Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Real Canadian Copyright Debate

The Canadian Constitution Foundation ("CCF") October 3, 2009 panel on copyright moderated by Arnold Ceballos and featuring myself and Richard Owens has now been posted on YouTube. This was a genuine debate, though civilized throughout. This was the third annual CCF conference and I highly recommend this event for the future. Justice LeBel was the keynote speaker this year. Here's the program.

For my part, I tried to tie the main issues of copyright into other themes of the conference and interests of the CCF, such as freedom of various kinds, including freedom of expression and movement (e.g. across borders with laptops), freedom to innovate, freedom from "taxation", freedom from Big Brother "control" via DRM and TPM, etc.

Here's the whole panel. The odd camera angle is because the Power Point screen was off stage.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you Howard.

    Now I've blown away a big chunk of my day to watching this, I will leave these remarks.

    I was left awe struck when Richard began his argument by claiming a false dichotomy between user and creator rights. By his reckoning there really is no such thing as user rights, as they are defined merely as exemptions 'carved' out of creators rights.

    I would be very interested to hear how he would justify whatever exemptions to creators rights that he does feel are reasonable, including the term limit on copyright (if he even agrees that such limits are reasonable).

    Given that the copyright terms as well as breadth are entirely arbitrary, and are a restriction on other peoples real private property rights (something many consider a more natural right) I tend to think of copyright as being 180 degrees opposite of Richard. I.E. rights bestowed upon creators are more properly considered exemptions to my private property rights. I would be very interested in hearing or participating in a debate with him based solely on this premise. Which of these law-makers takes as a premise will do more in terms of shaping future copyright law than anything else. The Americans use to see it as the latter, given their mention of copyright in their constitution. Now this is less so, and our laws are silent on this, though I do believe our MPs tend to agree more with Richard which does not bode well for fair use/dealings.

    Richard's views on TPMs are interesting too. He sees them as a way to enable content providers to provide more pricing options for different kinds of access to the same content, thereby, theoretically allowing for more distribution. Some channels are cheaper, and some are more expensive, but the bar of basic accessibility is generally lower.

    Good in theory, not so good in practice. It is convenient for him at the end, when he claims not to understand the economics of region encoding. Region encoding is where the lie is brought to his argument. Region encoding is a form of TPM which is used solely to divide a natural market up into smaller unnatural ones where the maximum profit can be squeezed out of each. In this case TPM does not reduce prices for the public. Instead it raises prices in all but one of the artificial markets.

    Finally in all the arguments about TPMs, no consideration is given by either side to the fact that for TPM on content to work, there must also be TPM on the device which displays it. That in turn means that any device I have such as a DVD player, cell phone, kindel, mp3 player, or computer, will not in fact obey the commands I give it as its owner. (Try skipping those copyright warnings on a normal DVD player) Someone else is in control of it other than the owner, and any legal protections for TPM mean that the owner of a device is not allowed to have full control of his own property. This is the same issue currently faced in the automotive market with the “Right to Repair” movement.

    Anyway. Thank you very much for a good performance.