News

Entwistle on Copyright

I have been remiss in not calling attention to a speech last week to the Chamber of Commerce from Telus CEO Darren Entwistle.  While competitors such as Bell and Rogers stay silent on the sidelines, Telus is emerging as a leading industry voice for a copyright policy that encourages innovation, compensation for artists, and full respect for consumer rights.  It is not everyday that the CEO of a major Canadian company says "lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is time to update our copyright regime" and then proceeds to outline a vision that focuses on robust fair use rather than dangerous anti-circumvention legislation.

Given their importance, Entwistle's copyright comments merit a full quote:
The current legislation was originally created to fairly balance the interests of creators and consumers.

Today, it is perversely dampening the opportunities for both.  

Ipods, mobile phones and other, new, devices are being used by more and more Canadians to play downloaded content – a trend that will only grow.  In turn, this provides artists with new platforms to showcase their work.   Yet legal uncertainty threatens to undermine these opportunities.

How much of a concern is it? 

Those who download content on one platform – say their laptop – and then export it to another platform such as their nano or mobile phone would be justified in wondering if they have broken the law. 

Everyone agrees that artists deserve fair compensation for their work.  There is something wrong however, if you are potentially in breach of copyright law every time you digitally record an episode of Trailer Park Boys. 

The law permits us to copy music to cassettes but, some would suggest, not necessarily to MP3 players.  How is that for forward looking?

There are those who would argue that you can not even legally transfer CD's you’ve purchased over the counter to your ipod or computer hard drive.

The antiquated nature of the copyright regime is nevertheless painfully obvious.   

Moreover, the ambitions of those who would like to expand services to consumers are stymied by a murky legal landscape. 

The practical result?  Innovation is being held up.

As the Australian government recently noted when announcing reforms in this exact area of the law, and I quote:  'Everyday consumers shouldn't be treated like copyright pirates. . .and copyright pirates should not be treated like every day consumers.'  

I can also assure you that Canadian consumers – particularly younger consumers – want increased freedom in not only their choice of entertainment, but in their choice of platform.

An empowered consumer is one who wants to decide not only what to watch, but how. They also want to decide for themselves as to when.   

For example, new technology would allow viewers to digitally record – and time-shift – their favourite shows using a network based personal video recorder. 

Rather than buying a home unit for hundreds of dollars why not just rent a little space for a few bucks a month on the distributor's server?  Such a move would be more effective, more simple, and more affordable. 

The problem is that uncertainties surrounding copyright laws make the capital investment in such a service simply too risky to venture by distributors, who are not going to build if no one will be allowed to come.  

TELUS therefore, joins with the growing number of copyright creators – and users – in advocating for what we call a 'living' Fair Use model. 

In a nutshell, this model would mean that copyright has to be flexible enough to permit Canadians to use and transfer legally obtained copyrighted materials – like songs and TV programs – from one technology to another. . . from their TV to their PVR, and from their ipod to their mac. 

8 Comments

  1. CEOs… Followers & Leaders
    Not only are Mr. Entwhistle’s points an market/environmental “realilty check” he exemplifies the forward-thinking of a real business leader, one who injects the FUTURE into today’s order of business.

    There are those CEOs – like the heads of the major entertainment cos – who manage within the context of what they know, past successes, and ways of doing things that ensure their market is “maintained”. They plan within the Q and FOLLOW long-established rules (laws) and measures. Entrenched there, and encouraged to follow, it is difficult – if not impossible – (for them) to step out, chart and forecast for LIVE change.

    Then there are CEOs – like Telus’ – who live, breathe & think the FUTURE, and commandeer growth and development to get to there as their mission/daily agenda. This is today’s leader… one who gets up every day asking, “How can I build the business to get to where the market has moved?” This leader has long ago left behind any notion of staying the course and fast and furious corporate success has a positive dose of risk, and often a bit of “F– ‘em” at every turn!

  2. Alexandre Racine says:

    Développement des aff.
    Wow, that is impressive and good!

  3. Hypocrisy
    This from the CEO of a company that sells ring tones for downloading to a TELUS handset, but won\’t allow that ring tone to be transferred to a replacement handset. It is easy for Darren to complain about digital rights, when TELUS just wants to make a buck as a gatekeeper – and not share it.

  4. Russel McOrmond says:

    Transcript of speech?
    I am wondering if a transcript of the speech is available from anywhere. The linked Globe and Mail article is only a reference to other issues discussed at the time, with a small footnote saying, “He also said Canada needs to relax its copyright, broadcasting and advertising laws to bring them in line with the digital world, and later told reporters that Telus would make more capital investments if Canada had less regulation”.

  5. Fair use
    If I buy a CD, DVD, cable service, satellite radio service, etc – then, BOTTOM LINE, I WILL USE THE PRODUCT/SERVICE ANY WAY I LIKE, regardless what laws are currently on the books. It’s hard to grasp, I know, but I PAID FOR IT AND I”M GOING TO USE IT.

  6. Fedge: that’s one of the main problems that the music/movie industries have with many consumers. Yes, you paid for that CD or DVD, but you *do not own it*. What you’re paying for, technically and legally speaking (as far as I know), is only the *right* to listen/view it in a private environment and on the media you purchased the rights to.

    Of course, the companies don’t like to actually *say* that…

  7. Physical Device vs. Use of Said Device
    Isn’t there some case law somewhere on audio cassettes, or VCRs, or woodblock lithographs, that says a retailer can’t be responsible for the use to which a consumer puts a device he owns? Can Telus really disable my ability to make and upload to my phone personalized ringtones? And instead compel me to use their service?

    Can they really do that?

  8. Ceo Orin Inc.
    Given Telus continually cripples end user bandwidth and I can only assume takes part in the bell initiated packet sniffing. I am sure we can expect our pockets to be raped at every turn. Having been a harassed telus customer I can assure you there is no vision of customer satisfaction but squeezing profit from every network packet or signal that hits your house! Verizon, an American corporation similar to Telus, offers 30Mbit fiber connections to your door. It is time the richest Canadian western digital communication provider give its customers infrastructure upgrades to keep us up to date with world standards. For now I have to stick with Shaw communications for my service as they are more customer focused and realize where their revenue actually comes from! Television episodes are released online prior to airing on the west coast. I can download them at 2.3 megs a second with Shaw and enjoy them commercial free before they are even aired here! If you don’t want to provide comparable services at a fair rate we will do it ourselves for free and leave the corporations out of it.