyright law is a mess. While US copyright law tends to be more draconian in nature (see the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act), Canadian copyright law consists of a mass of overlapping statutes and supreme court decisions that combine to make it inefficient, costly to consumers, and extremely hard to navigate. Check out this episode of Jesse Brown’s Search Engine Podcast for a great interview with Howard Knopf, an intellectual property lawyer from Ottawa who believes that Canada already has excessive IP laws, and the Copyright Board of Canada’s ridiculously long list of Canadian copyright organizations for more information.

This past summer, our federal conservative government held public copyright consultations on the possibility of Canadian copyright reform. At the time, I both participated in the consultation process, and wrote a lengthy post detailing my answers to the questions posed by the government. Based on this leak, and previous leaks of alleged ACTA materials, I guess that secretive international treaties were what our government actually had in mind when they said that they would take a ‘made in Canada’ approach to the reform process.

So without further ado (and with full recognition that I am not a lawyer, and could be way off the mark with my comments), I’ll run through a couple of the scarier things that I found in the leaked document:

  1. A possible extension of existing copyright terms from 50 years to 70 past death:

    The rights of an author of a literary or artistic work within the meaning of Article 2 of the Berne Convention shall run for the life of the author [EC: and for 70 years after his death, irrespective of the date when the work is lawfully made available to the public.] [Canada: and the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of at least 50 years following the end of that calendar year.]

  2. Term extensions for orphaned works:

    [EC: In the case of anonymous or pseudonymous works, the term of protection shall run for 70 years after the work is lawfully made available to the public.] [Canada: Where the identity of the author of a work is unknown, copyright in the work shall subsist for whichever of the following terms ends earlier:
    (a) a term consisting of the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year, and
    (b) a term consisting of the remainder of the calendar year of the making of the work and a period of seventy-five years following the end of that calendar year.]

  3. 25-year term protection for the first person who uses a copyrighted work after its initial expiry date:

    [EC: The Parties shall ensure that any person who, after the expiry of copyright protection, for the first time lawfully publishes or lawfully communicates to the public a previously unpublished work, shall benefit from a protection equivalent to the economic rights of the author. The term of protection of such rights shall be 25 years from the time when the work was first lawfully published or lawfully communicated to the public.

  4. Non-negotiable royalties to the rights holder of a copyrighted work any time that it is resold (this could mean a loss of the ability to sell used books/CDs at a garage sale):

    The Parties shall provide, for the benefit of the author of an original work of art, a resale right, to be defined as an inalienable right, which cannot be waived, even in advance, to receive a royalty based on the sale price obtained for any resale of the work, subsequent to the first transfer of the work by the author.

  5. Full-on DMCA-style prohibition of any device that can be used to circumvent Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes:

    The Parties shall provide adequate legal protection against the circumvention of any effective technological measures, which the person concerned carries out in the knowledge, or with reasonable grounds to know, that he or she is pursuing that objective. The Parties shall provide adequate legal protection against the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, rental, advertisement for sale or rental, or possession for commercial purposes of devices, products or components or the provision of services which:
    (a) are promoted, advertised or marketed for the purpose of circumvention of, or
    (b) have only a limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent, or
    (c) are primarily designed, produced, adapted or performed for the purpose of enabling or facilitation the circumvention of, any effective technological measures.
    For the purposes of this Agreement, the expression ‘technological measures’ means any technology, device or component that, in the normal course of its operation, is designed to prevent or restrict acts, in respect of works or other subject-matter, which are not authorised by the right holder of any copyright or any right related to copyright as provided for by law. Technological measures shall be deemed ‘effective’ where the use of a protected work or other subject matter is controlled by the right holders through application of an access control or protection process, such as encryption, scrambling or other transformation of the work or other subject-matter or a copy control mechanism, which achieves the protection objective.

  6. As well legal ramifications for any person who uses a device that can circumvent DRM schemes:

    The Parties shall provide adequate legal protection against any person knowingly performing without authority any of the following acts:
    (a) the removal or alteration of any electronic rights-management information;
    (b) the distribution, importation for distribution, broadcasting, communication or making available to the public of works or other subject-matter protected under this Agreement from which electronic rights-management information has been removed or altered without authority, if such person knows, or has reasonable grounds to know, that by so doing he is inducing, enabling, facilitating or concealing an infringement of any copyright or any rights related to copyright as provided by law.

  7. Finally, a potentially positive section that seems to limit the ability of ISPs to use deep-packet inspection and selective filtering on their customers’ internet connections:

    Where an information society service is provided that consists of the transmission in a communication network of information provided by a recipient of the service, or the provision of access to a communication network, Parties shall ensure that the service provider is not liable for the information transmitted, on condition that the provider:
    (a) does not initiate the transmission;
    (b) does not select the receiver of the transmission; and
    (c) does not select or modify the information contained in the transmission.

Please take a moment to read the document for yourself, and consider contacting your member of parliament to discuss the proposed treaty with him/her. It’s only by being vigilant that we, the citizenry, can protect our rights against laws such as this that are quite obviously slanted in the favour of corporate rights holders.


More Public Transit Talk

Posted: April 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Local, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I spent my morning enjoying a coffee while reading through the Region of Waterloo’s Moving Forward 2031 Transportation Master Plan (pdf). It contains some very interesting information related to last week’s post on the feasibility of light rail transit here in the Region of Waterloo.

The report reviews the justification for some sort of rapid transit system, discusses three alternative plans for the building of such a system, the tax burden imposed by each, and the justification for settling on a north-south light rail line supported by a series of east-west iXpress-like bus routes. One of the most interesting pieces of information in the document concerns the current rate of rapid transit growth, as reported by the GRT:

Since 1999, annual transit ridership has increased from 9.5 million rides in 2000 to 16.5 million rides in 2009; a 75 per cent increase or 6.3 per cent annually. This increase is significant compared with the population increase of 1.85 per cent per year in the region. The commitment to funding increased service levels and new initiatives such as the iXpress has played a key role in ridership increases.

It also contains a map of the region upon which the proposed upgrades to our public transit system have been superimposed:

A map of proposed improvements to the transit system here in Waterloo Region

A map of proposed improvements to the transit system here in Waterloo Region (Click to Enlarge)

Finally, the document announces three public consultations to be held this month in Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo. The meetings will present current plan for the future of transit in our region, and accept public feedback on the proposed improvements. The meetings are as follows:

Thursday, April 8, 2010
United Kingdom Club
35 International Village Dr.,
Cambridge

Tuesday, April 13, 2010
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
54 Queen St. N.,
Kitchener

Thursday, April 15, 2010
First United Church
16 William St. W.,
Waterloo

Check out the to the TriTAG Blog for related information on the future of transit in the Region of Waterloo.