30 Days of DRM: 30 Things You Can Do

Update (December 3, 2007) – I have posted a newly updated version of what you can do in light of the forthcoming Canadian DMCA. The posting includes a YouTube video, a Facebook group, and updated contact information.

Update (November 29/07): With a Canadian DMCA seemingly imminent, the importance of speaking out has never been more important. Some details on the likely new bill can be found here.  I've updated the 30 Things You Can Do to reflect the new Ministers. 

The House of Commons is back in session and, as I promised last month, the 30 Days of DRM project has now concluded.  The postings remain accessible via the 30 Days of DRM page, the wiki, and a new PDF version that incorporates all postings into a single document.

The project generated considerable commentary online and lots of email offline.  The most frequently asked question provides reason for optimism as many people simply asked "what can I do?"  I typically responded that the best starting point was to write to their local Member of Parliament.  Upon reflection, there is more that can be done and to that end, I offer up 30 things you can do about the issues raised by the 30 days of DRM project.

  1. Write to your local Member of Parliament.  Letters (which are better than email) from just a handful of constituents is enough to get the attention of your local MP.  Contact information for all MPs is available here.  Online Rights Canada also provides an easy way to write to your local MP.
  2. Write to the Prime Minister of Canada.  Contact information here.
  3. Write to Bev Oda Josee Verner, the Minister of Canadian Heritage.  Minister Verner is one of the two ministers responsible for copyright policy in Canada.  Prior Canadian Heritage Ministers have been perceived to be close to U.S. copyright lobby groups and copyright collectives.  Ministry contact information hereMinister Oda's contact information here. Minister Verner's contact information is here.
  4. Write to Maxime Bernier, Jim Prentice, the Minister of Industry.  Minister Prentice is responsible for the Copyright Act in Canada.  Despite the fact that Minister Prentice trumpeted his pro-consumer approach on the spectrum auction issue, the rumour mill suggests that he supports DMCA-style reforms. Minister Bernier's contact information here. Minister Prentice's contact information is here.
  5. Ask each political party where it stands on copyright.  Copyright policy could prove to be a divisive issue in the months ahead – ask each political party for their views on the issue.
  6. Write to Canadian Heritage's Copyright Policy Branch.  The Copyright Policy Branch is home to a large contingent of bureaucrats focused on copyright matters.  Contact information here.
  7. Write to Industry Canada's Intellectual Property Policy Directorate.  The IPPD is Industry Canada's counterpart on copyright policy, though it addresses a broader range of IP issues.  Contact information here (scroll to the bottom).
  8. Write to your local Member of Provincial Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly.  There is a strong provincial dimension to copyright reform, particularly given its impact on education, privacy, consumer issues, and property rights. The provinces have remained largely silent on copyright, yet they may be forced to address many of the unintended consequences that arise from federal Copyright Act reform.  Contact information for Ontario MPPs here.
  9. Write to your Provincial Minister of Education.  Earlier this month, I wrote about the troubling advocacy of Canada's Ministers of Education, who are seemingly willing to trade an unnecessary Internet exception for anti-circumvention legislation.  Contact information for Ontario Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne is here. Sandra Pupatello here.  For the other Ministers of Education here.
  10. Write to your local school board. Local school boards can play an important role in the copyright reform process by engaging teachers, parents, and students (witness the recent reaction of several boards to the Captain Copyright issue). Contact information for Ontario school boards here.
  11. Write a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs on Canada's international copyright position. Canada has remained disappointingly silent on important international copyright issues at WIPO (for example, see my recent column on the WIPO Broadcast Treaty).  DFAIT should be standing up for Canadian interests at such international meetings as well as during bi-lateral trade negotiations with the United States. Contact information here.
  12. Write to Library and Archives Canada to ask that it support the preservation of Canadian heritage.  The LAC should be a leading voice against the use of DRM that could lock Canadians out of their own heritage.  It could advocate for DRM-free deposits, reforms to facilitate Canadian digitization programs, and the preservation of all user rights. Contact information here.
  13. Write to the Competition Bureau of Canada.  The combination of DRM and anti-circumvention legislation raises significant marketplace competition concerns.  The Competition Bureau must become engaged on this issue by advocating pro-competitive reforms.  Moreover, it should be investigating cases of alleged abusive use of DRM.  Contact information here.
  14. Write the Office of Consumer Affairs or your provincial consumer protection ministry. The use of DRM raises numerous consumer concerns, potentially requiring specific consumer protection provisions and labeling requirements. The federal OCA can be contacted here.  Provincial contacts here.
