“The Government of Canada is hosting a nationwide consultation on copyright modernization.” I spent a half and hour composing a (somewhat piecemeal, now that I re-read it) letter to the consultation process. I encourage everyone to add their two-cents, either formally or just via comment.
1. How do Canada\’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
I am a media developer and photographer. I support the Creative Commons model of sharing creative works and recently I have been using the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License to share everything I create for public consumption. I rely on this model because copyright in Canada does not afford content creators the ability to both open their creations to fair public use — which is why I create things — while simultaneously preventing others from financially benefiting from my efforts. This is the best model that supports my desire to both contribute to a public pool of engaging and entertaining content, while maintaining my own rights as their creator.
It is my firm conviction that what defines us in this modern age is our engagement with a wide array of many forms of entertainment. Consider the elements of all our lives that are defined by the songs we were listening to, the stories we heard, or the images we saw. Think of a new couple who dances their first dance at their wedding. Think of kids hearing stories before bed. Think of two teenagers holding hands during a movie. Think of the images all of us see in media and in print. These are cultural elements that define us as not only Canadians, but as human beings. And as such, our rights as individuals should be defined by our ability to freely and perpetually have access to these elements of our existence and shared experiences, regardless if they are digital or otherwise.
Unfortunately, not every individual can participate because as a society we have introduced a commercial element to this culture. It is a business. And thus some people have resorted to acquiring these elements of culture — songs, movies, books, etc — through means that are incompatible with that business. But these acquisitions are largely disconnected from the business of their actual distribution. Businesses talk of lost profits or missing revenues, but is there really such a thing? Where has it gone? Do businesses really suppose that those individuals copying content have such unlimited resources that money otherwise spent would be poured into paying for their content? Or is it more realistic to suppose that individuals generally have a fixed budget for entertainment, but that these budgets are unable to provide satisfactory access to this content? Of course, there are outliers and examples at the tips of the bell curve, but in general, as individuals, our ability to purchase and consume media has not kept up with the sheer quantity of it.
What then, is the role of the individual in copyright when the individuals needs and concerns are so incompatible with business.
2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time
Changes should be made that protect individuals over the needs of business. Canadians should not be under threat of corporate lawsuit simply for participation in the cultural gestalt that is Canada.
3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
Copyright is essential, but the spirit of those laws should not leave individuals at the mercy of deep corporate pockets. Copyright has always been about — as stated — fostering creativity. Overt protection of copyrights through legal means should not allow copyright holders to sue people simply for consuming their content, and participating in the culture of Canada and the world. Rather, it should prevent other businesses from benefiting commercially from that content without formalized permission. I think corporations and societies should have a reduced role in copyright, particularly as far the individual is concerned. And as an example of how this might work I think a tiered level of copyright would help: when content is created, what if the creator had to choose between a commercial versus a non-commercial copyright? A non-commercial copyright might only be available to individuals and would protect them from many kinds of infringement, but a commercial copyright, available to businesses, corporations, international interests, and societies would only protect the content from commercial infringements, and any non-commercial violations — essentially friends sharing books, movies, songs, etc — would be considered protected rights of individuals and supporting the cultural diversity of Canada.
4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
Simply, preserving commercial access to copyright, while finding a balance between the involvement of business interests and the cultural, individual rights of Canadians. Canadians should not be made to live in fear for the harmless act of participating in a cultural Canada that has become largely controlled by corporate interests.
5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
To facilitate the needs of all, copyright should strive to belong absolutely and (for a fixed term) with the individual creator. When copyright becomes corporate asset we risk sell off of intellectual ideas. That said, when copyright is available in distinct layers between commercial and non-commercial, both business and international copyright holders would default to commercial rights thus protecting the individual citizens of Canada from both internal and cross-border prosecution, particularly in an age of seemingly border-less communications.
This is a dual issue: protecting business and protecting Canadians. Let’s keep them separate.