What would you say with 3 minutes at a Copyright Town Hall.

August 27'th there was the 2'nd of two Town Hall discussions, first in Montreal on July 30 and the second in Toronto, for this round of Copyright consultations. For logistics reasons I was not able to attend either one. While in Toronto there is a lottery to decide who is allowed to participate for those attending, in Montreal each participant was allowed 3 minutes. This made me think: What would I say about copyright in 3 minutes given this is a topic I have talked about in front of an audience in one case for three hours.

Here is one attempt. I am able to read this in under 3 minutes, but suspect I wouldn't do as well in an audience reading as I would doing an ad-lib with fewer bullet points. 3 minutes is just not much time to say much about such an important and complex topic.


My name is Russell McOrmond and I am a self employed software author and Internet consultant. I am also the volunteer policy coordinator for CLUE which is Canada's association for Free/Libre and Open Source Software, and the host for Digital-Copyright.ca.

I would like to see a future copyright act that better protects the wide variety of rights holders which copyright affects.

The rights I most often talk about is the property rights of technology owners. Imagine that the builder of your home or the manufacturer of your car put locks on your doors and refused to give you the keys. They used the keys as a way to only allow you into your home when you have gained their permission to do so, and only under conditions they have set.

The builder or manufacturer might even go to various governments to make it illegal for you to remove their locks.

If the housing sector did this, we would recognize this as an assault on the property rights of homeowners. We need governments to protect technology property rights. We should be legislating against foreign locks being added against the interests of technology owners, not providing legal protection for this business practice.

This is not to say I believe that rights holders should be able to do anything they want with what they own. They should still have to obey various laws. As an example, copyright holders should not be allowed to lock their content in ways that tie the legal purchase and use of this content to specific brands of technology which have the unlocking keys. Copyright holders should have no more say in the brands of digital technology that audiences use than they would have in the brands of eye glasses we might wear. This technique should be clearly disallowed in our Competition Act as a form of "tied selling".

These two locks are often combined and called Digital Rights Management, but that label distracts us from the fact that these are abuses of technology to revoke the digital property and other rights of Canadians.

While copyright previously only regulated expensive activities that were commercial in nature, modern technology has made these activities cheap enough to be carried out by nearly every citizen in a rich country like Canada. This means we need to clarify and simplify laws such as copyright, including carving out of copyright activities which are done in the privacy of ones own home such as private copying and backups. Another important way to simplify copyright is to move to fixed terms rather than terms based on when the creator died, as well as moving to a system that required simple online registration for those authors who wish their works to have more an initial 5 years of unregistered copyright.

We need copyright to protect not only business models based on collecting royalties, but a growing variety of emerging methods of production, distribution and funding. Scholars have suggested that Peer Production, with Free/Libre and Open Source Software as one example, represent an advancement in economic production that may turn out to be as important as the creation of the corporation. We need to ensure that governments, listening to yesterdays business success stories, do not close the door to Canadian participation in future economic success.

Thank you.

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Turns out I got a chance to speak

I ended up getting a chance to speak at the Toronto Town Hall!