Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That's not modernization

Debates began yesterday in Canadian Parliament on copyright reform. Conservative Industry Minister Christian Paradis introduced the bill and its various features, noting that various common private non-commercial uses of works would be reasonably allowed, that provisions would be created allowing for certain uses of works such as by the visually impaired, and that damages for copyright infringment would be reduced to something much more reasonable than what we have seen in some other countries. All of this is excellent and signals that the Canadian govenrment is aware of and responsive to the many hurdles that Canadians face as users and creators of copyright works.

However, Minister Paradis also pointed a feature of the bill that is highly criticized. He noted that many of the copyright exceptions of the bill - those very features that make it so reasonable - "do not apply to works protected by a technological protection measure or digital lock." This, he says, is because "Copyright holders told us that their digital and on-line business models depend on the robust protection provided by digital locks."

Copyright holders should not be given free reign and a different copyright - a much broader copyright - in the digital environment. Public interest provisions should not suddenly disappear in a digital environment. The digitial environment is one where public interest exceptions matter the most. Do we want a digital learning environment where books are locked away from legitimate readers, paid-for music can be locked from its paid-up owner, and where publicly-owned content can be locked away from its very public? Of course not!

Although the act is officially titled the "Copyright Modernization Act", the modernization of Canadian copyright is held back by a different kind of piracy: one that creates provisions that would allow individuals and corporations to lock up and hold hostage content and uses that should righly be free. That's not modernization.

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