While the government has yet to post submissions to the copyright consultation, the online discussion forum has been active. University of Ottawa law student Frances Munn will be tracking the discussion and providing regular updates. Her first report, current to the morning of July 22nd and grouped into the five questions, is posted below (note that the number of responses is cumulative).
Copyright and You
How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
Tuesday, July 21 (84 responses)
Many posters were concerned about losing their fair use rights due to more restrictive copyright laws and criminal sanctions, particularly under Bill C-61.
- Educators worried about access to online materials such as Youtube. One discussion debated the balance between free access to materials versus compensating the creators for their work.
- Several consumers worried about ‘licensing’ schemes whereby you can legally buy a CD from a store but still lack a licence to upload it onto your iPod.
- Many Linux users pointed out that they have to use encryption software to play legally purchased CDs and DVDs on their computers which would make them criminals under Bill C-61.
- Others felt that the DMCA laws limited rights such as privacy and free speech.
In addition, some posters were cynical about the power of big American industries, pointing to such things as the use of DRM and automatic patent renewals (i.e. Disney). Many were concerned that Canadian legislators were bowing to the pressures of American interests and designing copyright laws to maintain the profits of big business.
Despite the criticisms directed at C-61, most posters seemed to agree that creators deserved some kind of compensation for their work. One heated discussion began when a poster suggested that there was nothing wrong with copying music files for friends or lending out DVDs. The poster also said that those who could not afford the cost of a CD still had the right to experience arts and culture. The discussion evolved into at what point “stealing” begins and whether posting something online (e.g. photographs) constitutes putting something into the public domain. There was also a debate on whether or not big industries needed more copyright protections.
Wednesday, July 22 (150 responses)
The most recent response asked for a more transparent process at the bill crafting stage. Another poster advocated strongly for fair dealing protection, arguing that there had to be clear guidelines for what constituted fair dealing and what did not. There was also some debate on how long copyright protection should last, with most people agreeing that copyright protection was currently too long.
Test of Time
Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?
Tuesday, July 21 (49 responses)
Many responders criticized the way the question was framed, pointing out that laws should be made to deal with current realties and changed in the future to deal with new technologies. Though posters generally advocated for balancing the rights of creators and consumers, many others pointed out that there was no present need to change the law. In addition, most posters were most concerned with protecting consumers’ rights in the future.
- Several posters pointed out that file sharing over the Internet is a reality and would be almost impossible to stop, making for wasted resources on an unenforceable law.
- Others pointed out that today’s technologies are not all that different from old technologies. Music copying used to occur via cassettes over the radio and videos were used to record missed TV programs. Although it is now faster to download music from the Internet, the practice itself is not a huge change.
- A member of the Pirate Party took issue with the copyright protection of a lifetime of the author plus 70 years. In response, most posters said creators deserved some sort of remuneration, but that 70 years was far too long.
- Other posters argued that “standing the test of time” has meant protecting big media interests at the expense of the public.
- One reply focused on DRM, generating a large amount of discussion. The poster pointed out that companies that use DRM could go out of business “in the future” and leave the buyer with no way of accessing the material. Replies were overwhelmingly against the use of DRM as a means to protect copyright.
Wednesday, July 22 (65 responses)
New responses advocated for a flexible approach to copyright (i.e. not Bill C-61 or the American DMCA). One poster argued in favour of stronger protections for personal use of legally bought material while cracking down on unauthorized copying and distribution.
Innovation and Creativity
What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
Tuesday, July 21 (49 responses)
One of the first posts took issue with the implication that changes were, in fact, necessary in Canada to support creativity and innovation. Many other posters pointed out that stronger copyright laws could hinder innovation rather than foster it. Several people also criticized the government for maintaining a Crown Copyright. There was also a general consensus that the length of copyright should be shortened.
Wednesday, July 22 (79 responses)
One poster began a debate when he advocated for much stronger copyright protection, arguing that the current system of receiving music for free on the Internet would eventually eliminate any incentives to create new products. In response, a poster argued that the business model for music was changing, and that more artists were giving away music for free over the Internet and making money off tours.
Competition and Investment
What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
Tuesday, July 21 (6 responses)
Most responses pointed out that enacting a system with punitive damages only supports and maintains the existing big interests and does little to protect the average Canadian or foster an open market system.
Wednesday, July 22 (No Change)
What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
Tuesday, July 21 (36 responses)
Discussion was divided on this topic. Some posters reacted strongly against Bill C-61, pointing out that it was designed to protect American movie and music interests rather than Canadians. Others pointed out that it is not the current system of copyright that is problematic, but the technologies available that make it easier to get copyrighted material. A few posters argued in favour of strengthening copyright laws to protect all works distributed without the permission of the creator.
- At least one person pointed out that the use of DRM and the lack of easily available and affordable alternatives make pirating attractive.
- One discussion suggested strengthening copyright protection but also instituting penalties for bringing forward frivolous complaints.
- One poster came out strongly in favour of tougher copyright laws, arguing that the “culture of piracy” has to be targeted. In response, several people argued that the “culture of piracy” actually leads to increased sales since consumers go out and buy what they like when they have the means to do so.
- A couple of professional photographers debated whether copyright should cover all work distributed without the creator’s permission or just cases where someone other than the creator profits off the creator’s work.
Wednesday, July 22 (54 responses)
There was little change overnight. One recent response cautioned against the American approach, pointing out that the DMCA has largely targeted individuals for huge sums of money in order to protect a few business interests.