The first of two town hall meetings as part of the copyright consultation was held in Montreal this afternoon. The discussion featured a wide range of views with several music representatives calling for tougher laws and other participants voicing support for greater flexibility. In many ways, the town hall demonstrated that the Quebec perspective on copyright reform is very similar to the rest of the country.
Video of the town hall has already been posted online by a third party. There was also active live tweeting under the #copycon tag. Below is a summary from University of Ottawa student Frances Munn.
Montreal Town Hall
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Format: Participants were given around three minutes to make their points. Speakers were encouraged to engage with each other and raise counter points. Participants who were watching online were also able to submit comments. Language was bilingual with live translation.
Overall: Speakers expressed a broad range of viewpoints and opinions. Most industry leaders and representatives of musicians and artists were strongly in favour of copyright protection. Some industries, however, like the Songwriters Association favoured legalizing file-sharing and instituting a monthly levy to compensate artists. A number of student organizations argued for research and education exemptions. Other citizens brought up the legitimate need for circumvention devices and an expansion for fair dealing. One participant urged the government to abolish copyright altogether.
- A representative of the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education pointed out that the learning environment is no longer confined to a “closed classroom.” She argued that students who do not sit in classrooms, such as students who are homeschooled or students in prisons or hospitals, should have the same access to materials as people who learn in school.
- An online participant from Toronto argued that accessing free online materials was theft. Further, without adequate compensation for creators, Canada would lose investment and IP.
- A participant pointed out that there was no judicial oversight for takedown notices.
- Another participant argued that authors and actors perform a public service by contributing to culture and they deserve to be paid a living wage.
- An online participant argued that there was a growing consensus that bans on circumvention devices should only apply to infringing activities.
- Another participant pointed out that the government is attempting to create a law that is technologically neutral, but that today’s technology is very different and that the music industry has been hardest hit. Further, the participant argued that people who demand “free access” are confusing access to information (e.g. travel information) with access to a market for entertainment goods.
- A Concordia librarian pushed for an open definition for copyright and fair use as well as an end to Crown Copyright.
- A representative for the Songwriters Association of Canada advocated a system where ISPs charge a low service fee for file-sharing on. The system would be opt in or opt out with people acting on their honour. They argued consumers would decide it is worth the extra money to have clean files and avoid unpleasant ads currently found on file-sharing sites.
- A student argued that it is impossible to stop downloading without sacrificing freedoms and further argued that people who download music are also more likely to buy it. He suggested instituting a system of monthly levies.
- The VP External of the McGill Graduate Student Society addressed the need for relaxed regulations and open access for research. They also argued for “new models” because of the impossibility of stopping P2P.
- An online participant from Toronto in the music business argued that copyright laws are needed to protect the jobs of the “regular working person” who supports artists.
- A software engineer argued that copying and sharing a song is not “theft” like stealing a TV set because sharing a song does not mean taking an item from somebody else nor does it violate their privacy. Further, he urged the Minister against “blindly” following in the footsteps of the American DMCA and criminalizing everyone who uses P2P.
- A representative of Astral media said that under the current system, radio broadcasters like Astral have to make as many as eleven payments to different groups if they want to use a song on a multi-platform environment. The representative recommended a system where broadcasters only have to make one payment for content.
- A participant introduced himself on the side of anti-copyright. He pointed to a case in the United States where a woman is being sued millions of dollars for eight songs. He argued against importing this system to Canada where all young people would suddenly become criminals. He also argued that sites that point to illegal content, such as Pirate Bay, should not be in itself illegal because they perform a similar function as Google.
- A singer/songwriter argued that downloading is now a new form of access, but that it has to be managed.
- A representative of Canadian Film Composers argued that they make their income off copyright and are not middle-class “fat cats.” He argued that the Internet is a “game changer” that has altered people’s habits, and that the challenge is to find a way to legalize what people are now doing naturally. He pointed to an example at McGill where the administration attempted to institute bandwidth caps to save money, and students said they were willing to pay extra fees to have more bandwidth. In other words, people are willing to pay money for access.
- A representative of students at University of Montreal argued that students needed exemptions for research and education.
- A participant argued against enacting a law that criminalizes a behaviour that is impossible to stop. Further, the speaker said that regulating the Internet hinders the “freedom” of the Internet and that the government should support a free market system.
- A content creator urged the government not to protect dying business models with outdated monetization strategies.
- A representative of a Quebec student organization urged a balance, arguing that it was essential that students have access but that students also needed protection for their own content.
- A software professional/consumer pointed out that restrictive locks are not always used to protect commercial interests. For instance, DVDs are often locked so that they can only work in one region.
- Daniel Drapeau, President of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network and an IP lawyer, pointed out that it was difficult for him to pursue claims under the current Copyright Act. He urged the government to adopt a system of notice-and-takedown.
- An independent writer argued that creators should be distinguished from distributers and producers under the Copyright Act because commercial endeavours do not need the same protections that creators need. For instance, she said that copyright creators need a long copyright term to make a livelihood, but commercial interests do not need more than 20 years.
- A participant addressed anti-circumvention, arguing that some DRM technology prevents consumers from exercising their rights. For instance, some DRM programs stop games from working if it detects two DVD burners on the computer because it assumes the user is a hacker.
- A participant representing photographers addressed one of the popular copyright “myths.” He argued that while you can do what you want with a physical object like a TV set, you cannot copy it. He went on to argue that young people asking for free copyright will want to profit off their own works in 10 or 20 years.
- A representative of the Union des consommateurs argued against restricting the public domain and pointed to an innovative judgment in Spain where a judge said that punishing downloading meant punishing an accepted practice.
- The VP External of the Concordia Student Union made three points. First, he asked for an open ended definition of “fair dealing.” Secondly, he wanted an updated education provision to reflect digitization so that copyright protection would not, for example, hinder online courses. Thirdly, he asked for exemptions for academic institutions.
- A physics teacher at John Abbott College opposed DMCA takedown notices because they lack judicial overview and can be abused to limit free speech. He was also worried about privacy infringements when ISPs are charged with looking at what people are doing. He called it a “chilling prospect” if it is done without a court order.
- A retired historian pointed out that any changes made to copyright would hurt the disadvantaged. He argued that the Act would be used to protect the rich rather than “humanity” as a whole.