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.