Submission to CRTC on DTV/HDTV and Open Source

The following is my submission to the CRTC call for comments on a proposed policy framework for the distribution of digital television services. The Commission will accept comments that it receives on or before 9 September 2002, and will publish the comments filed electronically online.

Further discussion can be found on the discussion forum at digital-copyright.ca.


Russell McOrmond
609-440 Wiggins Private
Ottawa, ON
K1N 1A7

Email: Russell@Flora.ca
Personal Home Page: http://www.flora.ca/russell/.

Reply to Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2002-32

  1. I wish to express a concern that was not explicitly included in the public notice on DTV/HDTV. This concern relates to the use of unrestricted open technology standards, rather than proprietary or otherwise restricted technologies. The issue of copyright was mentioned in paragraph 39, and I worry that current American discussions that potentially restrict technological innovation in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools will be brought to Canada.

  2. Last year I made a submission to the Copyright Consultation process held by Industry Canada and Heritage Canada. My reply to the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association (CMPDA) submission is at: http://www.flora.ca/copyright-2001-cmpda-reply.shtml

  3. In this CMPDA-reply I detailed a technological limitation with many DVD's, specifically those encrypted using the proprietary DVD Content Scramble System (DVD-CSS), licensed exclusively from the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA). This technology allows the DVD-CCA to to license DVD players that are capable of "legally" decoding legally purchased DVD's, giving content producers undue control over the after-sale usage of DVD movies.

  4. Consumers and industry alike have benefited greatly from the "Open Source" or "Free Software" movement, in which technologies are distributed in a form that encourages end-user modification. From server-software like the web-wide success-story apache, to operating systems like GNU/Linux, to consumer applications like the Mozilla browser and OpenOffice.org productivity suite, Free Software is a powerful force for innovation, consumer benefit and commercial activity.

  5. Open Source Software mandates public review of the source code to the software. Because of this, Open Source Software cannot include trade secrets or any other information that must for any reason be restricted from public and peer review.

  6. Due to the use of claimed trade secrets by the DVD-CCA, their DVD-CCS technology cannot be "legally" implemented using Open Source Software.

  7. I believe that the harm caused to the DVD player market by the exclusion of an entire segment of the ICT sector (Open Source Software) is very harmful. With this non-government licensing of DVD players, features that are desired by consumers, but not desired by the movie producers, can be restricted from implementation by the DVD player market.

  8. In an attempt to clarify the legality of Open Source DVD players in Canada, I made submissions to Industry Canada as well as a complaint to the Competition Bureau to have them investigate the DVD-CCA for 'tied selling' which is part of section 77 of the Competition Act.

  9. I wish the CRTC to include an awareness of this problem in all discussions of the movement from the current vendor-independent, open standards based analog system to a potentially proprietary digital system. Open standards that can be implemented by the entire ICT sector, including those publishing Open Source software, should be mandated by the CRTC.

  10. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most-linked-to websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/ . I am a member of the EFF.

  11. The EFF has made submissions to the US government in opposition to a "broadcast flag" being proposed by the movie studios. They believe that the proposed technology mandate will harm consumers, and thus the industry as a whole. I urge the CRTC to work to reject this technology for use in Canada.

  12. The following links provide more information on EFF submissions:
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