Letter to MPs: IP caucus likely headed in wrong direction

On May 13'th I sent the following letter to Liberal MP Dan McTeague, Conservative MP Gord Brown, Bloc MP Serge Ménard, NDP MP Charlie Angus, my own MP David McGuinty and to the Hill Times. I expected that I would post the letter when I received a reply, but even though the MPs were in their ridings this last week I received absolutely no reply.

I find it disturbing that there is very little about this special interest caucus being disclosed to the public. Unlike a committee where the membership and minutes are disclosed, this group of MPs have been meeting with lobbiests to get a narrow idea of the issues without any possibility of the Canadian public holding them accountable.

Letter follows:

I keep hearing about a Parliamentary Caucus on Intellectual Property, Anti-Counterfeiting and Anti-Piracy. The merger of these very different areas of policy, which have very different solutions, concerns me. I am also concerned by the fact that the members of this caucus does not seem to be publicly disclosed, nor are the minutes or transcripts of meetings. The studies that you are undertaking would be far better carried out in the context of a parliamentary committee.

The most recent Hill Times issue included an article that mentioned MPs Dan McTeague, Charlie Angus, Gord Brown and Serge Ménard, which is why I am sending this letter to the 4 of you. I hope that one of you will tell Canadians who the other members of the caucus are, as well as disclosing other aspects of your work.

The Hill Times article mentioned meetings with representatives from CRIA and from the US Embassy, each of which promote policy which would be harmful to Canada's economy as well as our anti-counterfeiting efforts.

One of the technology media stories that has concerned me recently is Counterfeit Cisco routers.

FBI: Counterfeit Cisco routers risk “IT subversion”

Bad quality hardware causing failure doesn't concern me as much as the security implications, and there are benefits to foreign governments of encouraging good quality counterfeits.

Hidden back doors in the software in these routers could be abused by their counterfeit manufactures to subvert network security. One critical measure to counteract this would be for the owners of the devices (or a company they trust) to open them up, remove any foreign locks, and install known safe software that can be locked down by the owner of the device.

Unfortunately, removing foreign locks from the hardware that we own is something Canada is being encouraged to make illegal. This is the goal of the anti-circumvention legislation promoted by the United States. They claim this is a solution to copyright infringement and "piracy", even though there has been no evidence that legal protection for these foreign locks on our hardware has ever reduced copyright infringement or piracy. In fact, there is considerable evidence that these laws are increasing copyright infringement.

While these foreign locks don't reduce infringement, it shouldn't take too much imagination to recognize the harm to Canadians by allowing and/or legally protecting foreign locks on our property -- whether that property be our home, our cars, or our information technology.

See: Petition to protect Information Technology property rights

This is the core of the debate about so called "Digital Rights Management". While there is controversy about the meaning of this term, the most common usage doesn't reference a technology but the use of technology to implement a specific policy. The policy is to encode content such that it can only be accessed by specific authorized devices or software, and to lock down those devices or software such that a third party and not the owner of the device retains the keys. This is the underlying policy of Apple's "Fair Play", Microsoft's Plays For Sure and the "DRM" in Vista, as well as the Sony Rootkit that infected a massive number of computers.

Most people consider computer security to be all about ensuring that the owner of the computer is the person who is authorizing access and control over the computer. The goal of "DRM" to be to revoke owner control and transfer that control to a third party. While these two ideas use the identical technology such as cryptography, they have opposite policy goals. Anyone concerned with computer security should be opposed to the abuse of security technology to implement "DRM" policy.

The Hill Times article included a mention of Stevan Mitchell of the Entertainment Software Association. I recently wrote a letter to Buisiness News Network's show SqueezePlay about an interview they did with him, and how he needs to be more honest about the types of property-protecting hardware which he is lobbying to make illegal in Canada.

http://blogs.itworldcanada.com/insights/2008/05/11/ entertainment-software-association-opposes-technology-property-rights/
Shorter URL: http://www.digital-copyright.ca/node/4655

I live and work in Ottawa, and can be available to discuss this further with any member of parliament to ensure that you are aware of the harmful intended and unintended consequences of some of the policies that are being pushed on you.

Russell McOrmond