Why Copyright?: Canadian Voices on Copyright Law

One year ago today, I launched the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group.  The past twelve months have seen thousands of Canadians speak out on copyright reform with the issue capturing political and public attention as never before.   Today, I am delighted to post a Why Copyright? Canadian Voices on Copyright Law, a 47 minute documentary film that examines why copyright has emerged as such as an important issue in Canada. The film, which I produced together with Daniel Albahary, features a wide range of Canadian voices – artists like Gordon Duggan of Appropriation Art; writers like award winning science fiction author Karl Schroeder; musicians like Wide Mouth Mason's Safwan Javed; business people like Nettwerk Record's Terry McBride,'s Bob Young, and Skylink Technologies' Philip Tsui; government appointees like Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart and Ian E. Wilson, the Chief Librarian of Canada; and many, many more.

The film is available in multiple ways at newly designed page located at  In addition to the version posted on that is embedded below, there is an annotated version on Youtube, a version open to sub-titling at Dot-Sub, and a full DVD version available for download using BitTorrent.  Forty-seven minutes is a long time to invest in a film of this kind, but I'm hopeful that people will find the perspectives interesting and that they may decide to lend their voice as well – by remixing the film (it is creative commons licensed), adding their voice by posting a video response at YouTube, or by speaking out for fair copyright in Canada.


  1. ya know an xvid would have been smaller and thus quicker to get…….
    heck make it a h264.avc.mp4 and it be real small a full movie can be around 350-400 meg , a 47 minute as small as 200 meg

  2. A fantastic video with some surprising insights – ramifications I had not even thought of when I first heard about this legislation a year ago. Not only from a software engineering standpoint but also things like Librarians being able to do their jobs.

    I think the inherent problem with these kinds of measures – putting limits on what people can do, etc. – is that somehow you’re going to have to be able to track these people. To know if they’re breaking the law, let alone be able to enforce it.

  3. now go ask some 6 year olds what they think. As to my opinion on TPM it should be severly limited period.

    Like the one guy said that teh anti circumvention may be so braod as to actually fall under provincial jurisdiction due to the “lock” idea of your home.

    And i think we have pretty tight laws on people breaking into my home.

    So why is it needed, use the p2p as adevrtising and wide mouth mason can then go on tour and sell tshirts to make up for it…..

  4. 6 = 16 year olds “1” is messed LOL

  5. I’m a 16-year old, and I can’t watch it now because I’m at school, but once I’m home I will watch this thing and likely put my own speech up somewhere. I feel strongly about copyright, and, unlike a lot of people (probably not those in this video), I have taken the time to think things through.

    Even though I haven’t actually done anything to help yet (I don’t have a Facebook account, so I didn’t subscribe there), I would like to thank Dr. Geist for standing up for Canadian rights everywhere – it’s nice to know that the people aren’t being forgotten.

  6. Excellent Video
    I thoroughly enjoyed the video. Though it was one-sided for the most part, I happen to agree with that side and found the arguments and examples given by the interviewees to be intelligent and well spoken.

  7. One-sided, but the “other” side isn’t even Canadian!
    Other side is multinational corporations giving benefits to the few at the expense of everyone else.

    replace clement with

    Charlie angus and really peeve them neo cons off

  9. I want to Remix this so that my wife will watch it!
    I don’t mean to rain on the parade, but my first reactions to the film were not stellar. I greatly admire Professor Geist and I think that his message is one of vital importance, not just to Canadians, but to every nation in danger of having an unjustly Draconian Copyright paradigm imposed upon them.

    However, if we’re looking for a film to help the issue of Copyright Reform gain its much-needed penetration into the public awareness, then this film in its current form is not it. I am in no way ungrateful for the amount of work that the filmmakers put into making this video, nor do I deny the value of the information contained within it, but I think that it will only resonate with people who are already for the cause. I was unable to persuade my wife to view the film with me last night, and as I watched it I became glad of my inability to do so, because I am certain that she would not have found it compelling and therefore not engaging.

