CSIA (Canadian Software Innovation Alliance), CLUE, Bob Young and I

I want to clarify the roll I play in CLUE: The Canadian Association for Open Source, and my involvement with the Canadian Software Innovation Alliance. This article is my strong endorsement of CSIA, and my suggestion that all Free/Libre and Open Source Software companies and professionals join CSIA. I also want to promote the CSIA White Paper just released.

I have been a Free Software developer since 1992, and have been promoting this method of production and related business models since that time. I started my sole proprietorship business FLORA Community Consulting in 1995 with the aim to focus on the expanding Free Software marketplace (Note: The term "Open Source" was not coined until 1998).

In the summer of 2001 I was warned that the Canadian government was threatening to implement DMCA-like laws in Canada. I was already well aware of the harm this had already been causing to US software developers, so quickly helped in any way I could (Including starting the mailing list that became the Digital Copyright Canada website).

In January 2006 I was invited to join the new CLUE which was transitioning from being a Canada-wide coordinator for Linux Users groups, to being an association for Open Source. I became their policy coordinator, and in preparation for a December 1, 2006 meeting with officials at Heritage Canada created a Copyright policy summary for CLUE.

Canadian entrepreneur Bob Young (RedHat , Lulu, Hamilton Tigercats), who was key to the transition at CLUE, also felt a need to help found a group of open source businesses to ensure that the government knows that there are many CEOs and other businesspersons who want balanced copyright, and who disagree with the direction suggested by the WIPO Internet treaties and the USA's DMCA. With the help of public interests lawyers at The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), as well as people at CLUE, the Canadian Software Innovation Alliance was created in the summer of 2005 (when Liberal Bill C-60 was tabled). I (as FLORA Community Consulting) obviously quickly became a member of the CSIA.

Note: Bob Young is also a member of the Canadian Digital Security Coalition.

What is new this month is a launch of a new dedicated website (previously CSIA had a few pages on the CLUE website), and the launch of a White Paper.

This 30 page whitepaper written by legal academics with all the appropriate references goes into far more detail than the 2-page policy summary created for CLUE, and should be understood as complimentary. The whitepaper explains to politicians the importance of the Open Source marketplace to Canada, including the participation from various sectors.

When it comes to copyright law, a similar approach to what I wrote in the policy summary is taken: that the best case scenario is if Canada does not implement or ratify the 1996 WIPO Internet treaties, but that there are ways to minimize the damage if ratification is somehow considered inevitable.

The following is the summary of recommendations from the whitepaper.

  • The best anti-circumvention law is no anti-circumvention law. Canada should support innovation and competition over protectionism and market intervention by refusing to legislate anti-circumvention laws. Canada must learn from the mistakes of others and ensure balance in any anti-circumvention legislation. Anti-circumvention controls must be limited in application to cases of actual copyright infringement. Anti-circumvention provisions are likely to be abused for anti-competitive purposes. Any Canadian changes to the law must:

    1. protect competition in the market by allowing users to circumvent Technological Measures in order to avoid vendor lock-in;

    2. provide the Competition Bureau with the power to act against anti-competitive applications of Technology Measures; and

    3. introduce a positive defence against anti-competitive uses of Technological Measures.

  • In order to be effective tools for computer users, open source systems must be able to interact with proprietary systems. Any anti-circumvention legislation must protect the development of interoperable software.

  • Reverse engineering is an indispensable tool that software developers use for research and development, and it involves the circumvention of Technological Measures. Canadian anti-circumvention legislation must protect reverse engineering as a method to achieve non-infringing software development goals.

  • Security research requires the circumvention of Technological Measures. Anti-circumvention legislation must protect security researchers and must do so in terms sufficiently broad to ensure that they will not be found liable for infringement in cases involving the public interest.

  • Since there will be some situations in which circumvention of Technological Measures will be permitted, it must be legal to develop and acquire the tools necessary to legally circumvent Technological Measures.

  • In order to remain relevant and not to create a burden to use specific technologies, copyright law should aim to be neutral with respect to technology. Any changes to copyright law must avoid creating technology mandates that could chill innovation and render the law obsolete as the technologies change.

  • Existing fair dealing provisions in the Copyright Act are narrow and inapplicable to many uses in the innovation industries. Canada should expand fair dealing to clearly encompass reverse engineering and security research and for purposes intended to allow interoperability.