Strombo’s Soapbox: My Take on Bill C-11

Last night I appeared on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight with a short “Soapbox” segment to explain mounting concerns over Bill C-11. The program has posted a video version of my comments on some of the digital lock issues in the bill and the demands for SOPA-style amendments.


  1. CRIA
    LOL In response to this video, CRIA tweets”
    “Are you serious?Quit living in the past & building straw men:CDs have no&will have no TPM.Where in the entire world do CDs have TPM?”

    Perhaps not manufactured anymore, but I know I have CDs with TPMs. Can they guarantee that ALL TPM encumbered CDs are off store shelves? I would be surprised if every CD in HMV and every CD at every second-hand shop was TPM free. It would still be illegal to circumvent these TPMs under C-11. So Geist’s statement stands.

  2. @IamME
    What’s common practice today or yesterday is besides the point and frankly a sneaky distraction from the main issue. What’s more important, and undeniable, is that the industry has MORE incentive to implement TPMs on CDs (and all other media forms) going forward once this legislation is passed.

  3. davegravy touches on an important point… C-11 implicitly gives all rights holders additional incentives to utilize TPM’s even when they did not otherwise do so previously, because of the new legal protections that surround them. This will create an imbalance in the availability of alternative or unprotected works, that the conservatives have said that people will be free to choose to use if they still want to enjoy fair dealing rights on. That “choice” is inherently limited in the first place by such products’ availability, and when the bill creates incentives that are likely to reduce such alternative products’ availability, then it doesn’t take a genius to realize that there’s a pretty big problem with the formulation of this bill. I would sorely love to see the conservative’s response to this point.

  4. Exactly.

    The decision a company makes to release a product with/without TPMs is one of economics: is the cost of implementing TPMs justified by the return in saved “piracy dollars”?

    In the case of CDs today, it’s a resounding NO: The medium does not lend itself to TPMs which are technically or legally effective.

    But if those same TPMs on CDs suddenly become legally effective, the equation, and possibly the result, changes.

    Supporters would argue that if piracy is truly a friend of the entertainment industry (i.e not costing them any money at all) that companies will have it in their best interest to abstain from using TPMs, and will naturally do so. Personally, I haven’t seen any indication that the industry has the capacity for that sort of progressive thinking.

    Monopolies seem to always become set in their ways, turn into dinosaurs, and then die off – but there tends to be a spectacle in the process.

  5. Noone will argue that the Internet plays a crucial role in today’s economy: it facilitates trade of all forms and it will continue to do so. The “digital economy” is completely unaffected by the copyright panic since the digital economy has nothing to do with copyright. People are selling their crafts right now, all over the world, to the largest market this planet has ever known. The digital economy is on solid ground. There is absolutely no reason to give away the Internet to the copyright industry.

    The problem here is trying to sell infromation as if it were simply a phyisical item–as if it were scarce, and could not be copied–as if it were property. It simply isn’t property. While the time you spent on it has value–and I hope you were paid for it–that doesn’t make it property. The real-world analogy worked best when copying was hard, but that fleeting moment is long gone. Now copying dominates. Since time doesn’t run backwards, the property analogy has to go if we expect to retain a free society.

    There is no moral obligation to legislate the existance of an industry, and we won’t go wanting if the copyright industry sinks into the sea. We’ll just use, or make up new ways. We’ll still be better off for having moved on.

    But the Internet is definitely here, to stay, and the Internet is about copying. That much should be clear by now. So, if you’re still trying to sell information like cookies or jam, expect it to be copied. People like cookies and jam, and there’s no reason not to smear it on everything when you can’t run out. Let’s all move on before we wind up somewhere really sticky.

  6. But the copyright on the work *IS* legally recognized property, and does have value. Copyright, by its very nature, however, is supposed to be an exclusive right to decide who else may copy a work. When somebody does copy such a work without permission from the copyright holder, by the very definition of “exclusive”, they are compromising the value of that holder’s copyright (and, arguably, the merits of copyright in general, which affects all copyright holders, and not just the one whose copyright is being infringed). Copyright is wholly artificial… but it exists to offer people who create the works that it could apply to some incentive to publish their works. It’s worth noting that even among works that are distributed freely, most creators have explicitly chosen to utilize copyright, rather than simply release them into public domain… if the level of control that copyright is supposed to offer did not have any real value except to people with corporate interests, this would not likely be the case. As a society, we have an obligation to respect the copyright on a work for its duration, so that creators continue to consider it as some incentive to publish. The alternative to this is that they utilize mechanisms to make it difficult or awkward to copy their works, such as TPM’s… or, that they do not widely publish at all, but self-censor to a small enough audience that they do effectively retain control. Although their profit is actually diminished by either choice (the former because it costs them money to do, the latter because of a smaller audience), copyright is not, and really never has been about money. Even some rights holders fail to grasp this notion. But really, it has always just been about an exclusivity of the right to decide who else may make a copy. Nothing more, and nothing less. It’s a social contract, and I resolutely believe that we should respect it simply because the continued widespread publication of such works can culturally enrich our society as a whole.

