Would Dr. Colin Carrie be as cavalier about pharmaceuticals or medical devices?

Prior to entering Parliament as MP for Oshawa, Dr. Colin Carrie co-owned and operated a chiropractic and wellness clinic in Oshawa. I suspect it was the fact that he worked in the medical profession that his misunderstanding of so-called "digital locks" in the C-11 debate has bothered me so much.

I have to hope if we were talking about a pharmaceutical or medical device, he would have analyzed the issue far more closely. My hope is he reconsider his current dismissing of this important issue, given the underlying policies we see in the Paracopyright part of C-11 will have impacts in areas as serious as medical devices.

If a marketing company came to him at his clinic and offered a new treatment for a medical problem, any doctor would ask about the effectiveness of the treatment as well as any side-effects. This analysis would start with asking for details on the components of the treatment, and move forward with a science based analysis.

I recently wrote about the types of "technological protection measures" lobbyists are hoping C-11 will protect.

"Copy control" is a marketing term, not a description of a technology. Content alone is passive. Digitally-encoded content can’t make decisions any more than a paperback book is capable of reading itself out loud. If there are any rules to be enforced, including if, when or how much copying can happen, they are encoded in software which runs on some device. It is science fiction to believe that a TPM applied to content alone can "make decisions." In order to understand the implications of the technologies proponents believe should be legally protected, you must include the motivations and interests of software authors as well as the property rights of device owners.

If copyright infringement is the problem that this treatment is intended to help cure, there is little in the way of data to determine effectiveness. I am unaware of any scientific studies on the question. What we have is marketing people making invalid analogies to locking things needed to protect from theft, confusing people as to what is locked, who owns what is locked, and who holds the keys. When I analyze the real-world technologies being discussed, most of the anecdotal evidence and logic suggest that the majority of these measures incentivize (and thus increase) copyright infringing activities.

The worst comes to side effects of the treatment. While this policy is alleged to be about copyright and copyrighted works, the impacts go far beyond copyright holders (the patients). It is important to always remember that there are 4 classes of owners impacted by the Paracopyright aspects of C-11, with copyright holders only being one.

With most medical treatments the side-effects and other risks apply to the patient taking the treatment, with the patient having some choice. With this treatment the side-effects harm third parties who are not offered any choice. This is why the claims that "free markets" solve the problem are false. Even if I never purchase any copyrighted works that have DRM applied to them, I am still harmed. The anti-competitive impacts of the anti-interoperability locks on content harm me as a competitive software author, and any legalization or legal protection of non-owner locks on devices circumvent my rights as a technology owner.

Imagine a medical treatment that has no scientific evidence of its effectiveness, with side-effects that harm people who aren't even the patient. Is this the type of treatment that Dr. Colin Carrie would be recommending not only be used in his clinic, but would recommend use be certified and actively promoted by governments?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Software in medical devices....

The question of who controls technology is critically important, especially as consider everything from video game and mobile phones to transportation and medical devices. These topics have been covered well by other people including Eben Moglen (See: When Software is in Everything, which had audio included in the Software Freedom Law Show) and Karen Sandler (See OSCON 2010 presentation, and audio from Medical Devices and Karen's Heart). I believe the lack of transparency and accountability in software is likely already costing lives. Laws which disallow technology owners (including people technology is embedded within) from making any choices or having any of this software be independently audit-able is unconscionable.

See also: Killed by Code: Software Transparency in Implantable Medical Devices