I met this morning for about 70 minutes with James Rajotte. He initially indicated we had about 20 minutes, but I suspect the conversation was considered interesting enough that he decided to extend the time. We met the first time in the context of my intervention at Industry Committee in 2004 to discuss a bill about satelite television and competition.
Our conversation was launched based on a few recent letters on the topic of the iPhone unlocking scandal and earlier about the Committee report "Counterfeiting and Piracy are theft". As part of the latter letter I included a copy of my article on the Jefferson Debate, which he had already seen before the meeting.
I first spoke about the 4 owners implicated in digital copyright, trying to keep the conversation focused on the rights of software authors and hardware owners. I discussed how the controversial form of "DRM" is made up of two locks, one lock on the content and a second lock on the hardware.
I discussed how the technology used to record, edit and distribute creativity is identical to the technology used to infringe copyright. I clarified that there was no way to create a technology that can differentiate between creativity and copyright infringement, and that these things need to be left to being enforced in the law and not in technology. I gave the example of the parent recording their childs first steps in front of a television, and how a locked-down camcorder detecting watermarks might shut off : unable to differentiate between a "pirate" and a "parent".
He asked whether a DRM dominated world would mean that creators wouldn't be able to create. I didn't want to confuse the issue by trying to answer that question, so reversed it: I repeated that the technology to infringe copyright and the technology to create are identical. As long as creators are allowed to create without the "permission" of some agency (government, major labels/studios, whatever) then copyright infringement will be possible. I'm not sure if I was able to make this point clear, and is something we need to focus more time on clarifying.
We spent quite a bit of time talking about the music industry. He started by stating that the largest amount of lobbying comes from the music industry talking about stopping unauthorized peer-to-peer sharing of music, and the motion picture industry concerned about camcordering.
I tried to separate the music industry into its 3 components: composers, performers, makers. I discussed how the historically high costs of recording, editing and distributing of recorded music meant that the labels dominated, but that if allowed to be left to a free market that this would change with cheaper technology (more musicians able to skip the major labels entirely).
I'm not sure if he was convinced on this, and needs to have actual musicians (composers and performers) come in and talk about the benefits of new media to them, and the harm they are currently facing from the policies being proposed by the major music labels (representing the legacy business models, not representing musicians). I will be seeking out members of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition who can talk to Industry Committee members.
Our conversation partly fell because I didn't really understand a key question he had. He was asking how, in a model without DRM or the support of major labels, would a musician sell a CD. Since I see both DRM and major labels as being a hindrance, not a help, to selling music (in any form, from downloads to tangible media), I couldn't give a satisfactory answer his question.
We also spoke about problems with statistics. I suggested that the recording industry has seen real drops in revenue that are smaller than they suggest, but also that they have tried to attribute this all to peer-to-peer when so many larger factors exist. (Increased competition from independents and unsigned artists, competition from other markets such as games and movies, loss of catalogue sales and price pressure from the domination of big-box stores, price/market control from Apple, etc). I also suggested that we need to focus on the real return to musicians (songwriters and performers) and not the old-economy middle-men of the labels.
We also spoke about the general direction, with me clarifying that according to well respected economists that there are some markets where innovation is incentivised through competition rather than exclusive rights. I brought a copy of a paper co-authored by recent Nobel prize in Economics winner Eric S. Maskin (“Intellectual Property on the Internet: What’s Wrong with Conventional Wisdom?”) and the abstract page from “Sequential Innovation, Patents and Imitation”.
Other handouts include:
- A summary of the Petition to protect Information Technology Property Rights (HTML, OpenDocument, PDF)
- CLUE copyright policy summary (OpenDocument, PDF and HTML)
I brought signatures for both petitions. He had tabled signatures to our Petition for Users' Rights, but not yet our Petition to protect Information Technology Property Rights.
He suggested that I should continue what I'm doing by meeting with other MPs. I mentioned that I have been trying since 2001 to meet any MP that is willing to speak with me. He seems willing to help me make contact with other members of Industry Committee, once it is formed again in the new session of parliament.