Over 1800 Canadians rejected changes to copyright, even before bill was introduced.

The English Version

OTTAWA, June 22 - On Monday, June 20 Parliament introduced Bill C-60, "An Act to amend the Copyright Act", which proposes many radical changes to copyright law. Before the introduction of this bill, approximately 1800 Canadians had already signed the Petition for Users' Rights. This petition calls on Parliament to reject the majority of what was later included in Bill C-60. Some signatures have been introduced in Parliament by NDP MP Peter Julian (Burnaby--New Westminster, BC) and Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa-South, Ontario).

Those signing the petition came from all walks of life including software authors and users, engineers, teachers, librarians, other literary and music authors, musicians, performers and their fans. In the petition, they ask Parliament to protect their creative, cultural and communications rights; to preserve the ability to create new business models using new communications technology; and to oppose legislation giving new, special rights to certain media, content and "software manufacturing" businesses solely to preserve their previous ways of doing business.

"This legislation lets down individual Canadians by placing the interests of the media industry ahead of the interests of individual citizens", wrote Jem Berkes, a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, in a letter to his member of parliament. "I am concerned about rights and freedoms of citizens in the modern age, and have closely followed the background to this legislation from its origins in US lobbies through to the WIPO Treaty at the United Nations. As a politically involved citizen and voter, I can tell you that I would hesitate to support any political party that passes this legislation."

Where the bill calls for legal protection for technological measures that claim to protect copyright, the petition calls on Parliament "to recognize the right of citizens to personally control their own communication devices." Legally-enforced technological protection measures could mean, for instance, that even music on legally purchased CDs could not be listened to on a user's MP3 player, that backup copies could not be made of failing DVDs, and that it would effectively be illegal for a user to make a `mix tape' even for their own use of their favorite songs or movie scenes.

"Protection for technological measures has no place in copyright law", stated software author, and Internet/security consultant Russell McOrmond. "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 does not recognize the fact that 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 are abused to stop copying do so by limiting consumer choice and free markets through granting legal protection to the ways that copyright holders will dictate the brand of tools audiences must use to access works. The chosen brands of tools would be those where control over the technology has been revoked from the owner.

Where the bill did not provide limits to protection of technological measures to protect users rights, the petition called on parliament "to ensure in particular that any changes at least preserve all existing users' rights"

Where the bill increased the term of copyright for many types of copyright holders, including creating entirely new rights, the petition called on parliament "not to extend the term of copyright" which was already too long for many types of works. Canada follows the largest international standard of life of the author plus 50 years, while works such as software are long-obsolete in less than 20 years. All creativity builds on the past, and any extension of the term of copyright drastically harms culture and creativity by keeping past works out of the public domain where they are available to built upon.

Where the bill added further limitations to private copying, the petition called on parliament to preserve "the right to make private copies of audio recordings."

Where the bill clearly protects the interests of incumbent media, content and "software manufacturing" industry association members, ignoring the interests of other participants in past consultations, the petition called up on parliament "to ensure generally that users are recognized as interested parties". In the most recent consultations that lead towards an Interim report on Copyright introduced by the Heritage Committee in parliament, the groups they consulted with were almost exclusively those of the incumbent interests and institutional user intermediaries such as libraries and educational institutions.

In order for Canada to move into the new millennium parliament must reject this bill, and start again recognizing that protecting Canadian creativity involves protecting the interests of Canadian creators and their audiences, not protecting the intermediaries from the old media and old economy from any modernizing change.

The petition, which also was issued and signed in French, aimed to draw the following facts to the attention of Parliament:

  • the Copyright Act is properly recognized as being a careful balance between the rights of creators and the rights of the public (including viewers, readers and listeners);
  • the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously affirmed this view in CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada;
  • digital technologies have recently given copyright holders the ability to upset the balance in the Copyright Act by preventing Canadians from accessing works for purposes that have been legally granted to them;
  • the creation of original works is nourished by wide accessibility of earlier works, including a vibrant public domain;
  • dissemination of cultural ideas requires that they be preserved in a form that is accessible to future generations; and
  • historically consultations regarding changes to the Copyright Act have mostly taken place with creators, intermediaries and only some special users (such as educators and librarians)

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More information about the Petition for Users' Rights can be found at http://digital-copyright.ca/petition/

Contacts:

Russell McOrmond
FLORA Community Consulting, http://flora.ca/
Co-founder of Getting Open Source Logic INto Governments, http://goslingcommunity.org
Host for Digital Copyright Canada forum, http://digital-copyright.ca
305 Southcrest Private,
Ottawa, ON
K1V 2B7
Phone: (613) 733-5836

Jem Berkes
SysDesign , http://www.sysdesign.ca/
Phone: (416) 837-8808

Voir le communiqué de presse en français


This page created and maintained by Russell McOrmond.

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