    Of course, offering legal protections on TPM’s as proposed by C-11 is entirely counterproductive to that end… because the reality is that people will simply ignore those prohibitions, and strip the encryption off when they want to enjoy fair dealing privileges. This is problematic because it creates a situation where people are not respecting the law, and, by association, their perception of the meaning of copyright ends up being reduced. If society no longer respects copyright, then the rights holders lose incentive to utilize it as a means to protect their works, which results in scenarios of using even *MORE* TPM’s… continuing to erode consumer freedoms, and lowering the merits of copyright to the point that… well, the entire system implodes. The government will then effectively control virtually everything that is published from that point forward, other than what people can manage to self-publish without any expectation of recognition or compensation.

    C-11’s digital lock provisions are counterproductive to the very merits of copyright, and are ultimately unnecessary. As Mr. Geist has pointed out in the past, if circumvention were only illegal when tied to an actual copyright infringement, the requirements on our copyright laws that we are obligated to uphold would be satisfied, and consumer freedoms would not be so diminished that society would not have any cause to respect copyright at all.

  7. unfortunately
    Unfortunately the dialog, of which Bill C-11 is only one part, is not being framed as “What do people really want from copyright? And, are we doing that effectively?”, it’s being framed as “Copyright or your very way of life.” The debate is polarizing both sides consider the other extreme.

    For example, while I agree with some of the goals of copyright, I do not prioritize it ahead of the Internet, which I use every day for every aspect of my life–my real life–so I am willing to consider a world without copyright before considering “solutions” to copying that threaten the Internet and the parts of my way of life that I value, like the freedom to read a range of opinions and have to have open conversations about values, and to sell and spend my time as I see fit. I don’t need copyright to keep doing any of these, so, I’m willing to point at copyright as the source of any problem. It’s only the people who still expect to make money by limiting copying who are complaining, but copying is the reality. Fighting that is a mistake.

    Again, I think the property analogy is source of the mistake. We always have a choice to stop using the word copyright, or to redefine it. For example, I would still care about intellectual honesty and attribution, even in a world without copyright. But I cannot imagine trying to sell these sentences. Your time is real–you should charge for it–not your copies.

    But at the very least, if we can’t find a way to move forward that isn’t so polarizing, we probably shouldn’t be–because at least we’d be no worse off. Whereas, if we do move forward with fighting the Internet’s core value–and by Internet, I mean the global community, including artists, who are doing nothing but copying–I think it will be a painful struggle and we will all suffer, and, possibly only after a long painful struggle, IMHO, I can still see copyright being set aside, if for no other reason than people expect other rights to come first. Liberty and justice and whatnot. IMHO, copyright should be the first thing to go and I’d be willing to do it before the storm.

    If we consider for a moment that libraries have always been the symbol of civilizations, we might realize we are burning our best library yet because we want to start changing for the books. That was never the point of a library, so burning the library to fold it into the economy is a tragedy.

    Libraries have never been a threat to the economy, but we have already converted most of them to bookstores isles by only allowing them to “lend” copies online with DRM. The publisher’s goals have override the social one of spreading knowledge. It turns out we are deeply scared of knowledge if we are willing to choose darkness and scarcity over information and enlightenment.

  8. @mark
    The validity of the property analogy is very much under debate down south.

    via :

    Half the time we call files property and claim ownership rights in them. The other half of the time we call them ephemeral copies and exempt them from the implications of property rights.

    At the very least, it’s safe to say we are confused about something. That there is a mistake buried in our assumptions that we haven’t brought to light yet.

    I’d be willing to scrub copyright as we know it since copyright is pit vehemently against regular property rights, and I like my property rights more than my copyrights.

  9. @mark
    Please don’t think I’m picking on you though, because I’m using your response to expand on my thoughts. 🙂