Election Answers

For the past two weeks, I have featured columns focusing on law and technology issues within the context of the upcoming election.  Last week I focused on the Liberal record during its minority government and this week I posed "big picture" issues that need answering.

I got my first answer yesterday with a letter to the editor from Toronto-area MP Sam Bulte, a leading MP on the copyright file and a strong contender for the Minister of Canadian Heritage position should the Liberals return to power without Liza Frulla.  

Bulte chose to focus on copyright reform, touting Bill C-60 as embodying balanced reform.  She argued that:

"This government is committed to digital copyright reform because it will increase the access of everyday Canadians to our cultural products by encouraging new business models that allow widespread distribution of our songs, our stories and our products of the mind. It will reward creators and encourage cultural production, and it will address the imbalance that exists in the digital realm, where creators are often at the mercy of widespread intellectual property theft."

In addition to the points raised the excellent letter in response from a Torontonian named Chris Smith, note that Bulte frames copyright reform as seeking to address an imbalance – in her view, insufficient protection for creators – with the solution that they obtain greater protection, while users obtain access to new business models based on technological protection measures. 

I view this as a clear acknowledgement that Bill C-60 is not balanced.  Bulte believes we are starting from a position of imbalance in which creators need greater protection (and users somehow need more business models based on TPMs).  For Bulte, the balance is therefore achieved by tilting copyright law back toward creators through greater protections.  While I would argue that copyright is already tilted toward creators, this confirms what many in the user community have been arguing since the bill was introduced – Bill C-60 is about meeting the interests of one side of the copyright balance.

Moreover, Bulte' s vision of what creators want is at odds with the creators themselves.  If artists are so anxious for these technologies, why are they now apologizing to their fans for their label' s use of copy-controls?  Why did they start replacing store-bought CDs even before the rootkit story broke?  Why is Sony rushing to replace the products of a new business model that just happen to pose a privacy and security risk? 

In this election campaign, what is Sam Bulte's answer to these questions and her view of the Sony rootkit controversy? The reality is that artists are moving as fast as possible away from the very protections that Bulte claims they are seeking.  Of course, there is one group that wants to use such protections to effectively create a wedge between creators and users.  That group, whose multinational members are only responsible for ten percent of Canadian releases each year, is the same one that coined the phrase "products of the mind", which Bulte chose to emphasize in her letter.

One Comment

  1. Liberal Party Contempt for the People…
    ..will merely cause people to disregard the foolish laws they make. Go ahead make copyrights eternal, I’ll get my culture on the black market or do without.

    The long copyright periods might make sense if there was a mandatory licensing scheme such that you get exclusive rights for 10 years after which ANYONE can republish by paying a fixed royalty (say 20% of the original license fee)half to the author and half to the original licensee that would be reduced by half each subsequent decade.

    The idea that allowing creative works to get lost to the public because a rights holder is holding them for ransom is not in the publics interest.

    It is hard to believe that anyone thinks the Liberal party cares about them. Now that the parties are on the government payroll ($1.75/vote) it is time to force them to open up their proceedings and records to the public.