Copywrong.

How can Terence Corcoran of the National Post be so misguided on Canada’s new copyright bill C-61?

The bill certainly does not satisfy the Telecom Trotskyites who believe the Internet is a giant open cosmos, a massive free public space into which everybody can scoop up whatever floats by with little or no regard to ownership. If you go online and pay $4.95 for a copy of Tarantino’s 2003 movie Kill Bill, for example, you should be able to copy it freely and resend it to all your friends and relatives, if not your entire e-mail cache, at no charge.

[...]While most of us can grasp the logic behind the business agreement that $4.95 doesn’t get you more than personal use of something, it’s an idea that flies right through the cortices of telecom collectivists.

Sorry Mr. Corcoran, but that just wrong.The $4.95 – the market rate for the movie I assume – doesn’t get me personal use. I can’t watch the movie if I travel to Europe; it is the wrong region code. I can’t watch the movie on my iPod; I would be circumventing a technical protection measure. I can’t make a backup copy of that fragile DVD; I’ve had several DVDs break or become unplayable.

All I can do is watch that movie on a DVD player in North America, or perhaps on my computer, though that may be considered circumventing a technical protection measure as well.

I don’t download music. I have a few hundred CDs in boxes. I don’t use them because I have put those songs on my iPod. If those CDs had copy protection, then I would be a criminal, even though I paid for each and every CD.

And for every blank CD I purchase for backup purposes – though I’ve never put a single song on any of them – I pay a copyright levy because I’m already assumed to be a criminal who illegally downloads music.

A few years ago my parents started to record Perry Mason shows on videocassettes so that they could watch them when they feel like it. Even though Perry Mason isn’t even available on DVD, this bill now makes them criminals too.

Mr. Corcoran seems to think that this is necessary to protect content creators:

A typical criticism yesterday came from David Fewer, legal council to the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa. (Clinic?) "I keep hearing," said Mr. Fewer, "the ministers talk about the need to protect creators. The heart and soul of this legislation is to create new rights for distributors. Songwriters don’t put in place things like (digital locks). This is something that labels do, this is something that Hollywood does."

Content creators like the Canadian Music Creators Coalition?

“As we feared, this bill represents an American-style approach to copyright. It’s all locks and lawsuits,” said Safwan Javed, the drummer for the band Wide Mouth Mason and a member of the CMCC. “Rather than building a made-in-Canada proposal to help musicians get paid, the government has chosen to import American-style legislation that says the solution to the music industry’s problems is suing our fans. Suing fans won’t make it 1992 again. It’s a new world for the music business and this is an old approach.”

Or Brendan Canning, of Broken Social Scene?

“It’s not musicians. Musicians don’t need lawsuits, we don’t need DRM protection. These aren’t the things that help us or our careers. What we do need is a government that is willing to sit down with all the stakeholders and craft a balanced copyright policy for Canada that will not repeat the mistakes made in the United States.”

This was the funniest part:

Since when has corporate Hollywood become the evil crusher of creative talent? Any review of entertainment history turns up an army of individual creators — writers, actors, directors, producers, ideamen, authors — who have made absolute killings turning their copyrights over to corporate control.

Mr. Corcoran should acquaint himself with the concept of Hollywood accounting. For example:

Winston Groom’s price for the screenplay rights to his novel Forrest Gump included a share of the profits; however, due to Hollywood accounting, the film’s commercial success was converted into a net loss, and Groom received nothing. That being so, he has refused to sell the screenplay rights to the novel’s sequel, stating that he cannot in good conscience allow money to be wasted on a failure.

This isn’t about protecting content creators. And it certainly isn’t about protect your or my rights. This is about protecting a failed business model by enshrining it in law. And making people like you and me pay over and over and over again for the same product – for our personal use.

And he probably has no clue about products like Microsoft PlaysForSure devices. When Microsoft turns off their license servers, all of the music that people actually payed for just ceases to be playable. They bought the players, and paid for the music, but they just can’t use it anymore.

And under this new proposed law there is no recourse. The honest customer is just screwed.

Update: Professor Michael Geist has a good roundup of coverage of the issue.

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