Saturday, May 13, 2006

Balanced Copyright Reform

Here's a copy of an e-mail message I sent to my MP on the subject:
Hello Mr. Poilievre,

It's come to my attention that draft legislation concerning "copyright reform" could be drafted in coming weeks and months (building on Bill C-60). I suspect you've already received a form letter or two on the subject of "digital rights management" or DRM, so rather than add to that pile, I thought I'd quickly relate a personal experience on the subject, to give you some perspective.

My wife recently bought a number of CDs for a road trip. She'd had her iPod digital music player for a while, but this was to be the first time we took it as our sole source of music for any length of time. With the FM transmitter she'd bought for it, we would be able to play it through the car stereo, the portable stereo of anyone we visited along the way, etc.

However, she quickly became frustrated with the Nickelback CD she bought. She couldn't import it into iTunes (iPod management software), or even play it on her computer. The digital rights management software on the CD prevented it.

It's that DRM software prevents this and other legal uses of the merchandise we purchase that makes it such an important issue. (The fact that it can also open our computers to breaches of privacy and security is a separate, but equally important, issue: Sony-BMG's DRM software is a chilling example of this.)

While the Canadian Coalition for Digital Fair Access has some good information on this issue (as does the more recent Online Rights Canada), it's the "Consumer Technology Bill of Rights" put together by DigitalConsumer.org in the U.S. that succinctly captures what I would like to see in any DRM-related legislation.

I'll just quote the point that's relevant to my story:

2. Users have the right to "space-shift" content that they have legally acquired. This gives you the right to use your content in different places (as long as each use is personal and non-commercial).

(http://www.digitalconsumer.org/bill.html for the complete list.)

Thank you for your time, Mr. Poilievre.

Cheers,

John Jarvis

The politics of confrontation

A friend sent me an article on the Auditor General's gun registry report that was leaked. The tone of these opposition quotes sent me off on a tirade:
It's troublesome given that ethics, accountability, transparency, turning government around, cleaning government up are supposed to be one of the top priorities of the new government, said New Democrat David Christopherson.

And if they had any role whatsoever in leaking this then they're... betraying their pact with the Canadian people.


A Liberal press release offered more of the same:
This unprecedented affront to the office of the Auditor General, Sheila Frasier, makes a mockery of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's promise to operate with a higher ethical standard, said Mr. Wrzesnewskyj.

I think the Liberals (and their NDP terrier) are completely undermining the "new party" spin they've been cultivating around their leadership race with this whining and nitpicking - the "Look, they're worse than us!" tripe - that was the previous minority government's daily bread. Nothing has changed: the Liberals have no vision for the country, and no one to truly lead the way once they beg, borrow or steal one.

It hurts me to say that, by the way, because listening to Ignatieff speak around the time of his announcing his run for the party leadership sparked a hope in me that we might get past the bickering for a time; but it means nothing if he still has these petty vermin below him.

If they'd waited 'til the report came out and acknowledged the mistakes it will certainly include - I've read about the software development debacle, so I know I'm not reaching here - I can honestly say that it would've significantly reinforced that hope I mentioned: simply because it would've been so radically different from anything this squabbling mass of glad-hands has done in years.

The cost of these distractions is concisely stated in the following quote I read a few months back:
Institutional rivalry, lack of foreign policy consensus, and increased media coverage combine to create a foreign policy making environment that accentuates the normal advantage held by immediate policy questions and current intelligence over long-range issues. It also favours the politics of confrontation and competition over that of problem solving.

-- Glenn Hastedt, Public Intelligence: Leaks as Policy Instruments - The Case of the Iraq War, Intelligence and National Security, Volume 20, Issue 3, September 2005.