Harper’s Christmas present for the US entertainment industry
Copyright lawyer Howard Knopf, writing in the Hill Times, summarizes what he expects from the Conservatives in updating the Copyright Act to attack file sharing, all to the benefit of a US entertainment industry that has been feigning injury better than any elite soccer player. Knopf also points out many areas where Canadian copyright law is better than its US counterpart. Full text is available on his blog; highlights below:
The rumours are that Canadaâ€™s â€œNew Government, â€ as it used to call itself, is about to give a costly Christmas gift to the U.S., for which Canadians may never stop paying. Itâ€™s shaping up to be a made-to-order American style copyright bill that will:
â€¢ Put digital locks on our computers, cellphones, iPods, other gadgets and tools, and, ultimately, our culture and make it an infringement and maybe even a criminal offence to try to circumvent the sometimes malignant and much-maligned technology known as Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Technical Protection Measures (TPMs). … This will happen notwithstanding the fact the architect of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Bruce Lehman, has publicly admitted that â€œour
Clintonadministration policies didn’t work out very wellâ€ and â€œour attempts at copyright control have not been successful.â€ Even the music industry itself is fleeing from DRM as fast as it can.
â€¢ Make it possible for the big four foreign record companies to sue ordinary Canadians whom they suspect of file sharing. This is happening in the U.S. where companies routinely extract so-called â€˜settlementsâ€™ equivalent to a yearâ€™s Canadian university tuition or more and have even gotten a judgment for $222,000 (which is under appeal). This could happen here, notwithstanding that the worldâ€™s leading study on P2P downloading and file-sharing commissioned by Industry Canada from two independent English academics and based upon data from a Decima survey of 2,100 Canadians shows that such P2P filesharing activity actually tends to increase rather than decrease music purchasing.
This is happening mostly because of a lot of spin and propaganda from the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, as well as the considerable efforts of Canadian lobbyists such as Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, which is the Canadian arm of the RIAA. Important Canadian â€œindiesâ€ such as Nettwerk have left CRIA, and disagree with its desire to sue fans and families. Nettwerk is a leading label that produces the Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, and Sarah McLachlan.
The problem with American copyright propaganda is that the
U.S.is a â€œborn againâ€ believer in copyright law, and therefore prone to overly zealous and inaccurate excessive rhetoric. Until 1976, its copyright laws were clearly weaker than any other developed country. It didnâ€™t even join the bastion of international copyright law, the Berne Convention, until 1989, which was 61 long years after Canada. Even now, there is good reason to question American compliance with Berne, on such issues as moral rights and state sovereign immunity, not to mention its adjudicated WTO violation. It would be very sad if our politicians were to believe the overall propaganda coming from the U.S.and the rhetoric of CRIA. about such issues as file-sharing.
… Canadaâ€™s New Government is about to betray its libertarian roots and its 2005 Policy Declaration by heavily interfering with the marketplace of ideas and commerce, and providing unnecessary and counterproductive monopoly rights that serve only to benefit mostly foreign corporate interests. Nothing is more interventionist and counterproductive to innovation and cultural evolution than excessively strong IP protection. Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest of all Americans, understood and articulated this better than anyone.