30 Days of DRM – Day 15: Artistic Access (Circumvention Rights)

The copyright lobby frequently characterizes the use of DRM and anti-circumvention legislation as benefiting creators.  Contrary to the rhetoric, however, a growing number of creators actively oppose DRM and the prospect of anti-circumvention legislation.  The Canadian Music Creators Coalition justifiably generated enormous attention last spring when dozens of Canada's leading musicians came together to form a new coalition opposed to suing fans, using DRM, or establishing anti-circumvention legislation.  The Appropriation Art coalition, launched soon afterward, may have less noteriety but they combine to form a powerful voice.  Consisting of more than 600 artists, curators, directors, educators, writers, associations and organizations from the art sector, the coalition features artists that have collectively won dozens of major awards including eight Governor General Awards in Visual and Media Arts. 

Despite these credentials, the group incredibly received little more than a form letter from Bev Oda, the Minister of Canadian Heritage.  Perhaps that is because the Appropriation Arts coalition tells a much different story from the copyright lobby.
As actual artists, their concerns are with a copyright law that provides insufficient "certainty of access." In a public letter to the Ministers, they argued that:

Creators should enjoy the support of the law, and not have to work under conditions of uncertainty. The work we speak of here does not compete with that of its subject, nor does the value of this work derive from the value of its subject. The time has come for the Canadian government to consider replacing fair dealing with a broader defense, such as fair use, that will offer artists the certainty they require to create.

On the matter of anti-circumvention legislation, they believe that:

The law should not outlaw otherwise legal dealings with copyrighted works merely because a digital lock has been used. The artists we represent work with a contemporary palette, using new technology. They work from within popular culture, using material from movies and popular music. Contemporary culture should not be immune to critical commentary.

The current copyright system does not provide thousands of Canadian artists with the rights they need.  There are several potential solutions including an expanded fair dealing right and the addition of a parody user right.  Once the issue is addressed, the certainty of access should not be taken away through anti-circumvention legislation.  Artists require access in analog and digital worlds and therefore a circumvention right of artistic access is needed.


  1. Dwight Williams says:

    A disturbing note
    That form letter from Bev Oda to the artists’ coalition is definitely a disturbing message, particularly in terms of the format she (or her staff) chose to answer them with.

  2. Russell McOrmond says:

    Exact form letter
    I didn\’t read the form letter appropriation art received. Other than the minor changes in wording to \”your constituent\’s concerns\” my member of parliament received the identical letter.