    I would personally be interested in getting involved in a project to remix this film into a more accessible “Cole’s Notes” version, whose main aim would be to be more attention-grabbing for the general public, hopefully motivating them to seek out the more detailed and nuanced treatment that is provided by interviews in the full version. Can someone please help me set up a wiki for scripting the edits and additional voice-overs required to condense the film in such a way? (My ISP doesn’t provide me with webspace, so I haven’t played around with web-authoring since the early days of Web 1.0.)

    Has anyone (the filmmakers?) made a transcript available of the film yet? That would obviously facilitate this effort (as well as the efforts of anyone wanting to participate over at dotSUB).

  10. Corporate responsibilities??
    Great documentary!! However, the lacking issue in the video and in this whole copyright fight is the corporate responsibilities. Where and what are the corporate responsibilities in copyright? The entertainment cartels always whine about their customers’ copyright responsibilities, thus, we keep seeing and hearing about unsanctioned distribution on the net. Contrarily, we don’t see or hear much, if anything, about the cartels’ copyright responsibilities. As a result, everyone (public and cartels) is focusing their attention at the publics’ copyright responsibilities, while ignoring the cartels’ responsibilities to the public.

    The current trend of copyright laws is to shift responsibilities from the cartels to the public, and eventually free the cartels of all responsibilities. We need to realize the cartels’ responsibilities and hold them accountable, or give them responsibilities where they have none. It seems nobody at Sony went to jail for the rootkit fiasco…

  11. The above comic…
    …perfectly summarizes the debate about DRMs.

  12. cant touch this. says:

    I thought many canadians were against the DMCA draconian copyright laws.
    Why is this film hosted in the US?
    Excellent film though. Cheers for making it available creative commons as well.

  13. minor technical point
    I think the youtube version is 10 percent too wide/too short.

  14. Technical comment
    Always de-interlace the video when transferring to online formats to avoid horizontal lines (interlacing artifacts).

    (Michael, we’re just across the McKenzie bridge from UOttawa and would be happy to help out with any future post production — Cheers, mortolan at nac – cna dot ca)

  15. A word from your friend across the Great Lakes
    I just wanted to say that after watching this today, I may have to move to Canada (if it weren’t so cold =P).
    I have a computer science background and I’m currently the CIO for a small company in Kentucky. DRM has been bothering me since its inception! I wasn’t aware of the Canadian debate regarding copyright law until I saw the headline on Ars this morning, but I’m extremely glad you guys aren’t basing your new legislation off of the United States!

    “Don’t use a mold with a crack in it” as they say…

    I hope Open Source takes the world by storm. I’d much rather profit off wide-ranging fan appreciation and support than off the actual product itself. I truly believe that it is better to get widespread adoption/acceptance of an innovation with smaller profits per user, than attempting to squeeze as many dollars out of the few adopters “stuck” with a product based on a proprietary product.

    The products are better, the consumers are happier, and the business is more profitable because of the former two conditions!

    Keep up the good work!

  16. Should have only made it available via Torrent, if only to make a point
    I recognize that having a wide viewing audience for this production is important but so is the issue of ISP throttling.

    Having Bell/Rogers et. al. throttle content pertaining to legitimate copyright discussion, especially when there are moves afoot to force ISP’s to censor content or require users to pay mandatory content licensing fees (like the RIAA is looking to do with US colleges for audio recordings) would accelerate the debate.

  17. Brampton, Ontario
    Well done. I’m glad someone is looking out for the interests of everyday Canadians and not getting in bed with big media to screw the lot of us.

  18. Great job. If our law makers don’t innovate around this critical area of legislation – non compliance will force it into obsolescence. What needs to be said, and the video touched on this briefly, is these laws are meant to protect business not artists. We all know the entertainment industry is getting desperate and clinging to outdate business models. They will lobby as much as they can afford to protect what they have. This is not law for the people.