Monday, June 16, 2008

My Fellow Canadian Bloggers: Help Stop Bill C-61

Be warned, this is not a post is slightly different than the majority of the content on this blog, as I am genuinely angry and appalled by an intellectual property/copyright bill my government is trying to get passed.

It is Bill C-61, a draconian and farther reaching version of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a piece of legislation which will turn millions of law-abiding Canadians into criminals if it passes after the summer break.

The Conservative government tabled this bill on the same day they made their apology to the Aboriginal peoples for the Residential School system so that potential media coverage for this issue would be minimized (as this bill doesn't have compelling images of weeping men).

The people who put together this bill were very cunning, I'll give them that because the text makes it look a lot friendlier than it really is. On the surface, it looks good for libraries and for the most part, the provisions seem quite reasonable, as do some of the fines.

However, upon examination, it turns out it is like one of those trick tests where you should read all the questions to find out that you only need to answer one particular question. You see, all those nice and seemingly benign clauses in the law, well, they only count under the narrowest of circumstances, so that instead of 200-500 dollars per offense, in most cases, the fine would be 20 thousand dollars.

Some of the things that would be illegal

-If you have a DVD player and you've entered a remote control code into it to make it region-free so you can watch legally acquired content from overseas, you have broken the law.

-If you have a CD, you are allowed to put music from it on to your MP3 player as long as it doesn't have copy-protection. If that CD does have copy protection, then doing so is illegal.

-The law states that you can record television on a DVR, but you can't keep that content on your drive indefinitely.

-If you have a cell phone, and you will not be able to unlock it to do so.

So basically, any right the bill gives to you is taken away if any form of copy protection or hardware/firmware device is involved... so in essence, the content companies and electronics manufacturers and cellular phone service providers are the ones who get to make the laws, not the citizens of this country.

Last May, I wrote about Warner Pictures complaints regarding people recording movies in theatres using camcorders in Canada.

So yes, I would be willing to tell my member of parliament that I would support closing this particular loophole and I believe Warner Pictures' actions are entirely fair based on the circumstances. But I hope our government doesn't implement overly draconian measures because, as we have seen in the United States with the laws the MPAA and RIAA advocate, the trade organizations don't have consumer's best interests at heart either and will lobby for as much power and control over their product as they can.

So my advice to the leaders of my country is take a Buddhist approach. Chart the middle way. There is a reasonable compromise to be made between protecting intellectual property and individual liberty and consumer's rights.

Now the more I read about this, the angrier I get, especially this little tidbit that has been floating around: when the Conservatives' minority government were drafting this bill, they didn't consult copyright holders or our country's citizens. No. This law had to satisfy the US Government. I didn't vote in those elections... I wasn't allowed to vote in those elections. So why should our media laws have to conform to the whims of a government that is unpopular both at home and abroad? That doesn't seem very kosher to me.

Now what I am asking of you, my fellow Canadian bloggers, especially those of you who write about media, pop culture or technology, is to write posts about this troubling proposed law, and to write your member of Parliament an email and send them that same email by regular mail to the following address (if you are in Canada, you don't have to put a stamp on the envelope):

Your MP's Name Here
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON

I plan on writing my member of parliament as soon as this entry is posted, in both electronic and snail mail form, and I highly recommend you do the same.

I find it encouraging that Americans who are seeing this happen up here are also getting involved in spreading the word, and that I am reading stories of lifelong Conservative supporters who are so angered by this bill that they are threatening their MP's. Unfortunately, the Liberals are so afraid of forcing an election with their popularity levels that despite the fact that fighting this may be in their best interests politically, they may just let this one pass, so if you live in a riding that is represented by a member of that party, make sure you make sure they know how you as a constituent feels about this issue and how their opposition to this bill could be vital to their reelection, because if they roll over on this one, they deserve to lose most of their seats.


Megan said...

Good for you, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Join the Fair Copyright for Canadian Facebook group, and encourage your Facebook friends to do the same.

MC said...

Megan: Feels good to fight this...

Anonymous: Thank you for that reminder... I had forgotten to mention that in my post. I think this is the url to do so (Facebook is a little weird for me at the moment):

There are also local chapters of that group at Facebook which may also be worth checking out.

Jeremy Barker said...

I just don't know how any of this will be enforceable. It's like they are trying to put corks into massive, gaping holes and people are just going to continue using media however they see fit.

My other issue is I don't have an alternative suggestion either. It's not like I support the proposals, I just don't have a solution either. Perhaps I'm being oblivious and naive, but I'm just not all that worried. Plus I don't think the legislation will make it to a final reading before the end of this government. It may just be more of an exercise in appearing to be doing something.

Arjan said...

I'm not Canadian so I can only wish you luck.

I found the 'not indefinately' quite long is nót indefinately?
I think if they would raid my flat (around 450 inhabitants) they would find over 90% criminals (according to this bill).

SamuraiFrog said...

It's coming out now that they're secretly attempting to do the same thing here in the US. They want to make region free DVD players illegal. The US corporations want money so damn bad that they'll immediately put tech on the market that allows us to control how we use media, and then they'll rethink it and sue us for using it in the first place.

MC said...

Jeremy: What I am really afraid of is the wave of lawsuits that such a bill will make possible, despite the assurances of everyone involved that the Canadian Recording Industry and the like have no interest in being litigious, because I think in the end, the main issue with this bill is the copy protection provisions become the only thing that is binding, and that matters in the potential law.

Think about all the crappy, crappy laws that have gotten passed both here and abroad because the citizens didn't know what they were in for. I'd rather people know that this bill has been introduced and what some of the potential problems with it are and then have it die in committee or on the floor of the House than people not to know about it and have it pass.

Arjan: It is even more vague than I indicated. The wording is as follows: "the individual keeps the recording no longer than necessary in order to listen to or watch the program at a more convenient time;"

Samuraifrog: To me, that kind of law is protecting the distributors of content, not the producers of it. I mean, if I bought the complete Spaced from England, instead of the set that is being released in North America, in the end, the money goes to the same people in the end in theory... but different entities get the markup.

Micgar said...

Like Arjan-I don't know how I can help, but I can wish you luck! Matt-I hope that that vague wording in itself is what dooms this silly, draconian bill.

MC said...

You would think, but alas that is rarely the case.