CAAST misinformation on Bill C-60

p2pnet.net News View:- In a recent press release the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST) again misrepresents itself as representing the software industry. On About, it says, correctly, that it represent an industry alliance of "software manufacturers”. But it fails to acknowledge that its largest competitors come from different parts of the software industry and use alternatives to "software manufacturing".

Moreover, far from trying to ensure the software industry is competitive and innovative, it’s actively promoting changes that will stifle innovation by attacking their largest competitors.

Microsoft is the most successful of all the software manufacturing vendors and it acknowledges its largest competitive threats come from these ‘alternatives’. The fastest growing operating system is GNU/Linux which uses peer production, peer distribution and alternatives to royalties for funding. Linux is one of many examples of a "software manufacturing" alternative known as Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS).

CAAST is well known for lobbying for changes to laws to protect its members from competition. Its 'piracy studies' don’t adequately differentiate between competition and what it likes to call 'theft' – shades of the entertainment cartels.

Every computer I’ve ever had was assessed by CAAST to have some member software on it, even though I don’t use any "software manufacturing" software on any of my own computers, or the customer computers I support commercially.

One of the many reasons I only use, and commercially support, FLOSS is because these methods reduce the incentive for copyright infringement.

As the creation and distribution of software is funded in ways other than through the collection of royalty fees, there’s no incentive for the average user of the software to infringe copyright. Activities such as sharing or installing on multiple computers are non-infringing activities with FLOSS. This is acknowledged outside of the "software manufacturing" subset of the software industry represented by CAAST as being the most effective way to reduce so-called "software theft".

Pre-authorized sharing, including through "peer distribution" or p2p file-sharing, of FLOSS software is actively encouraged by FLOSS software creators.

Rather than seeing this as a threat, we recognize this as the cheapest and most effective way to distribute and promote our software. The more people who use our software, the more valuable the software becomes, and the more potential customers will exist for our value-add support services or the authoring of new features.

In some markets FLOSS already enjoys the largest market share. According to Britain’s Netcraft, Apache webservers representing nearly 70% of the market, with the largest "software manufacturing" vendor Microsoft only representing 20%.

Software manufacturing vendors are also often investigated and found guilty of anti-trust violations. Governments which recognize the harm of anti-competitive practices must go to the root of the problem: laws which favor specific vendors or business models against competitors. The alternative is to create and protect monopolies and only later sue these successful companies at great expense to the industry and taxpayers.

The right way to handle competition issues in the technology and software sectors is to enact and enforce laws which protect a full spectrum of methods of production, distribution and funding of creativity and innovation.

Bill C-60 opposes this goal by offering many changes to copyright law which will promote incumbent business models at the expense of innovative and transformative alternative.

The proposals from CAAST seek to further protect its members’ outdated business models from any competition.

One of the most controversial aspects of this bill is the legal protection of technological measures. What the old media companies are asking for is legal protection for technological measures used to circumvent our privacy, property and competition laws. The bill doesn’t recognize the fact technological measures are used to control access, similar to digital versions of locks on a door.

Copyright is a set of legal limits to what people who already have access can do, similar to rules for what people already in your home are allowed to do.

The indirect ways in which technological measures that control access are abused to stop copying do so by limiting consumer choice and free markets. These legal protections dictate the brand of tools audiences must use to legally access works, with the imposed brands of tools being those where control over the technology has been revoked from the owner.

The brands of tools will necessarily be "software manufacturing", given the transparency and accountability of having access to the source code with FLOSS too strongly protects the legitimate rights of the owners of these devices. FLOSS offers to software users some of the same benefits that Access to Information laws offer citizens in a democracy.

Canadians, whether creators or audiences, who believe they should own and control their own communications technology should oppose the bill.

We should be in control of the tools we bought, and be able to access content we have paid for using tools of our own choice. We should not allow incumbent "software manufactures" to be imposed on us by old-media content intermediaries.

Canadians should also explore alternatives such as FLOSS so that their choices of software will better protect their rights.

Existing Microsoft Windows users who want to sample FLOSS alternatives to CAAST software can download TheOpenCD.

Russell McOrmond - p2pnet contributing editor

[[McOrmond is an independent author (software and non-software) who uses modern business models and licensing (Free/Libre and Open Source Software, Creative Commons).]