November 15 meeting with David McGuinty, MP for Ottawa-South

I set up a meeting with my MP, Mr. McGuinty, earlier this morning. We met in the Lobby which is part of the parliament buildings I had never been to before. It is a room immediately behind where the government-side parliamentarians sit in the House of Commons Chamber.

I wrote up a 1-page (2 sides) summary so that I would have something to hand to him and to reference during conversations. (OpenDocument format, PDF format)

Summary: I started by suggesting that this is an economic policy and competition issue, not a moral, property or "theft" issue. When new communications technology reduced the marginal cost (the cost per additional unit) of the reproduction and distribution of creativity. With techniques such as peer distribution (P2P) this marginal cost is brought near enough to zero to not being worth metering.

From this technological change two different philosophies emerged, as well as entire economies built on these different ideas: There were those who saw this technological change as a threat to the established ways of doing business, and those who saw this as a great opportunity to break free of the incumbent concentration/monopolies in the media, content and "software manufacturing" industries.

What we need in government policy is an acknowledgement and a support for alternative methods of production, distribution and funding. These same alternatives are seen as a competitive threat to the incumbents, creating a situation where there appears to be no middle ground. Either Canadian economic policy supports competition not only between cultural products but also with methods of production, distribution and business models, or Canada follows a protectionist policy of favouring the incumbents.

I spoke about the roots of the 1996 WIPO treaties in the USA's National Information Infrastructure working groups, and how C-60 is based on this same flawed policy written entirely from the perspective of those who saw new technology as a competative threat.

I spoke about the conflicting messages from Heritage Minister Frulla on cultural diversity (UNESCO) vs. The 1996 WIPO treaties which offer an opposing policy direction. The Development Agenda is an example where Canada should be on-board supporting the majority-world nations in their call for reform of WIPO to fulfil its UN mandate.

2 key issues highlighted on back of page:

"education amendment", and the two options: institutional exception, and institutionally independent expansion of "fair dealings" and CCH to a "fair use" regime.

"technical measures"

I spoke about how this is an issue of contract law and not copyright law. Copyright holders use "technical measures", but they also use money -- and yet we are not importing the Bank Act into the copyright act. I spoke about how contract law had the needed balance between protecting valid contracts and protecting consumers from invalid or even harmful contracts. I spoke about the need for Canadians to be protected from "technical measures" which circumvent privacy, property, and other rights protected by other legislation. I used the Sony-BMG RootKit as an example of what should be clearly seen as an unlawful use of a "technical measure" by a copyright holder.

He asked what I thought Microsoft would say if they were here. I suggested that the "theft is theft", sky is falling rhetoric is primarily what the incumbents have used. The incumbents have always suggested that this is somehow a moral/property issue when it is really an economic/competitive issue. The moral rhetoric is powerful and very distracting, but not backed up by facts. The statistical methods used to try to prove "harm", the so-called "piracy studies" of the "software manufacturing" and recording industry, most often not adequately differentiate between competition and infringement.

I spoke about my own business model for software. I use what I call the 95% solution: 95% of what a client needs software to do for them is available in existing FLOSS software. I author the missing 5% for them, deliver them their solution, as well as publish the commonly-useful part of the software back into the public pool of software. This is how scientific knowledge has advanced for generations, how law (especially common law) works, and there is no reason to consider intangible knowledge like software to be so different.

I clarified that a side-effect of my business model is a removal of the so-called "software theft" problem. While it is still possible for companies to infringe my copyright, I do not need to worry about any average citizen infringing my copyright as I am already not counting copies and thus it is not an infringement to make and/or distribute as many copies as they wish.

He asked if I thought that Microsoft's "infringement" problem was their own fault. I didn't go so far as to agree to that, but suggested that the competitive threats to Microsoft are far greater than the infringement threats. I clarified that I believe from a global software marketplace point of view that there is more money for more software creators in a competitive marketplace that doesn't count copies than in a monopoly marketplace where those few monopolies take drastic and invasive measure to enforce unnecessary counting of copies.

He asked if I would be willing to talk to committee. I clarified that I have wanted to in the past as well, but like most people presenting alternatives to the incumbents were locked out of Heritage committee. I suggested that Heritage Committee and department have their own "party line" and that there appears to be a larger difference between Heritage and Industry on this area of policy than between any of the parties. This is because representatives of the legacy incumbents such as old-media broadcasters and journalists make up the bulk of Heritage.

Mr McGuinty proposed some next steps:

  • remind his office about the petitions, so that he can get an answer on where this is. It is long past the 45 days in which the government should have offered a response.
  • He will take a letter that I will write and put it on his letterhead, and demand a response from the Ministers (Heritage and Industry). I will try to send this in soon in case it can impact things before the election, but it is possible that it won't happen until after.

He has offered any influence he can, which should be quite helpful.