What’s at stake in Canadian copyright “reform”?

Since I’ve started tweeting (ranting?) about Canada’s copyfight, some of my Facebook correspondence has become consciousness-raising about it. Two friends, Sandra Johnson and Adrian Bashford, have graciously agreed to go on the record and let me post our talks about the issue, hoping to help clarify it for others.

Talk with Sandra Johnson, 9 May 2010
Talk with Adrian Bashford, 5 May 2010

Sandra Johnson, 9 May 2010

Johnson: … it’s also the first time in days I understood all the words in your status.

Me: … I’ll explain. DMCA = Digital Millennium Copyright Act, US law for a few years now. The UK just got something similar, the Digital Economy Bill. And Canada’s government now seems poised to push a similar bill on us.
Promoted and passed under the guise of protecting entertainment companies from “piracy,” these are bundles of laws that represent huge infringements on our privacy and freedoms. Not content with suing customers, the entertainment lobbies are pushing hard for these laws and broader international agreements.
Author Cory Doctorow’s column in the Guardian sums up the problem these laws pose as “dictatorial hell”.
So we can’t let this type of shit pass in Canada. A year of “public consultation” gave the government an overwhelming public No to laws like these. Which they look ready to ignore.

Johnson: Meep! Glad I read that. You’ve opened my eyes, Mark, yet again. I’ll read all you post on the topic from now on. That being said, where exactly does Canada sit right now, and what is being done to stop the goosestep toward it?

Me: I follow Ottawa law prof Michael Geist’s blog about this stuff. He’s on top of it up to the minute, and his website has primers on what’s happening with this law — and with ACTA (the global agreement being sorted out secretly by participating states, including Canada).
My last two blog posts summarize the issues, include a few links — including the CCER’s online form letter you can use to paper a few MPS’ offices pretty quickly.
You can also join the Facebook group “Fair Copyright for Canada.”
With the national bill coming and ACTA, the Canadian government looks more than willing to give Canadians’ digital rights over to multinational entertainment companies. Want a sense of the kind of people our governments are locking down the Net to appease? The kind who say “child porn is great.”
As for what’s being done to stop it, Geist’s advising lots and lots of short, snail-mail letters to as many MPs as you feel like badgering. Again, my last blog posts have tips for dispatching some.
Sorry, that’s a bit longish a reply for FB.

Johnson: That’s great, Mark, and by keeping in a public post, others can jump in as well. I’ll be checking out all the sites, and chatting up a few MPs.

Me: Let me just add that maybe the best one-stop primer on the issues we now face in this bill is the NFB documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto — which you can freely watch online at the link.
Thanks for making time to talk about this. I know you hadn’t banked on the distraction.

Johnson: It’s actually a topic that flitted across my brain a few times when I’d read your status. … Now that I have grasped the concept, I’ll start paying attention. My friends will get tired of hearing me spout off about it, I’m sure.

Adrian Bashford, 5 May 2010

Bashford: …What kinds of problems will this law lead to? I personally believe in paying for content, but the devil is usually in the details of these things.

Me: I’m not at all against paying for content. I’m against paying exorbitant damages for downloaded content. See the NFB film RiP: A Remix Manifesto for some shocking cases of RIAA lawsuits…but you’ll know about some of these already.
The whole film can be watched online.
and it summarizes many of the main problems with DMCA and DE Bill type laws.
I’m against a law that obliges ISPs to snitch on customers for P2P activity. … See more
A law that makes it illegal for me to download a crappy digital version of an LP I bought on vinyl and already paid royalties for.
A law that greatly restricts Canada’s current generous fair-dealing provisions for personal, review, and research uses of IP.
A law that protects not just intellectual property but digital locks — regulating not just how you buy what you buy, but then how you have to use it. Digital locks have nothing to do with IP but they’ll be protected under proposed legislation.
A law that criminalizes copying. And consumption.
I could go on…watch RiP, check out Ottawa law prof Michael Geist’s blog, read some of the work in this area by Lawrence Lessig (Free Culture) and James Boyle (http://www.thepublicdomain.org/download/).
I’d be curious to hear what you think of their takes on all this.

Bashford: Thanks for the quick summary, I will do some digging as suggested!

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