  15. Write to your federal or provincial privacy commissioner to ask for their support in protecting your personal privacy against DRM.  Several of Canada's privacy commissioners have publicly called on the government to address the privacy concerns associated with copyright reform, a position which deserves public support.  Privacy commissioner contacts here.
  16. Raise the issue with your local library. The library community has been very engaged on copyright and will undoubtedly be a vocal stakeholder for any future reforms. At the local level, libraries can be encouraged to establish copyright policies that fully support user rights and to educate the local community on important access issues. Ontario public library directory here.
  17. Raise the issue with your local school.  If you are in school or have children currently in school, inquire how the school addresses copyright issues.  Does it take full advantage of user rights? Is it aware of how the education exceptions may be limited by anti-circumvention legislation?
  18. Sign a petition. There are petitions calling on the Canadian government to adopt a balanced approach to copyright here and here.
  19. Add your name to the Online Rights Canada mailing list.  Online Rights Canada is a grassroots advocacy group that brings together EFF and CIPPIC to focus on online rights issues. Mailing list information here.
  20. Buy online DRM-free alternatives. The copyright lobby argues that DRM is a pre-requisite to offering digital content online, yet there are many DRM-free online music services.  For example, eMusic, the largest such service, is now the second largest online music service worldwide.
  21. Support music labels that offer their music without DRM or copy-controls.  This one is easy since virtually every Canadian label does not use copy-control technologies.  The exceptions are the foreign labels represented by CRIA such as Sony BMG.
  22. Ensure that your local retailer will accept returns on DRM'd products. Many retailers sell DRM'd products without altering return policies to account for the fact that the products may not function as expected.  Raise this with your local retailer and encourage them to adopt liberal return policies for DRM'd products.
  23. Ask your ISP what it is doing to stand up for your rights. Canada's Internet service providers play an important role in defending user rights by only disclosing subscriber personal information with a court order, informing subscribers of requests for their personal information, and by lobbying for an expanded fair dealing provision.  Ask your ISP for its policies on these issues.
  24. Participate in a local meeting on copyright. There are a growing number of local "meetup" style meetings that bring together citizens concerned with balanced copyright. If there is a meeting group in your area, go.  If not, get one started.
  25. Support more balanced copyright positions from artists and creator groups.  Many artists and creators are increasingly abandoning policy positions that favour U.S. style reforms and instead embracing a more balanced approach.  If you are a musician, consider joining the CMCC.  If you are an artist, consider joining the Appropriation Art coalition.  If you are a writer, consider pushing for change within Access Copyright.
  26. Use Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons, which adopts a "some rights reserved" approach to copyright provides an exceptional (and exceptionally easy) method of supporting both copyright and access. More information on the Canadian licenses here.
  27. Read license termsDay 30 of the project focused on the increasing use of contract to limit or eliminate user rights.  Until legislation blocks the use of such terms, consumers should proactively read license terms and reject those that unfairly limit their user rights.
  28. Track media coverage of copyright.  Until recently, media coverage on copyright rarely questioned the sound bites from the copyright lobby. That is changing, but Canada's media should be challenged when it fails to do so.  Letters to the editor or a op-eds are a great place to start.
  29. Educate yourself.  The 30 Days of DRM project should be a beginning, not the end.  There are lots of great sources on the implications of copyright reform, many of which are listed on my blogroll.  One useful source is In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law, a book published last year by Irwin Law under a Creative Commons license. The book, which I edited, features contributions from 19 professors from across Canada.  You can also listen to a podcast version of my Hart House lecture from earlier this year which also touched on these issues.
  30. Educate others.  Once you know more about copyright reform issues, tell others.  Educate friends, family, and co-workers.  Copyright impacts us all.

Update: Many people have written to ask for specific advice about letters to their MP.  I am very reluctant to tell anyone what they should say to their elected representative or other groups with a voice on copyright reform.  Rather, my hope is that the 30 Days of DRM series provides some of the background materials needed for people to form their own opinions on the issue.  However, it should be noted that Online Rights Canada's letter writing feature provides some customizable advice on the letter's content.


