Citizen input critical to understanding changes to Copyright Act!

Ottawa, May 8, 2005 - The Canadian government has proposed radical changes to our copyright act, including concepts from the highly controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the United States. These changes would regulate the creation and use of information technology such as those that form the Internet, having a large impact on not only the economy but the communications rights of citizens. These changes are being pursued without adequate consultation, and without the government demonstrating an understanding the negative implications of the proposals on the rights of creators, users and other citizens.

So far more than 1400 citizens have signed the Petition for Users' Rights to suggest alternatives to parliament, with more signatures being collected each day. On Friday May 6, David McGuinty, the Liberal member of parliament for Ottawa South, tabled 583 signatures of the Petition for Users' Rights. This was the second batch of petitions to be tabled in parliament.

"Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by over 500 Canadians. It deals with the Copyright Act.", Mr McGuinty indicated in parliament when tabling the petition.

He indicated in French that our petition recognizes the Copyright Act as a careful balance between the rights of creators and the rights of the public.

"The petitioners want the House to maintain this balance by not extending the term of copyright and preserving all existing user rights to ensure a vibrant public domain. They also request that users be recognized as interested parties and, as such, be consulted about any proposed changes to the aforementioned Copyright Act."

The signatures were brought to Mr. McGuinty by Russell McOrmond, a constituent of Ottawa South who has been helping coordinate the petition. This software creator, ISP and Internet consultant first became involved in copyright in the summer of 2001 with that round of digital copyright consultations.

Mr. McOrmond has been quite frustrated with Liberal Heritage Minister, Lisa Frulla. "She has been making false statements in the media about copyright, incorrectly claiming that our laws need to change to provide the tools for companies and authors to sue when their copyright is being infringed". In an open letter to the Minister he blames her for the fact that many Canadians believe that unauthorized music sharing is legal in Canada. "If the Minister responsible for this law is not adequately informed, it is entirely understandable why the average Canadian is not able to understand and obey the law. This is not to excuse Canadians for unlawful activities, but to suggest that it would be a scandal to allow a Minister to make radical changes to a law she does not adequately understand."

"The issue that remains the most important to me is the question of who controls communications technology. I believe it is critical for protecting citizens rights that any hardware assistance for communications, whether it be eye-glasses, VCR's, or personal computers, must be under the control of the citizen and not a third party. ", Russell McOrmond stated. "This is why we demand in the petition that the government recognize the right of citizens to personally control their own communication devices."

In the early 1990's, before most policy makers understood the empowering features of new media such as the Internet, governments consulted with the old-media companies. Governments were told that unless new-media was regulated to limit its capabilities to operate more like old-media and its concentrated control, these old-media companies would not make their material available on the Internet, and the Internet would have no content.

History has shown that this was an idle threat. New-media broke the traditional barrier between creators and audiences, enabling greater participate in culture by all citizens. Unfortunately this reality has not stopped governments from continuing to pursue antiquated thinking. At a time when creativity and innovation would be clearly served by reducing old-media centralized control, governments continue to create more complex laws that seek to protect old-media from present and future competitors.

All Canadians are rights holders, including copyright and other rights. We must all be meaningfully consulted about proposed changes to the Copyright Act that affect these rights.

"It is important for people to understand the anti-circumvention proposals in the 1996 WIPO treaties, itself laundered policy from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. What citizens are circumventing is not copyright, but inappropriate legal protection for an unaccountable and non-transparent form of remote-control over communications devices that we own. Governments are offering to protect technological measures which links content like movies and music to devices which the media companies control. This does not protect copyright, but serves as a way to circumvent Canadian competition, privacy, property and other laws."

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Contacts:

Russell McOrmond, FLORA Community Consulting http://www.flora.ca (613) 733-5836 , Cell: (613) 262-1237

Chris Brand 604.521.0441 or chris_brand@ieee.org

The petition is online at http://digital-copyright.ca/petition.

Transcript from Hansard


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