Right now in Canada (and in other places worldwide) we are seeing the Chicken Little School Of Copyright Law attempting to take over the copyright debate. Various people are viewing with alarm every single technological innovation that has occurred in the last two hundred years, and screaming that it is going to kill their business.
And who knows – they might be right. The real question, which is mostly being ignored, is whether killing their business will be good for the artists and their fans. This is a hard question to answer. There have been a variety of studies produced. The backers of Bill C-32 have a group of favorite studies, which they claim are the most accurate. Other studies that they don’t agree with are put down as inaccurate, or biased. They aren’t willing to admit that their own studies might be inaccurate or biased too.
Attempts to legislate by panic are dangerous. Consider the panic caused by the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Many countries (Canada included) rushed through laws meant to combat terrorism. The United States, the target of the 9/11 attacks, was the country that enacted the harshest anti-terrorism laws. But did these laws really do what they were intended to do? The 9/11 attack, like earlier and later attacks, could have been handled under existing laws. In fact many articles in the American media have been critical of the new laws, claiming that they have only added an extra level of bureaucracy and cost to the security systems, without making Americans any safer than they were before the 9/11 attacks.
Bill C-32 is an example of panic legislation. Despite the proof that the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which is based on the same WIPO Treaties that Bill C-32 is based on) has had no effect on copyright infringement, Bill C-32 is being pushed as a good start at addressing the problem. But there is no solid proof that ‘The Problem’ is really a problem. The studies that the CRIA likes say it is, other studies say it isn’t. Who do you believe?
In the Balanced Copyright For Canada Facebook Group there have been a series of discussions on the issue. Some of the people involved work for CRIA member companies, some are independents like myself. Some of the statements which have been made were to say the least, a little bit weird. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- I mentioned that I usually don’t buy CDs, that I get almost everything from ITunes. This shocked a lot of people, who pointed out you get great artwork with the CD. But quite frankly, who cares? My CD collection is in a box in the basement, which never gets opened, and will never be opened. Most compact discs only have one good song on them, why am I going to pay $10.00 for one song, and artwork that I’ll never look at? Now a tee-shirt is different. My favorite tee-shirt says ‘FENDER’ on it, and yes, I play a modified Stratocaster.
- I think copyright should exist to protect artists, most especially from the CRIA member companies. I think this because I know people who have gotten screwed by them. The company backers of course claim this never happens. Who do I believe, people I know, or people I don’t know, but who I know work for the companies who seem to specialize in screwing artists?
- Unlike most of the people on the Balanced Copyright group, I understand technology. I have built TPM/DRM systems in the past, and I know how easy it is to break them. Of course since they don’t understand technology, well, they believe what they are told, that TPM/DRM is perfect, even when news arrives of the Blu-Ray TPM/DRM being permanently broken.
- And of course, they back making it illegal to break a digital lock, even though they claim that digital locks are unbreakable, a curious dichotomy.
The one thing we agree on, is that current Canadian copyright law is outdated. It was designed in a period before internet usage became widespread, and doesn’t reflect current technological or social systems. What we disagree about is what to do about it. The other thing we don’t agree on is how fast we need to act. There’s an old saying, ‘Marry in haste, repent in leisure’, and I think it fits this situation. While the current law has it’s problems, Bill C-32 will be a lot worse.
In my opinion the law needs to be changed to protect the artists from the corporations, not their fans. This view is rather unpopular. I sometimes get the impression that 90% of the people posting on the Facebook page work for CRIA member companies.
Specifically Canadian Copyright law needs to be changed so that copyright REMAINS WITH THE ARTIST. I know several people who have lost control over the own creations because they signed with one of the major labels. How allowing a corporation to take control of an artists creative product helps Canadian artists (or artists in any other country) is something that no one has been able to explain to me. In fact they don’t even try. They do try to pretend that it doesn’t happen. This fails, because this business practice is too well documented. The most substantive change that the Government of Canada could make to Bill C-32 would be to make copyright a non-transferable right, that remains with the artist while they are alive, and then transfers only to their heirs. James Moore’s claim that ‘Bill C-32 effectively balances the demands of many stakeholders‘ is in effect an admission that he isn’t interested in protecting artists.
Going back to the section on Digital Locks, let’s assume that Bill C-32 passes into law with no changes. So Randy Bachman releases a new compact disc, and the Record Label uses TPM/DRM on it. The way the law is currently written, Randy Bachman could not legally break the TPM/DRM, even if he owns the copyright. Even worse, he wouldn’t be legally able to break the TPM/DRM if he owned the Record Label, and the compact disc pressing plant. You might argue that he shouldn’t need to, as he’d still have the masters, but accidents have happened before, and masters have been lost. Even if Randy controlled every step of the chain, legally he can’t break the TPM/DRM he decided to use. Does this make sense?
I oppose Bill C-32. If Minister Moore adds the protection for artists that I am advocating, I’ll back Bill C-32.
Friday September 17, 2010