  1. Need more info
    Could you possibly link to the text of the bill, with maybe excerpts of the sections that you object to? I don’t feel comfortable writing to my MP without doing the research

  2. What bill are you talking about? If you mean the next copyright bill, we will see it once the entertainment industry is finished writing it.

  3. Charming, the idea that a paltry fraction of the population will wield some kind of power.
    Might makes right — The big corp’s have all the gold so they make all the rules. You need a massive mobilization of the population to have any effect.

    Three ways that can motivate the mainstream population:
    1. Exposing a scandal (Most feasible)
    2. Organized media campaign (Impossible without lots of $$)
    3. Exposing American influence (Also feasible)

    1. can be be achieved by pointing out the bribes that Oda has taken from the entertainment industry and the resulting conflict of interest. Even better would be to prove that the bill was written, in whole or in part, by the entertainment industry. This should be particularly shameful for the Conservative government which ran as an ‘accountable’ government.

    3. can be achieved by pointing out that the ‘Canadian’ entertainment industry does not represent Canadians at all and are simply the Canadian arm of the *American* entertainment industry whose goal is to introduce legislation favourable to American industry. This is also embarrassing for the Conservative government, as they are commonly accused as being American lapdogs.

  4. Need more info too
    Saw the link on Boing-Boing, but I’m rather uneducated on this bill. There’s a lot of information on your site, but where do I start? Do you have a link that disects the bill and what is so bad about it? I’m not a fan of DRM, nor do I want to see RIAA or MPAA type lawsuits in Canada, but I need points to argue in my letter. Thanks.

  5. Keeping Checking More Than Just A Bill
    Past experience on this issue suggests that it is just as important, and perhaps more so, to keep tabs on committee minutes and evidence. Much of the real work of Parliament actually happens in committee, and the Bill that arrives in Parliament is often barely rubber-stamped by the Commons. It’s still all done by your elected representatives — but committee hearings tend to be out of site and out of mind.

    Be prepared for a LOT of work to keep up on this issue. Often it seems that by the time a Bill is presented – and sometimes even before committee meetings start – there is a lot of groundwork, reading, and planning has gone on. Challenging the government’s planning only when a Bill is presented is akin to complaining about the destination when you are almost there.

    You may also find that you get referred to your MP’s legislative assistant. That’s ok – that person may be more aware of legislation working its way up than your MP, who in many cases has a ton of public appearances to keep up.

    First thing – figure out who is on what committee. I have found that members sitting on committees are, in many cases, both more knowledgeable and more interested in a substantive discussion on an issue than even your own MP. Don’t hesitate to cross party lines when communicating with committee members – if an issue is going to be a big one, all members of a committee are interested in hearing about it.

  6. Committee checking…
    As an example, check out the following exchange in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Note that this level of detail is in the Evidence, not in the Minutes..

    [ link ]

    *That’s* the level where a lot of stuff happens.

  7. help with legalese
    Ditto on needing help finding this info with my own eyes. I read the actual Bill as best as I could but couldn’t actually find the parts about making your own copies of media etc. I’m just not an expert at legal jargon. I’ll write my MP ( i often do,) but I definitely need too see, read and interpret these changes myself. Can anyone point out where this info is?

  8. As long as the email TO YOUR OWN MP clearly contains a mailing address that is identifiable as being in that Member’s riding, it counts just as much as a dead-tree letter.

  9. Do you have any sample letters? I\’ve sort of just glazed past this hubla when it was happening in the states since I couldn\’t contribute. Now, I\’d like to contribute but I know I’ll just get bogged down to write a letter. I care but I’m real lazy/busy to write a letter.

    I’m not too sure about the contents of the bill either and for the same reasons above, I probably won’t read the text of the bill, let alone understand it.

    Any ideas for a lazy/busy university student who’d like to help out?

  10. Effective communication
    WJM is right. I have worked in a constituency office. An email can be just as effective as a letter, as long as you give your address and write to your own MP/MPP.
    Make it your own words, not a form letter.
    This is a federal matter. The suggestions of sending to your Provincial member and the school boards etc is nonsense. DON’T WRITE TO EVERYONE UNDER THE SUN. Target your message. Make sure you are sending it to the right person for your riding.

