Meeting with Dr. Colin Carrie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

I met this morning with Dr. Colin Carrie (Oshawa), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry. We had a conversation for a little over a half hour, and then he was scheduled to be preparing for question period. He was very interested in what was being discussed, and said that he wanted to meet with me again in the future.

As I was leaving I asked if it would be OK if I BLOG about the meeting, since it was suggested to me in the past that I ask. This is a moment where I wish I had a tape recorder to play what he said to the readers of this BLOG. I'm often having to convince people in the technical community of the merit of speaking with politicians, and I suspect more people would talk to MPs if they heard what he had to say.

He essentially stated that politicians come from all walks of life, and aren't specialists in every area of policy which they need to make decisions about in parliament. In his case he is a chiropractor who has written books and articles in that field, but he is not an information technology specialist like some of the readers of this BLOG. He said that MPs need to, and for the most part want to, hear from all sides of a discussion. They hear things that individually sound like they are right, but without hearing from a wider range of people about the implications won't learn how policies might not work as intended.

I brought the same material I had for the meeting with Mr. Rajotte, with the addition of a hardcover copy of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler.

We had a chance to discuss a few key themes. Dr. Carrie was very engaged in the conversation, asking for clarification or for me to repeat certain ideas.

  • the historical origins of the 1996 WIPO treaties (1995 NII, 1998 DMCA, etc)
  • The 4 "rights holders" involved in copyright discussions: copyright holder, users of content and owners of tangible media, software authors, and hardware owners.
  • The two locks of DRM: lock on content (reduce interoperability, competition, etc), lock on device (reduce property rights, right to make own software choices)
  • How these locks are ineffective at stopping copyright infringement. Lock plus unlocking key must be in the home in order to hear content, so a technically sophisticated person will always be able to unlock content. One person out of 6.5billion need to unlock content and share in order to make it easy for non-technical people to infringe.
  • how these locks are effective in reducing legitimate competition, and harming innovation. I gave the example of a hardware vendor who wanted to replace an Apple player needs to circumvent a technical measure in order to allow customers to legitimately access existing iTunes purchased content.
  • how DRM is actually a threat to copyright holders as the DRM manufacturer becomes a platform monopoly which can take control over a given media marketplace.
  • New methods of production, distribution and funding. I handed him a copy of and explained the "95% solution" business model I use with my own clients.
  • alternative viewpoints in music industry, such as from the musicians that are members of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition.
  • The overall flawed direction that the United States is taking on innovation policy, trading off their manufacturing sector for a mythical "intellectual property" economy premised on making knowledge harder to access. (See: How Hollywood, Congress, And DRM Are Beating Up The American Economy by Cory Doctorow)
  • how we should not be taking the lead from the USA which only joined the Berne convention in 1989 when Canada joined in 1928. I clarified that US copyright is not "stronger" but "different", and that we should reject the false claims that we have weak copyright.
  • the beginnings of some of the problems seen in the USA, such as Felton's need to spend an increasing amount of his time talking to lawyers and less in the lab. I briefly mentioned the Adobe eBook-->Adobe PDF conversion utility and the Dmitry Sklyarov example.

I look forward to meeting him again in the future. None of this is sound-bite type material, and needs time to discuss and digest before any of it makes sense.