Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry
Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons
Canada K1A 0A6
Dear Ministers Prentice and Verner,
Thank you for your email of June 12, 2008 informing me of the introduction of Bill C-61, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act.
I am the founder of LibriVox, an all-volunteer, web-based project to make audio recordings of public domain texts and give them away for free. Since our inception in 2005, we’ve run on a yearly budget of $0; yet we’ve become one of the most prolific makers of audio books in the world, with a production rate recently topping 100 books per month. We’ve got a catalog of some 1,500 audio books, including authors such as Dickens, Cervantes, Austen, Dante, Darwin, Sun Tzu, Hobbes, Einstein, and Plato. We also have a number of Canadian classics from Leacock, Lucy Maude Montgomery, and others. We have thousands of volunteers around the world, who make audio versions of texts and give them away because they believe access to knowledge and great literature is one of the most precious gifts we can give to each other. We’ve gained some fame over the years, with articles in the NY Times, radio spots on the BBC, as well as many more mainstream and web media mentions and profiles. The Vice President of Creative Commons recently called us “perhaps the most interesting collaborative culture project this side of Wikipedia.”
LibriVox is the sort of project that is on the outer edge of copyright case law, because what we do was not possible even a few years ago. At our core, we are about reading old books, but we use digital recording software, distributed production models, mass online collaboration, bit torrents, blogging and podcasting, online forums and wikis, bandwidth, mp3s and zip files, all to make recordings of old texts and give them away online for free.
I have some personal objections to Bill C-61 as it has been tabled, objections you’ve heard no doubt from thousands of concerned and angry Canadian citizens. But I wanted to outline two concrete examples of how Bill C-61 would criminalize legitimate activities of Canadian LibriVox volunteers.
EXAMPLE 1: A publisher puts a digital lock on an e-book of a text that is out of copyright, but difficult find in print.
A LibriVox volunteer has purchased the e-book and wishes to copy the public domain text and share it with fellow LibriVox volunteers so that they may make an audio version. Under Bill C-61 it is unlawful for the (Canadian) volunteer to circumvent the digital lock on the e-book, even though the text itself is in the public domain.
This scenario is not far-fetched, it is already happening: in one instance, an e-book version of the American Constitution (certainly in the public domain) was distributed with digital locks and (spurious) copyright terms restricting uses of the text. Of course those copyright terms did not legally apply to the text, but with C-61, it would not matter, because it would be illegal for Canadians to circumvent the digital locks to use the text in ways that they are legally entitled to use it.
Bill C-61’s anti-circumvention provisions mean that publishers get to decide, unilaterally, what is and is not in the public domain. In fact, Bill C-61 would encourage publishers to put digital locks on public domain works (as they already put false copyright claims on print versions), and effectively destroy the principle of limited copyright term, one of the basic tenets of copyright law.
EXAMPLE 2: LibriVox releases all its recordings into the public domain, which means that anyone may use them for any purpose, including commercial uses. A business may — legitimately and legally — decide to bundle and sell LibriVox recordings on CDs, with digital locks.
However, even though LirbiVox, the original publishers, put the recordings in the public domain so they are free to be copied, sold, or given away, the new publisher is able to restrict use on the republished recordings, by putting digital locks on them.
Under Bill C-61, even I, the founder of LibriVox, will be breaking the law by circumventing the digital locks put on LirbiVox recordings, sold by another publisher.
Bill C-61 will allow publishers to take works with liberal copyright terms, and restrict further uses of those works by adding digital locks. It will be illegal for Canadians to break those digital locks, even for uses allowed under the original license of the works.
These are two small examples from the LibriVox project, but they are indicative of Bill C-61’s problematic approach of criminalizing legitimate activities by making circumvention illegal.
Making digital locks sacrosanct and better protected than the rights of Canadian citizens makes no sense. As Bob Young has said, Bill C-61’s anti-circumvention provisions are “similar to making the use and ownership of screw-drivers and pliers illegal because they can be used to commit crimes such as burglary.”
The future of knowledge is digital. Bill C-61 is not just about mp3s of the latest rock n’ roll songs, or DVDs of television shows. Bill C-61 is about how Canadians can access, share, consume and use knowledge of all kinds.
If we are to have new copyright legislation in Canada, let’s be sure that we understand what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Let’s be sure that the new copyright legislation at least makes an attempt to understand the changes happening around us.
Librarians, educators, entrepreneurs, software developers, musicians, documentary film makers, and others, as well as thousands of Canadian citizens have voiced their opposition to Bill C-61. You can add to this list public domain audio book makers.
Locksmiths do not get to decide what property rights citizens have under Canadian law. Digital lock makers should not get to define our right to knowledge either.
Bill C-61 must be changed.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair, MP, Outremont
Hon. Stephane Dion, Leader of the Opposition
Hon. Charles Angus, MP Timmins-James Bay
Hon. Jack Layton, Leader, New Democratic Party
Hon. Gilles Duceppe, Leader, Bloc Quebecois
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Thursday, June 12, 2008
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
5369 Blvd St. Laurent #430
Montréal, Québec H2T1S5
Montreal’s technology and creative communities are mobilizing against a new federal bill to restrict creators’ and consumers’ rights to use digital media.
