National Post Joins the Copyright Debate

The National Post devotes its entire masthead editorial today to the copyright debate.  The piece is critical of the U.S. DMCA, describing it as a "disaster" and warning against the "incredible absurdities" created by anti-circumvention legislation.  It adds:

For Canada to introduce DMCA-style legislation now would do nothing but encourage nuisance lawsuits. There is nothing wrong with tough rules against copyright infringement, but criminalizing behaviour that might facilitate copyright infringement only incidentally is the wrong approach. If that road had been taken when household videotape machines came onto the market – and the movie industry tried very hard in the courts to steer the law in that direction – no one would be allowed to own a VCR.

The editorial concludes by calling on Industry Minister Jim Prentice to heed the likely public backlash by avoiding a Canadian DMCA and reconsidering its planned approach:

Mr. Prentice has been combatting these arguments by insisting that no more public consultation on copyright reform is needed, even though the last round was in 2001. He has also claimed that the Canadian business community has been strongly encouraging him in private to adopt a DMCA-type approach, but a new Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright appeared last week, revealing – to no one's surprise – that major telcos, ISPs, broadcasters and retailers are all against it. It would be a shame if full WIPO compliance had to wait while the government reconsidered the implications of a new technological environment and a newly IP-aware public. But it would be a bigger shame if Mr. Prentice needlessly made political enemies of technology consumers and imperiled a Conservative government's electability for the sake of fast action.


  1. The solution is simple, then. Outlaw anti-circumvention for infringing activity only, and impose massive penalties on those who do infringe. That should work for content owners, people who are doing legitimate things with copyright material, and the business sector.

  2. What does it mean “massive penalties”? When you will understand that in a “civil” society penalties must be proportionate to the offense. They must be “just” as in justice. For example in china they have executed an entrepreneur who was selling overpriced ants. Would it be that a good example of a “massive penalty”?

  3. Scotty
    I tried to get a position from the Liberal Party on fair copyright and of coz they were very silent on the issue. The only party that supports a Fair Copyright bill is the Green Party. Conservatives and Liberals are the same and I see no difference between both of them. So my vote will go to the Green party next election!

  4. Crosbie Fitch says:

    Copyright is not fair. It suspends everyone’s artistic freedom in order to provide a commercially lucrative monopoly to publishers.

    Monopolies are not fair – this is why no market is called fair in which monopolies are permitted.

    Abolish copyright if you want to restore fairness in the market for art.

    No liberal worthy of the term can support copyright’s suspension of the people’s liberty to freely share and build upon public culture.

  5. If it’s illegal to steal bread then I’m not sure why it should be OK to steal what someone has written

  6. Crosbie Fitch says:

    Thou shalt not steal
    Private property deserves as much protection from theft whether it is of an intellectual or material nature. Indeed, a mere loaf may be replaced once stolen, but the theft of one’s written word may be impossible to undo.

    I see no reason to be unsure. It is generally not ok to steal what someone has written (except perhaps to preserve life).

    Intellectual property rights are extremely important to protect. This is why their partial suspension by copyright is so unethical, let alone unfair – no matter that it provides such a valuable benefit to publishers.

    We have as much right to enjoy our full property rights to the words we purchase as the bread we buy. Whether to bake a similar loaf, or to write a better story.

  7. Sharing or stealing?
    It is really sick to see that there are people which still are using the “stealing” stereotype for something that it is not stealing neither by the law which it calls it “copyright infringement”. Intellectual property (or better “Imaginary” property) is not something concrete as a loaf of bread and for that very reason is called “intellectual”.

    > While the supply of material resources is limited by nature, the supply of an immaterial good is unlimited and something that is in unlimited supply can’t be stolen.

    > Simplistic statements that infringement is ‘just like’ stealing a CD, or using a room in my house, are wrong. They are also counterproductive, because people instinctively know they are wrong, and so they are likely to ignore histrionics of this sort.

    The social ubiquitous phenomena of “sharing” in which are engaged millions and millions of people worldwide cannot be dismissed simply by calling it “stealing”. It is a very complex phenomena that only an idiot could compare to stealing a loaf of bread.

    File “sharing” or “stealing”? [ link ]

  8. Crosbie Fitch says:

    One can steal IP
    ummagumma, just because something of extreme value may be reproduced very cheaply doesn’t mean it’s ok to steal it – or even ok to steal a copy of it (e.g. a spy stealing photos of missile designs).

    The problem we’re facing today is that publishers are trying to kid people that they still own their intellectual property even after they’ve sold it to members of the public. This is of course ridiculous. Just as you may buy a recipe book and improve upon the recipes, sharing and copying these among your friends, so you should also be able to share and/or improve upon any form of art that you purchase – after all, it’s your property.

    The thing interfering with our cultural exchange is a wholly unethical agreement made shortly after the advent of printing (on publishers’ behalf but with the state’s interest) to control printing such that each work would automatically enjoy a legally protected privilege of exclusive reproduction.

