No need to worry about "unintended consequences" with the Petition for IT property rights?

As a result of the SlashDot story this morning, a comment was posted that worried about potential unintended consequences.

If our rules are sufficiently different that US companies have a hard time conducting business in the way that they choose to do it, many companies will just abandon the Canadian market, and we get nothing.

I offered the following as a response.

The language used is very specific to avoid the types of problems you have raised.

THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon Parliament to prohibit the application of a technical protection measure to a device without the informed consent of the owner of the device, and to prohibit the conditioning of the supply of content to the purchase or use of a device which has a technical measure applied to it. We further call upon Parliament to recognise the right of citizens to personally control their own communication devices, and to choose software based on their own personal criteria.

First, please remember that DRM isn't "applied to content", but something that is "applied to devices". As long as Canadians are free to install whatever software they want on the hardware they own, even if US citizens are not, then what we have asked for is protected.

Content is encoded so that it is only interoperable with a subset of devices, but that is the extent to which DRM relates to content. All the controversy relating to DRM relates to the locking down of devices by people other than the owners of the devices, and the treatment of these owners as a threat that third parties (manufacturers of the devices) need to protect against.

The first part of our petition is a clear protection of property rights, and is accomplished in two ways. The first is to not have anti-circumvention legislation, which is the status-quo in Canada. There is no obligation for Canada to ratify the 1996 WIPO treaties, and it is largely foreign special interests (Major labels and studios, USTR, USPTO) that are calling for Canada to ratify these treaties.

This first part also suggests simple labelling requirements, in support of a free market, such that consumers will be able to tell before they purchase content whether it will be compatible with their hardware. The doesn't say that companies can't encrypt content to deliberately break interoperability (a "feature" of all DRM), but that if content is encrypted that it will be lawful for a Canadian to decode the content with the hardware/software of their choosing, and that the deliberately non-interoperable content require labelling. This is consistent with existing Canadian law, and the laws of many other countries, and is not radical at all.

The second part talking about "conditioning of the supply" is part of anti-trust or competition law in many countries, and is often called "tied selling". This is also not radical at all. Again, content can be encoded, but citizens must be free to convert the files to a format compatible with the devices that they own.

There is no conflict in having Canadians being able to legally device shift their content regardless of any technology used to deliberately reduce interoperability, but US citizens not being able to. There are many laws where Canada and the USA is different. This is no different than the fact that in Canada copyright is only life+50 rather than life+70, meaning that Canadians have access to public domain works a full 20 years before citizens in the USA. This is no different than how Canada has crown copyright (The Canadian government is a massive copyright holder), but the US government more fairly releases government works directly into the public domain. US citizens also benefit from a comprehensive Fair Use regime, while Canadians only have a much more limited Fair Dealings regime.

The last sentence should be an obvious recognition of the property rights of owners of computing hardware. While I would prefer to have all citizens of all countries have their basic property rights protected, there is no harm for Canadians to have their rights protected even if the rights of people in other countries are not.

This isn't a case of excessive regulation, given what we are proposing isn't new regulation at all but the application of existing regulations, and objecting to radically new regulations against our rights.

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RE: Webcasting in Canada

Hi there,

I'm trying to wade through the legalities of webcasting in casting. I started a small internet radio station, playing mostly indie artists.

I've been advised by the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic, webcasting music is illegal in Canada, and that although there is pending legislation regarding digital copyright, it does not cover webcasting, and all Canadian webcasters run the risk of being sued if they haven't gotten individual rights for every song on their playlist.

Is there any online resource regarding this? I can't believe webcasting is illegal in Canada in the year 2007. That being said, before I acquire an American partner & attempt to pay licensing fees on the American side, I just wanted confirmation of the legality of webcasting. Thank you very much..

Richard G.



On the other hand, CIPPIC is made up of lawyers and law students. I don't know exactly the wording of what you asked CIPPIC, but if they said that what you were proposing was infringing they are either going to be right or they didn't clearly understand your question.

In order for regular broadcast radio to be property licensed they need to either obtain a license from each individual copyright holder (and that could be for the songwriter/publisher and the performer/maker/label for a single piece of music), or they need to be paying royalties to the appropriate collective societies.

The quickest way to find out if you can do the "shortform" version of simply paying the flat fees to a collective society is to check the tarrifs that have been approved by the Copyright Board. This is an area I have not done research on at this point. and the board is approving new tarrifs all the time.

Don't assume that in "this day and age" we are moving forward. Remember that the compulsory license for retransmission that legalizes Cable Television had Bill C-11 to specifically exclude a "new media retransmitter". In other words, they deliberately went backwards to exclude new media from the very things that legalized or simplified older media. This is just one of the demonstrations of how far the old media will go to try to kill new-media competition, and how uninformed parliament is to just follow these old-media/old-economy lobbiests.

Also, you may find the situation simpler in the US as I believe they have Compulsory licenses in this area where you don't have to wait for a collective society to form and "opt in" to having simplified licensing arrangements. Contrary to popular opinion, there are areas where the USA is more advanced than Canada (some compulsory licensing, Fair Use rather than limited fair dealings, and no Crown Copyright), and some areas that Canada is better than the US (Lack of 1996 WIPO treaty ratification being a big one). Being "newer" doesn't mean "more modern", as many of the recent changes and proposals in both countries have been backward-facing.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

US Federal Trade Commission Chairman agrees with our petition..

This is an interesting quote from an article Sony BMG Settles FTC Charges.

“Installations of secret software that create security risks are intrusive and unlawful,” said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. “Consumers’ computers belong to them, and companies must adequately disclose unexpected limitations on the customary use of their products so consumers can make informed decisions regarding whether to purchase and install that content.”

This is the labelling part of what we have asked for, the part that we thought would be most incompatible with the USA. If they require labelling, and Canada doesn't pass anti-circumvention laws (allowing us to lawfully device-shift content and install the software of our choice on our own hardware), then Canadians will be protected from DRM.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.