Letter to candidates

Inspired by Russell's form letter posting, I sent a letter to the candidates in my riding.

I am a technology professional working in the Ottawa area. Technology issues are amongst my concerns in this election. Though these issues are not the only ones which concern me, they are rarely understood by or discussed in popular media to the same extent as taxes or health care.

Copyright law, and the changes proposed in Bill C-60, are of concern to me. While copyright is most often described as a balance between the interests of creators and the interests of users, the debate has been dominated by special interest industry lobby groups representing intermediaries.

This domination has recently been the focus of a public outcry against Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte in the Parkdale--High Park riding, the defense of which has been that the copyright industry defends the interests of artists. Industry lobby groups such as the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) can no more legitimately claim to politically represent the interests of creators than the owners of the major banks can claim to politically represent the interests of people who have bank accounts.

The previous MP for this riding, Marlene Catterall, when speaking at a round-table discussion last year, echoed the typically industrialist line of "defending creators" but refused to see numerous speakers with quite varied points of view concerning copyright attempting a meaningful discourse. Will you represent my rights as both a creative innovator and a user?

An equally important issue, for me, is the manner in which the Canadian government acquires and creates software for use within its agencies. Any software created or used by the government can be seen as a representation of its internal policies and laws. I believe, as I hope that you do to, that government must be transparent to the citizens it represents - any citizen must be able to understand how the government functions.

Currently, this is not the case with much of the software used by the government. Much of it is "manufactured software" (Microsoft Office, for example) that is opaque to its users. This form of software cannot be properly audited for transparency. Conversely, open-source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source) software (OpenOffice, http://openoffice.org) does support the level of transparency that I believe is required by my government. Do you support use of truly transparent (open-source) software in government?

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) has also sent questions to each of the parties.


Could you offer your own thoughts on these questions ? What you have to say on these issues is important to my decision on January 23.

Thank you,

Don Kelly

(Some of this letter is based on a letter originally authored by Russell McOrmond, available at http://www.digital-copyright.ca/election2006/letter1. His use of innovative licensing has allowed me to build my own work based on his efforts).