    It is this anachronistic monopoly being blown out of the water by the instantaneous diffusion device known as The Internet that inspires publishers and their supporters to abuse such words as ‘steal’ when ‘ignore our anachronistic monopoly’ would be more accurate.

    If we were to permit laxity in the definition of stealing, then it is the publishers who are stealing the public’s aeons old right to free and unfettered cultural exchange – from cave paintings to computer software.

  9. As I see it, there are a number of competing issues involved here (for IP), each one trying to rise to the top.

    1) Commercial infringement. By this I mean making unauthorized copies and selling them. I believe this is already illegal.

    2) Personal copies. Making a copy for you own use. This would include backup media, and personal format shifting. Covered, in Canada, by the private copying levy. In addition, I would also cover here things which have DRM issues.

    3) Making the copyrighted material available for free. This can be on the internet via downloads, at a library, or leaving a newspaper lying around.

    4) Acquiring the material from 3). I differentiate this because, especially in the case of internet downloads, you don’t actually KNOW what is in the download until after you acquire it. All you know is what is advertised. For instance, I often go to the Symantec web site to download the latest anti-virus definitions. Do I know it is definitions until such time as I try to apply them? Another example of this is that a number of years ago the RIAA seeded a number of the file sharing networks with bogus work, with it being listed as a song by an artist, when in fact, from my understanding, it was a recording of someone at the RIAA talking about the evils of downloading music.

    In the case of 4) this may, or may not be considered stealing. Some in the industry consider this stealing, however it can also be a form of free advertising for them. Major grey area.

    Even 3) has an attached grey area… Is it stealing if the rights owner is not selling the product? For instance, an album that is out of print. Since the publisher has decided not to print any more copies, they have decided to stop making money from it. So, are they out anything if the album is made available on the internet for download?

  10. Crosbie Fitch says:

    The nature of IP
    Removal of intellectual property (or reproductions thereof) from someone’s private domain can be considered stealing or theft if the property owner did not permit it (neither authorised nor made available).

    The owner of intellectual property is its producer or, if sold, its most recent purchaser.

    Making copies without permission from the owner, whether you distribute/sell them or not, should of course be illegal. If you have purchased an original artwork or authorised copy, then you as the property owner can naturally authorise further copies or derivatives and sell these. Currently, this natural property right is suspended by copyright (restored upon abolition).

    The owner of an artwork is free to choose the manner in which they use or dispose of their property, whether to abandon it, give it away, or exchange it in a market.

    As long as the property was legitimately obtained, then its recipients are legitimate owners.

    So, if you purchase a CD you have a natural right to produce as many copies as you wish, whether to sell or give away. Copyright suspends this natural right.

    By making copies of your own property, one may be said to infringe copyright, or to be ignoring a publisher’s privilege of exclusive reproduction, but one cannot be said to be stealing since no property is being removed from anyone – unless perhaps you’d like to believe that all copies magically become the property of the copyright holder.

    Trying to fix copyright so it can also work in the digital domain, is like trying to fix a dragon so it can also fly underwater. As a miserably misanthropic beast of recent mythology it’s doubtful whether its manmade musculature could ever fly it properly above water let alone beneath, even if its fiery breath could scorch many a buccaneer’s sails. Now, submerged in a vast and bottomless ocean of continuous infringement, tales of smoky bubbles rising from the dragon drowning in the deep may yet frighten small children.

    Thus copyright passes into folklore, and the natural law returns to restore our culture to its rightful owners.

  11. Crosbie – you have to get on the Fair Copyright for Canada (facebook group) discussion boards and go back and forth with this John Degen guy. It will be an illuminating discussion, and plenty of fun.

  12. Crosbie Fitch says:

    Thanks for the recommendation Hank.

    As they say, the harder stone stays sharp the stronger sword, so if this John Degen guy is hard enough, it’s possible my edge might benefit in a bit of ‘back and forth’ as you put it. 😉

    However, though it might seem otherwise, I’m not on a mission to convert or subjugate the world to my way of thinking, but to find a solution to the problem of rewarding digital artists in a world where copyright is ineffective, and as I have discovered, unethical.

    I seek enlightenment, not argument. The latter is only too easy to find.

  13. Concrete vs Imaginary
    > If it’s illegal to steal bread…

    If you didn’t notice yet all this debate is about copying and not stealing. Since bread is not copyrighted (thanks God) you can copy it as many times as you want (mixing together some water, flower and yeast). Furthermore with the loaf you bought you can do whatever you want EVEN share it with whoever you want.

    While it is fairly easy to define property for a concrete item it is not so easy for a property which is “Invented” or “Imaginary”. With the IP stratagem you (usually a publisher) are selling me a copy of something demanding in return that I do not do the same (i.e. copying it) in order to retain the monopoly of its distribution. On the other hand as somebody already stated “distribution” is a void concept in the digital realm. Internet per se is a super-distribution system where as soon as something is put on the net it becomes visible and accessible worldwide. Read Kevin Kelly’s interesting article “Better then free”: [ link ]