A few weeks ago I participated in the widespread Internet blackout happening in protest of SOPA, an American bill, because I felt that such a bill, though not passed in my own country, would have a reach far beyond the USA’s borders and would affect the usefulness of the Internet as it is today. Another copyright bill, C-11, is going through the works of Canada’s parliament these days, and I haven’t said a word about it, because I thought other people were doing a decent job of tooting that particular horn, and I had other stuff to do. How very Canadian of me.
But lately I’ve seen people, mostly writers, linking to posts about how this bill is a good thing for copyright. I think they’re wrong, and so I thought it was time to speak out in my little corner of the ‘net. Mostly it comes down to this: Just because you have a legitimate need or complaint, doesn’t give you the right to break something else which is also legitimate. C-11 is a flawed piece of law.
My preference for analysis of C-11 would be Michael Geist, a professor of law at the Universty of Ottawa and the holder of the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. He has this to say about the good and the bad points of C-11. I think it’s a good thing to look at the worst-case scenario when considering a law, because that’s where you’re going to find the flaws that need fixing. One shouldn’t rely on the idea that “Well, yes, that will be against the law but I don’t see it being enforced.” Make it so. Make it an exception. Deal with the possibilities. Get it right, dammit.
C-11 as it stands would make it illegal to break a digital lock (called DRM for the most part) even for lawful purposes. So even though the law states that you are within your legal rights to copy that CD you bought so that you can listen to it on your iPod, if there’s DRM and you break it, you’re infringing. The law should be the final say about what I am allowed to do with what I purchased, not some arbitrary piece of software placed there by the vendor. If my rights and the interests of the vendor contradict each other, my rights should win. These things seem obvious to me, and yet C-11 changes that. It gives corporations the right to decide what my rights are. This is not a good thing. To the point where the inclusion of this clause actually hinders or renders useless other good points of the same law. It’s counter-productive.
So despite the many good things C-11 addresses, the DRM provision is a deal-breaker for me. Combating piracy is not a good enough reason to restrict my rights. There are better ways to do it with less wide-reaching impacts.
The biggest issue to me is that there has been some public outcry, mostly over the DRM issue, and yet that clause is still in there. So despite public consultation and comment, the government is cowing to American and corporate interests, acting like they can’t hear us.
The outcry is considerably smaller than it was for SOPA, but it’s there. So… can you hear us now? Please don’t pass C-11 with the DRM provision.