On June 12th, 2008, Industry Minister Jim Prentice will introduce the amendment to the Canadian copyright act, commonly called “the Canadian DMCA”. The bill was crafted under pressure from American media cartels, and it’s expected to have a chilling effect on free expression and free speech in this country. It will restrict Canadians from freely using their computers and other devices to save, store, and play their legally-purchased media.
The Montreal Chapter of Fair Copyright for Canada is holding an emergency action meeting to respond to the new bill. We’ll have information for citizens to learn more about the Canadian DMCA, and materials for writing and sending letters to MPs asking them to oppose the bill. Talks by Fair Copyright for Canada leaders, including a phone call from Michael Geist.
Come meet others in the Montreal area who want a balanced, fair copyright system that works for all Canadians.
P.S. Please pass this invitation along to people you might think are interested! The bill was announced yesterday, introduced today, so we’re on very short time frame to have a strong community response. Let’s get the word out!
Unfortunately, I can’t make it!
This just came into my emailbox:
The Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-61, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act. The proposed legislation is a made-in-Canada approach that balances the needs of Canadian consumers and copyright owners, promoting culture, innovation and competition in the digital age.
What does Bill C-61 mean to Canadians?
Specifically, it includes measures that would:
- expressly allow you to record TV shows for later viewing; copy legally purchased music onto other devices, such as MP3 players or cell phones; make back-up copies of legally purchased books, newspapers, videocassettes and photographs onto devices you own; and limit the “statutory damages” a court could award for all private use copyright infringements;
- implement new rights and protections for copyright holders, tailored to the Internet, to encourage participation in the online economy, as well as stronger legal remedies to address Internet piracy;
- clarify the roles and responsibilities of Internet Service Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network facilities; and
- provide photographers with the same rights as other creators.
What Bill C-61 does not do:
- it would not empower border agents to seize your iPod or laptop at border crossings, contrary to recent public speculation
What this Bill is not:
- it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright laws. Our Bill is made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including Japan, France, Germany and Australia
Bill C-61 was introduced in the Commons on June 12, 2008 by Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner.
For more information, please visit the Copyright Reform Process website at www.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/crp-prda.nsf/en/home
Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.
The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Industry
The Honourable Josée Verner, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women
and Official Languages and Minister for
From the Minister of Industry:
The Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, and Minister for La Francophonie, will deliver brief statements and answer media inquiries shortly after the tabling of a bill to amend the Copyright Act. Members of the media will also be able to attend a technical briefing and lock-up prior to the tabling of the bill to amend the Copyright Act.
This whole “lock-up” business had me wondering, and further down in the press release it says:
Once the media lock-up has begun, no one will be allowed to leave the room or contact his/her office until the embargo is lifted. Journalists will be required to sign an undertaking to respect the release arrangements.
Wireless communication devices such as cellular phones, BlackBerrys, personal digital assistants or any other removable wireless communication devices (including modems, air cards and wireless microphones) will not be allowed in the lock-up area.
Which, in a way, sounds a little like the Conservatives copyright platform in general. More info to be found on Michael Geist’s blog.
I’m batting around this idea, maybe you can help articulate it better. Here’s the basic idea:
The (monetary) value of something is defined by what you can’t do with it; not by what you can do with it.
I’m thinking of this particularly wrt to digital media, and the music biz. The “value” of LP records was defined not by what you could do with it (ie play music), but what you couldn’t do with it: copy it instantly and share it with all your friends. The LP is valuable because it’s scarce: you’ve got one, I don’t … hence it has value. Ditto tapes and CDs.
Thought experiment #1: imagine that in 1888 someone invented a cheap little device that recorded sounds and that also broadcasted sounds to the world; anyone who had such a device could catch those other sound broadcasts and record them … and the device also had infinite storage. If that were the case, how do you think the music “business” would have evolved?
Thought experiment #2: what if our memories were so good that we could hear a song and remember it exactly, and replay it in our minds exactly as we heard it the first time? would musicians go out of their way to try to prevent individuals from hearing their music?
With audiohijack pro I can copy any sound that passes thru my computer, if I so choose. Regardless of any DRM or whatever else you try to stick on your media. Further, I consume 90% of my media on my computer. So if you want me to hear it, I will be able to record it.
I know this is all old news, but I am reminded of my discussions at PodCamp boston with the founder of Select Records (one of the first indie hip hop labels). He was a good guy, an indie trench warrior who worked for many years trying to get little bands popular. But like many record execs sees P2P etc as “illegal downloading.”
But the point is, it doesn’t matter what he thinks. Ditto for Sony and all the rest. (Same for people who complain about Wikipedia… it doesn’t matter if you think Wikipedia is a bad idea, because it’s what people actually use).
It’s just too easy for me or anyone else to copy music. There’s nothing that can be done, it’s over.
Speaking of which, Galacticast did a great little DMCA.ca vid.