On Wednesday, Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced a bill that BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow described as making it "flatly illegal to break any kind of digital lock, or to violate terms in one of those absurd end-user license agreements that make you promise to agree to let the record industry kick your teeth in and drink all your beer, just for the dubious privilege of paying for a song at iTunes or watching a video on Viacom's website.".
Doctorow also points out that "[t]his amounts to private law: under Prentice's plan, Parliament would get out of the business of making copyright law, simply enforcing whatever copyright law the entertainment industry itself dreamed up". Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa states, the education provisions "[t]urn librarians into locksmiths" by requiring that they expire their digital materials after no more than five days.
This is an extremely troubling case, as all signs point to this being far worse than the US's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Let's not forget that Adobe under the DMCA had a Russian programmer, Dmitry Sklyarov, arrested and imprisoned. His "crime"? Distributing a product designed to remove locks from ebooks so that they could be fully used like regular books.
Especially given that consumers are rejecting DRMed media and moving toward services like eMusic, Amazon MP3, Magnatune and Jamendo, this would be a terrible law to pass. Geist notes that "the DMCA provisions are worse than the U.S. and the consumer exceptions riddled with limitations" -- the provisions include a potential $20,000 per infringement damage award that could see Canadian citizens threatened with legal troubles for uploading a snippet of a song to any video-sharing site.
Canada's excuse is that it needs the DMCA in order to comply with the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty. But this is no reason at all -- We need to make it clear that an unjust treaty cannot justify a further unjust law!
What can be done? Take action!
We simply cannot let this pass.
- No matter where you live in the world, if you are a copyright holder on any kind of work -- song, film, article, computer program -- please email the officials below to let them know that you do not want this law and that the people who have been demanding it do not speak for you.
- If you are Canadian, please write to your MP to protest the fast-tracking of this bill.
The Canadian government needs to hear that this law is Defective by Design!
- Write to your MP, and email the Industry Minister, the Canadian Heritage Minister, and the Prime Minister. If you are looking for a sample letter, visit Copyright for Canadians.
- If you send an email, be sure to print it out and drop a copy in the mail (no stamp is needed -- c/o House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A0A6).
- Don't stop with email. Go visit. In his latest post, Doctorow suggests that every Canadian "Take 30 minutes from your summer, to meet directly with your MP". From late June through much of the summer, your MP will be back in your local community attending local events and making themselves available to meet with constituents. Give them a call and ask for a meeting. Every MP in the country should return to Ottawa in the fall having heard from their constituents on this issue.
UPDATE: Canadian Colalition for Electronic Rights have a simple form for Canadian citizens to easily email Prentice and others
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Photo credit: Heidi Wholeness at Flickr