Monday, January 07, 2008

Copyright Quagmire op-ed

There's a notable op-ed entitled Copyright Quagmire in today's Vancouver Sun by Ron Wilson, senior VP of merchandising at Best Buy Canada.

The gist of it is this:

Here are the five specific principles that our brands (Best Buy, Future Shop) and our customers believe in:

  • "Taxes" on technology are wrong. The private copying levy scheme should be repealed. Why should Canadians pay up to $75 in "taxes" on iPods and similar devices? Given the strong Canadian dollar and the ease of cross-border shopping, this proposed levy would have devastating effects on the Canadian market for these types of devices. Countless Canadians regard this tax as unnecessary, unfair and highly inefficient. Moreover, most of the proceeds leave this country.
  • Creators of intellectual property deserve to be paid, but not multiple times through several collectives for proliferating and overlapping rights for the same transaction. For example, if a consumer buys a track from iTunes, the consumer shouldn't have to pay further costs for a "communication" right to receive that track online or for a levy to store it on an audio recording medium. Furthermore, where does one draw the line on the boundaries of this tax? This proposed levy sets a dangerous precedent that can easily extend to other devices such as cellphones, personal computers and laptops; in fact, this has not been ruled out by the Copyright Board.
  • Consumers' rights shouldn't be removed by Digital Rights Management ("DRM") technology, which threatens to put digital locks on content, devices and ultimately our culture. Our customers should be able to do anything that is legal according to copyright law, including making backup copies and copying for purposes of fair dealing. The music industry itself is rapidly abandoning DRM. If anything, consumers need protection from DRM rather than the other way 'round.
  • Canadians should enjoy a flexible and open-ended list of fair dealing rights, including time, space and format shifting, and the right to mix, remix, mash and engage in satire and parody. Our children now have creative tools we never dreamed of, enabling them to make professional quality movies, sound recordings and engage in remarkable research and learning. Let's not stifle them.
  • Our customers shouldn't have to worry about being sued for private, non-commercial activities. Canada is not a litigious "zero tolerance" regime. If the law is amended to facilitate such litigation here, experience suggests that it will surely happen. We agree with Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies who says, "We think lawsuits ... would be terrible for the music business in Canada. It's short-sighted to say 'See you in court' one day and 'See you at Massey Hall' the next."

(Disclosure - I have acted for Best Buy Canada and Future Shop at the Copyright Board and in the Courts on the private copying levy file.)

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