The muddy waters of copyright

Following is a letter I sent to Peter Scowen, editor of the Ideas section of the Toronto Star. This is in reply to an editorial he penned on 22 Jan 2006

Peter Scowen
Ideas editor
The Toronto Star
Fax: 416-865-3593

RE: It's a grey world — online and in Parliament

Dear Mr. Scowen,

Oh where to begin trying to debunk your editorial. Let me focus on only a few.

First, Graham Henderson's numbers for lost sales. It is not simply a matter of the CRIA overstating the figures, it is the total misrepresentation of the figures.

Micheal Geist sums it up quite well here: Numbers don't crunch against downloading

“The guesswork surrounding record sales is unnecessary since CRIA posts its members' monthly record sales data directly on its Web site. According to CRIA, Canadian CD sales in 1999 generated almost $700 million. That figure declined annually, to $690.3 million (2000), $645.8 million (2001), $609.5 million (2002), and $559.7 million (2003). Using CRIA's own numbers and 1999 as a benchmark, the cumulative decline in CD sales revenue in Canada is $294 million. Given that total CD sales revenues during the period totaled $3.2 billion, the percentage decline is a relatively modest 9 per cent.
While a $294 million decline may still hurt, the source of that decline must also be examined. “

... and he goes on. Please read it!

Next regarding the legality of downloading music. IT IS LEGAL. The Federal Court of Appeal said so here

[25] Thus, downloading a song for personal use does not amount to infringement. See Copyright Board of Canada, Private Copying 2003-2004 decision, 12 December 2003 at page 20.

It will remain legal until Parliament rewrites the laws or the Supreme Court rules otherwise.

Finally regarding fair use vs. stopping piracy.

The only way you could justify limiting peoples fair use (actually we have the less fair “fair dealings” in Canada) access is if your attempts to stop piracy had any chance of succeeding. A single determined hacker can easily circumvent any use restrictions technology, and that single circumvention is sufficient to totally undo the intent of the restrictions in the first place as now the copyrighted work is free to be placed on the Internet for all. So these restrictions therefore do not work and succeed only in restricting legitimate uses. The perfect present day example of this is DVDs. There is use restrictions on most DVDs today, however you can still find most popular titles on line. So what have those restrictions accomplished? Only limiting legitimate uses. They do nothing to prevent piracy!

So yes Peter, the waters are grey, and honestly when a society is trying to grapple with new technology that its laws and existing businesses never considered, I don't think it can help being grey. However it is the efforts of people such as Sam Bulte and the CRIA who are spreading confusion and trying to keep the waters mucky so that they can push their outdated business models further.

You might also be interested to note that while the CRIA, which only represents a handful of Canadian artists has seen their CD sales marginally decline over the last few years. The independent labels which account for the majority of Canadian artists have seen their sales increase. And they attribute the Internet for that increase. Generally you will find the Indy labels and the CRIA on opposite sides of this issue as well. Go figure.


Darryl Moore
Aurora ON