  11. Russell McOrmond says:

    Another Sample Letter
    The more time you put into communicating with your MP, the more effective it will be. I have met with my own MP many times, and he is very up-to-date on these issues. If people want to discuss this with a group of people that includes those who are quite engaged with their MPs they might wish to join the Digital Copyright Canada forum. [ link ]

    If you don’t have the time, we do have another sample letter on the Digital Copyright Canada site which you can send.

    [ link ]

    If you log into the system and tell it what electoral district it is in, you can send an email directly from our site to your MP. If you don’t want to log in you can cut-and-past the sample message into your own email program.

  12. my letter
    People can use the text/message in my letter. They can find it at
    [ link ]
    And in html if that’s allowed on this blog.

    Note that I didn’t get a response from my MP or any others CCed. I may not have included my address, but certainly included my phone number. Include your address so they can confirm what constituency you are in.

  13. good ideas
    Dave, “This is a federal matter. The suggestions of sending to your Provincial member and the school boards etc is nonsense.”

    It’s not nonsense. You need to find allies whereever you can, and getting other members of your community interested in petitioning the federal government is an important tactic. There’s only so much one letter can do, and you need to enlist others in the cause to win against the RIAA/CRIA.

  14. I’m an American, and I’d like to tell you that the American people hate this as much as you do. We are finally beginning to make some legal progress against the RIAA down here. It can be done. Please, fight this. Fight with every tactic you can muster. We need to stand together against these people. Thank you.

  15. Cerium Tiger says:

    I am an American in the final stages of a PhD in Business. I have been investigating emigrating to Canada at the end of my program. This could be a deal-killer for me. My skills are in high demand worldwide, and this would put Canada at a disadvantage.

    Granted, I am only one individual, and Canada probably will get along just fine with one less American, but still… It would be a real shame.

    Please, O! Canada, do the right thing and make this evil, evil thing go away.

  16. Anders Chydenius says:

    Dead White Guy
    An anonymous writer above said, \”3. Exposing American influence (Also feasible)\”

    Maybe I can help. I am another American who really hopes that you guys stop this thing.

    \”3. can be achieved by pointing out that the \’Canadian\’ entertainment industry does not represent Canadians at all and are simply the Canadian arm of the *American* entertainment industry whose goal is to introduce legislation favourable to American industry. This is also embarrassing for the Conservative government, as they are commonly accused as being American lapdogs.\”

    OK. So, here goes. Apologies if I offend anyone.

    OK, you silly Canadians. We have you now! Um, bwa-ha-ha. And, like, we\’re gonna make you adopt our laws to protect our companies, and we\’re gonna hold Denny Crane, Pamela Anderson, Bob & Doug McKenzie, and Capt. Kirk hostage, till you do our bidding.

    So, listen up! We\’re America, and we own the world! Um, bwa-ha-ha. And, like, we can do anything we want, and you\’d better pass lots of laws that protect American interests.

    You can quote me.

    I hope that helps.

  17. Russell McOrmond says:

    US readers of this BLOG
    US readers of this article should note that it is not the IFPI/RIAA/CRIA that is the problem, but the USPTO, USTR and US Ambassador. Please write your federal representatives to convince them to direct these US government representatives from pushing laws on Canada which are already highly controversial within the USA, and already causing serious dammage to the US economy (IE: outsourcing manufacturing and real jobs to other countries in return for pledges to increase patent/copyright protectionism that can never replace what was given away).

  18. The Committee this is going to
    The Cabinet COmmittee this bill is being discussed in is the Economic Growth and LOng-Term Prosperity Committee, chaired by his lordship turncoat David Emerson. Find the Committee membership here (scroll down).
    [ link ]

  19. Jan Steinman says:

    Does this mean the price of blank media is going down? Because my understanding was that a portion of the price of blank tapes, CD-ROMs, DVDs, etc. goes directly to the recording industry (and ostensibly, to the artists) to compensate them for consumer copying.

  20. “Does this mean the price of blank media is going down? Because my understanding was that a portion of the price of blank tapes, CD-ROMs, DVDs, etc. goes directly to the recording industry (and ostensibly, to the artists) to compensate them for consumer copying.”

    There is no indication that any such change is planned. It’s called having your cake and eating it too.

  21. Kirk Bannister says:

    the copyright act link
    This is the page for the USA Copyright law

    [ link ]

    And here is the proposed Bill C-61

    [ link ]

    If you read both Laws from the USA and Canada, they are very simular, accept for the wording is different