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COPYRIGHT REFORM PROCESS
SUBMISSIONS RECEIVED REGARDING THE CONSULTATION PAPERS
Documents received have been posted in the official language in which they were submitted. All are posted as received by the departments, however all address information has been removed.
Submission from Itrat Khan received on September 15, 2001 via e-mail
Subject: Canadian copyright reform
To Industry Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Intellectual Property Policy Directorate and other concerned agencies:
I appreciate the efforts of the Canadian Government in soliciting feedback for "The Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues." As the president of a Canadian-based software publisher, I would like to share my perspective on the issue, both as a copyright stakeholder and as a consumer. I have only had time to address a single aspect of the paper, namely technological circumvention. I believe it is premature for Canada to implement changes to its Copyright Act, and I feel that technological circumvention is detrimental to consumer rights. I urge the departments to delay action and to expose this issue to a wider audience of the Canadian population.
Copyright stakeholders have argued that digital content requires modifications to the Copyright Act, but I disagree. Copyrights protect ideas, not the medium over which those ideas disseminate. The ease of duplicating and distributing digital content is offset by the simplicity of encryption and similar means for preventing unauthorised use. In my experience, I have found that it takes only a reasonable amount of effort to implement copy-protection mechanisms that adequately deter illegal duplication and distribution.
I am glad to see that the consultation paper recognizes the dangers of proposing technological circumventions. There are many uses where the duplication of digital content is legitimate. Copyright stakeholders have several means for protecting digital content, and circumvention is an unnecessary blow to consumers. It is much like outlawing the hammer because one might use it to kill! Digital information does not need new laws to protect it. Instead, Canadians must manufacture and use it responsibly.
I believe it is premature to draft legislation to protect digital content at this time. Technology is rapidly changing, and the digital medium is in its infancy. It has not even been 10 years since the popularity of digital mediums, and I do not believe we have the foresight to predict the advancements in upcoming years. The controversies surrounding DVD and its CSS encryption are the result of an ad hoc attempt by the MPAA to bridge their traditional distribution channels with the emerging technologies of digital media and the Internet. I urge the departments to please let the need form before attempting to regulate it.
My final concern surrounds the implications that these new copyright proposals might have on our freedom of speech. Specifically, I am concerned that this new legislation may not treat software code as the legitimate form of speech that it is. Recent events surrounding the arrest of a Russian programmer in the United States lead me to believe that researchers in the field of computer science and engineering will be less willing to share their ideas under such legislation: it would become illegal to research flaws in encryption technology or to find security holes in commercial software.
My suggestion to the Canadian Government is to give more time and exposure to this issue. These changes to the Copyright Act will have a huge impact on consumers. None of the people I talk to are aware that their freedoms and consumer rights are about to undergo a significant change. Many of these changes cater to the needs of digital content publishers, at the expense of consumer interest. I believe that Canada should give digital content some time to mature before attempting to regulate it. When that time comes, it should be through an open forum, equally represented by the copyright stakeholders and consumer advocates. I believe that the voice of the consumer is clearly understated in today's discussions.
Itrat Khan, President
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