What You Can Do

By Russell McOrmond

Sign our Petition for Users' Rights

The Petition for Users' Rights is a great tool to open discussion of copyright. Whether they are a commercial creator or any other member of the Canadian public, there are aspects of the petition which will start dialogue.

Creators may ask why they should sign a petition for Users' Rights. It is important to remember that the greatest threat to creators comes not from users infringing copyright, but from past creators abusing copyright to disallow, make harder, or make it too expensive for new creators to build upon past works. All creativity builds on the past, and excessive control by the past stifles creativity. Users' Rights are follow-on Creators' Rights.

One of the most visible aspect of Bill C-60 is its complexity. The existing copyright act is an 80 page bilingual document where skilled professional lawyers often disagree on how to interpret it. Bill C-60 is a 30 page bilingual modification that is even less understandable. While modern technology would otherwise have allowed for greater participation in culture, copyright is being changed to make it less possible to participate without having a team of lawyers. The rights of creators and their audiences to skip the intermediaries and create intermediary-free and lawyer-free zones of creativity are being directly attacked in Bill C-60.

Join (create,build) a coalition/association/clinic:

We need to build coalitions around specific aspects of the bill, and this area of public policy.

You can also participate in the Digital Copyright Canada forum through our various mailing lists. If you are willing to help manage information on our website, translation, software development or creation of press releases, you should join the DCC Volunteers list.

Talk to elected representatives

Copyright policy has implications on all levels of government. In the case of provincial and municipal governments they can articulate positions to the federal government to try to direct more balanced policy.

Federal

  • responsible for copyright, and the negative impacts that C-60 will have on the majority of the Canadian economy, the protection of Charter rights, etc.

  • responsible for foreign policy, and what values Canada promotes in the international forum. Bill C-60 is claimed to be a "response" to a 1996 policy initiative of WIPO. Many observers believe this is an example of "policy laundering" with very narrow special interests able to promote policy through an international forum that they would otherwise not get support domestically.

Provincial

  • Educational funding, and the differences between royalty-based funding of educational materials (and expensive levies requested by Access Copyright) and Open Access (educational sector self-publishing, allowing peer production and peer distribution between educators).

  • Health issues, including patient privacy (transparency and accountability of software FLOSS vs "software manufacturing")

Municipal

  • Library issues, such as how DRM encumbered loaning of digital materials will impose specific brands of access technologies on patrons, will lock out the ability of archivists to do their job, etc. Where paper books are in the most human readable/accessible format, DRM encoded media is in the least human readable/accessible format.

Help educate existing coalitions/groups/NGO's

Many groups were formed by creators and users in the old economy. Many of the things that these creator-groups are asking for are harmful to creators' rights, with what the institutional users such as libraries and educational institutions are asking for are harmful to users' rights.

If you are a member of one of the member organizations that comprise the Creators Rights Alliance, it is critical that you work within the organization to modernize their thinking. While the greatest threats are against our right to create, communicate and participate in culture (Articles 19 and Article 27(1) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Right), CRA and its members are currently focused on a dangerously narrow interpretation of article 27(2).

If you are a librarian or educator then you should become very informed about the Open Access movement which seeks to switch the funding of journals and some other types of literary works away from royalty collection (either through royalty collective societies like Access Copyright or via private purchases) towards methods of pre-payment where the creativity is funded once and the results are made publicly available royalty-free. This is seen as the most effective way to end the cold war between educators/librarians and the journal/educational publishers (representing themselves or through their effective control of Access Copyright).

Educators and librarians asking for "exceptions" has not been helpful, as each time an exception is offered to specific institutions then something is taken away from the general public. We need to have educational institutions and libraries thinking in terms of helping protect the rights of all members of the public (including audiences and follow-on creators), not only those who are part of their institutions.

Example policy: International Development

We must work with groups focused on areas of policy where copyright has an impact. As one example, those who are working at the International level with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) know well the harmful implications of C-60 style thinking for international development. There is a development agenda (EFF, CPTech, IPJustice) in WIPO promoted by the Group of Friends of Development that promotes a more forward looking vision. Organizations can be asked to sign on to the NGO Group Statement Supporting the Friends of Development Proposal, being told that Canada is one of the countries opposing this helpful agenda. This may encourage them to become more involved in this issue domestically, influencing both Canada's own policy and how we present ourselves on this issue internationally.

The Commission on Intellectual Property Rights provided a report in 2002 which is very helpful in understanding the international context of this policy. The report reminded us many times that developed nations are seeking to deny to developing nations the very policies which allowed them to develop. As an example the United States did not honour foreign copyright until 1891. Various restrictions on foreign copyrights remained in force (for example, printing had to be on US typesets) which delayed US entry to the Berne Copyright Convention until as late as 1989, over 100 years after the UK.

Help educate the general public

Copyright policy may be an area that is about as understandable as tax law. The difference is that while you can hire someone to take care of your taxes those few times in the year you need to worry about it, copyright law affects all literate citizens every day of their lives. If copyright policy is currently too complex for those who are governed by it to understand then we must lobby government to try to get it simplified and to reflect the values of Canadians.

The petition is a good tool to help educate people. The Principles of IP Justice are also useful, although I believe the use of the term Intellectual Property always leads to confusion.

Use purchasing power and vote with your money

While governments provide considerable funding to the arts and other creativity and innovation, private citizens can also encourage creators to make better choices. For most categories of creativity that can be privately purchased there are alternatives. If people stopped funding organizations who are lobbying to take away our rights, or supporting their political campaigns by showing up in infringement statistics, then these organizations would no longer have any economic or political teeth.

For music you can purchase from musicians and labels which offer their music in sharing-friendly licensing such as Creative Commons. An example is Fading Ways Music who starting in January 2004 releases their music under Creative Commons licenses.

A growing number of book authors allow non-commercial sharing of digital versions of books that are available commercially in bookstores. Examples include Canadian born Cory Doctrow's latest book Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town , and Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture.

The fastest growing part of the software sector is Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). You can purchase commercially supported FLOSS, or download it for free from a wide variety of sources. Microsoft Windows user are recommend CDs such as TheOpenCD.org . The difference between FLOSS and "Software manufacturing" is not whether it is fully commercially supported, but whether you are expected to pay for it when you do not need support, or whether you will be accused of breaking the law when you share copies with other people who don't need support. With FLOSS your sharing is critical peer-promotion of the software that helps build customer bases for support companies, but with "software manufacturing" it is illegal and called "software theft" by those vendors.



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