IT World Canada: Industry Canada disappoints anti-TPM petitioners

An article by Rafael Ruffolo in ComputerWorld Canada discusses the recent government reply to our Petition for IT property rights. This article quotes me from an interview this morning.

Please note: We always appreciate more signatures to the petition so that we can continue to have batches tabled in parliament, giving the government the opportunity to actually provide a useful response.

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Another angle...

Here's another angle to consider, related to the ones brought up. I work for a company that performs reverse engineering on common electronic devices and products (memory, cell phones, microprocessors, etc). Some of our work is intended for competitive intelligence, and there is significant work done on intellectual property protection. i.e. we tear apart a device to prove that someone's patent is being infringed. This is a necessary component of IP protection. There are 3 companies that do this in Ottawa, to my knowledge.

Some inventions can be implemented in software, which is then embedded in the device's firmware. Locking this software in the device, with no readily accessible method of extracting the software, is a hardware TPM. Extraction of this software might then become illegal in Canada, and we would have no way of enforcing these IP rights. Wouldn't that be an ironic twist? A law intended to strengthen IP property rights, that actually decreases them.

Think of the case with D-Link's use of Linux to run their popular 802.11g routers, without publishing their source code as they were REQUIRED to do. Without someone tearing the code out of the memory, how would anyone have ever known that D-Link was infringing someone else's copyright? (D-Link eventually published their source code, leading to a whole industry of open-source mods for these routers)

Worse yet, depending on how poorly the bill is drafted, reverse engineering could become legally questionable, and useless in court.

Anti-circumvention laws harm all rightsholders.

Curious: Have you written your MP about this issue? Did they ever send you a response?

When I was recently interviewed for an ITWorld Canada article about the ‘Birthmark’ infringement check I tried to bring in this angle of TPMs being abused to hide copyright infringements. Michael Geist also mentioned it in the 30 Days of DRM - Day 26: Investigation of Concealed Code (Circumvention Rights).

The important thing for policy makers to realize is that these locks are just as likely to harm the rights of copyright holders as help them, but that while not convincingly helping copyright holders they do considerable damage to everyone elses rights.

While it should be clearly unlawful to apply locks to something you don't own, there are still times when copyright holders shouldn't be allowed to put digital locks on things they do own.


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