A “constitutionally suspect” copyright bill, to build a nation of criminals

Michael Geist has been blogging for a few weeks now about the return of the copyright bill, its “constitutionally suspect” protection of digital locks, and its widespread public opposition. It gets tabled tomorrow.
So, let’s get this straight:
Despite the resounding criticism of industry, educators, and the public;
despite the leaked cables that show the Canadian government actively catering to US interests;
despite Supreme Court rulings that uphold a “large and liberal” interpretation of fair dealing;
despite the government’s own acknowledgment that digital locks aren’t subject to copyright protection;
despite the availability of a simple solution to resolve public concerns and uphold WIPO obligations (the lawful-use circumvention clause);
and despite the adoption of similar solutions by other states like the UK and even the USA itself
The Heritage Minister @jamesmoore_org and the Harper regime are still determined to push through a copyright bill that outlaws breaking digital locks on copyrighted content and devices, even when for lawful purposes (of which there are countless examples). In the process, this undemocratic bill will produce a law so absurd that it breeds disrespect for the law generally; it will also criminalize by default large sectors of the citizenry.
Perhaps that is precisely the point: so that — at a time when crime rates are at their lowest point in 40 years — a government which prides itself for being “tough on crime” can actually create more crime to get tough on.

'Kingston pulls a Brigette DePape.' Photo courtesy QUOI Media, used under CC 2.0 license

This week’s developments present another opportunity to remind the citizenry why we should all care about copyright. A comment posted to Geist’s blog by one “Grey Goose” tersely spells out the big, grim picture:

DRM is indirectly about control of networks, and specifically THE network; the Internet, and the very culture of sharing.
Moreover, nations are now arguing in the UN about how to govern and reign in the Internet while 90% of the world is dying from lack of basic information and technology (rain barrels, pumps, agricultural and manufacturing tools, algorithms, and basic psychological strategies for emotional well being – all of which 100% solvable with kindergarten-level ‘sharing’ and kindness).
Meanwhile, in Canada we are happily patenting ideas and, like any good 1st-world nation, crafting laws like these so we can continue to corner markets, bottle access, and sell it to those who are perpetually (axiomatically) desperate. Because, you see, there is no 1st world if there is no 3rd world.
On behalf of every homeless person who starves to death on the curb of a grocery store this winter, I salute you Canada. Bitterness through and through.

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2 responses to “A “constitutionally suspect” copyright bill, to build a nation of criminals

  1. In trying to frame this question, I found it — probably unsurprisingly — very difficult to turn up Google results on the limitations of and alternatives to rights advocacy. On the one hand, I’m not disguising criticism as a question, but just genuinely curious, so my own knowledge gap makes it hard to know what to search for to get results. But on the other hand, there seems to be a ubiquitous belief that there are no alternatives to human, consumer, property, labour, civil, etc. “rights”: they’re natural, indivisible, always a good thing, always worth advocating for, always advancing democracy.

    It’s not that some rights advocacy isn’t very convincing; the comment you referenced above makes a compelling case within a human rights framework for breaking drug and technology patents, unlocking and copying books. I’m sure I’d be similarly swayed by an artist’s case for labour rights that reflect the nature of her labour, which would probably have a lot to do with intellectual property. I can even get on board, however provisionally, with consumers’ rights, when it comes to things like protecting consumers from dangerous products (or dangerous corporate censorship). But rights do have limitations, right? “Freedom of speech” is an easy example (does a woman migrant have free political speech, if the only language available for talking about her work is that of “illegal immigration” or “human trafficking”?), or the difficulty of enforcing rights (as women’s human rights advocates have found trying to access international courts and have the decisions enforced by the same nations they are charging with human rights abuses), or the difficulty of defining rights from positions of marginality (e.g., I sincerely doubt I have a natural right to own my backyard shed, and if someone moved in there tomorrow, I’d probably agree that she has a right to use it [provided she doesn’t upset the rabbits] — but that’s not how rights work here), consumer rights can easily infringe on labour rights (consider how your working conditions would change, if students were increasingly conceptualized as customers). And any rights-based appeal you make legitimates the authority you’re appealing to.

    Do the same kinds of limitations exist for IP advocacy? Is there an alternative to rights discourse in this case? Is there an idea of “justice” or “common good” that doesn’t reduce to rights? What does it look like — and is it effective — to make arguments about IP that don’t presuppose the existence or necessity of property, consumer, voters’, and sovereign states’ rights?

  2. Pingback: Independent politics

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