In Praise of Copying

The National Post has an interesting article on the benefits of copying and the concerns associated with Bill C-32.  The article includes a discussion of York University’s Marcus Boon’s book on copying (available for free download) and Ian Kerr’s exceptional article on digital locks in From “Radical Extremism” to “Balanced Copyright”: Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda.


  1. Interesting read. It actually seems to be a pretty balanced article pointing out that the world is changing and that content producers may need to find new ways to do their work. At the same time it does a good job of showing the concerns that the content producers have in that they are not sure what the future will look like and how they’ll get paid.

    Personal opinion, the genie is already out of the bottle, trying to put it back at this point will probably not work. Once someone has a file on their computer, no matter what the digital locks are on it, they can copy that file as many times as they want. And software to break the digital locks, whether made illegal or not, will always exist. I can understand the problem that content producers have because they are being told the world is changing, they can see it happening, but no one has any ideas on how to adjust. So some, rather than trying to, are trying to legislate their old business models and lock the consumer down as much as possible.

  2. A new deal ..
    No one likes change, especially when it involves your livelihood. But as Chris said, it’s already here. Today’s young generation, the ones who have grown up in the last decade, have a different perspective on the world than those who formulated the current copyright regime. I only have to look at old dinosaurs like Gene Simmons who ranted, “We should have sued all those pimple faced brats off the face of the earth”, then packed up his bags and said he’s goin’ home. He doesn’t get it, I think those exec incumbents in the media industry might get it but just don’t want to accept it.

    Copyright has changed drastically over the last century, becoming more and more beneficial to the creator. Not that creators do not need compensation or protections for their work, but the balance got tipped too much in their favor and with the advent of digital technology the means to tip it back fell into the hands of the public. This happened with such relative speed that the management and legislative side of the business was really caught with their pants down, and when your back is to the wall, you lash out.

    The unfortunate result was a ‘war’ between the industry and consumers with rhetoric that would make Kim Jong-il envious. The media industry’s struggle to remain relevant embittered the very people they were trying to retain as customers. Now, the generation who are moving into their prime spending demographic, have grown up to disrespect an industry that just seems to be out to get them.

    This is not a healthy situation for either side and can only get worse unless cooler heads prevail. It seems obvious that new solutions are needed and a change that is ‘out of the box’ in regards to the old business models is necessary. This will not be easy, or pleasant, for many involved in the current business infrastructure, but should lead to new opportunities and most likely a better deal for creators in the long run.

  3. @Crockett: agreed, this is unhealthy for both sides currently. The change in technology has not been accompanied by a corresponding change in society; the concept of get what you can (to me a variation on “greed is good”), even at the expense of others, pervades.

    What many tend to forget is that with rights comes responsibilities; some of which are not self-evident. At the very least the responsibility to not abuse the rights of others in the exercise of your own rights is being forgotten. The increase in the use of DRM and the desire to provide legal protections against any attempt to defeat DRM is an example; on the other hand so is the tendency to copy copyrighted works for others, or to make them available to others. Is C-32, as it sits, a fair balance? Most, on both sides, appear to say no. Is it a starting place for discussions? Yes. Some would say no to that; those are the ones that say my way or the highway (from what I’ve seen).

    On the other hand, with responsibilities comes rights. There has to be a trade-off. In the west people, across the political spectrum, are willing to impose responsibilities on others without giving them any rights to offset the responsibilities. The worst scenario I’ve seen is holding someone responsible for something going wrong but not giving them the right to take action to prevent that outcome.

  4. Un-Trusted Computing says:

    @Anon-K and Crockett

    I appreciate the sane discourse going on here today, considering the subject matter. 🙂

    That being said, although C-32 is a good starting point for discussion; there’s always the risk that an arrangement will not be reached and both sides will simply continue to behave in the way they previously did before C-32 came into play.

    eg: Infringers continue infringing anonymously; and IP holders keep pushing for harsher “protections”

    In the end we may end up exactly where we are today; which would be a disappointment for all parties.

  5. The problem as I see it is that the industry dragged their feet for WAY too long before attempting to do anything about it. It’s become a cultural thing in our teen to young adult population where many of them have no memory of how it used to be before Napster first appeared. All they’ve ever know about how the Internet works is how it is now.

    What the industry is trying to do with C-32 can be likened to cutting a heroin addict off cold turkey. There will be a great deal of pain and resentment and the slightest sniff will be enough to get them using again. C-32 does nothing to foster a feeling of respect and as such can do nothing else than ultimately fail in it’s current form. In reality, file sharing and the Internet in general as become so ingrained in society that no amount of legislation will stop it. The more draconian the laws get, the more advanced and underground the utilities will get. People will always…ALWAYS find a way.

    What they need to do is think in the “now” and educate todays youth about these issues. They also need to think in the long term: build and foster respect among those currently pirating. When those currently pirating are out in the real work force making real money, if that respect is there, most will then resort to buying their content…because it’s easier. Unfortunately for the industry, they WILL have to change their business model and lower expectations if they want to survive this long. Their profit margines CANNOT be maintained under their current business model. In the short term I don’t think there’s a lot the industry can do other than change their thinking. If they try to ram this down people’s throats with draconian laws they’ll garner little respect and I think they’ll seriously damage their long term prospects.

  6. Un-Trusted Computing says:

    “When those currently pirating are out in the real work force making real money, if that respect is there, most will then resort to buying their content…because it’s easier.”

    Why says those pirating media aren’t in the workforce already?

    The industry has to address several issues with pirating of which price point is only one.

    Other issues they need to address beyond price are:

    -Standard DRM
    -Geo Blocking
    -Region Coding
    -Staggered Release dates
    -Misc product access issues (eg: how I get a tv show from “X” country that wouldn’t be profitable enough to release here on a large scale without committing copyright infringement)

    In a nutshell, most people I know that participate in infringing downloads do so because they can’t get the product in Canada, or it’s downright difficult to get the product in a useable form in Canada.

    Entertainment pricing isn’t a major issue, even if said prices are grossly inflated.

  7. @Un-Trusted Computing
    “Why says those pirating media aren’t in the workforce already?”

    My appologies, I was simply generalizing as I suspect a majority of the infringement will fall in to the afore mentioned demographic…especially for music.

    “In a nutshell, most people I know that participate in infringing downloads do so because they can’t get the product in Canada, or it’s downright difficult to get the product in a useable form in Canada.”

    This is about where I sit with a lot of the foreign stuff and horror I like.

    They can muddy the water all they want, but currently if it’s not availbale in Canada and has not officially been released here in a particular form or for certain amount of time then, under the Berne Convention, copies, and even selling copies is not considered illegal. This is how services like Video Screams and the former Blackest Heart Media operate(d) and is still one of the only ways to attain uncensored copies of many movies…or copies at all for that matter. For many years, before downloading became popular, it was the only way to get an uncensored copy of “Last House on the Left”, the original theatrical version of “Blade Runner”, the 3-hour version of “Dune”, and many Lucio Fulci movies. Much of this has since been released, but there is so much forgotten media out there, it’s a shame.