We have been interviewing Russell McOrmond. The interview is in three parts. Parts 1 and 2 are already available. We now conclude our three part interview.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
We have been interviewing Russell McOrmond in a three part interview. In part 1, we discussed the complexity of Bill C-32, copyright terms and anti-circumvention provisions. In part 2, we discussed DRM in physical devices, the closeness of Canadian policy making and American policy making, and the WIPO Internet treaties. We now come to our conclusion of our interview:
ZeroPaid (ZP): There’s a review of the laws being put forth every five years, but you mention in your FAQ that it’s not a review held by an external body such as the copyright board. In the US, the DMCA review seems to be held by the copyright office. Is this one of those few cases where Canada should actually look at the DMCA as a model and hold reviews externally as opposed to within committee? What do you think is the ideal way to review copyright law?
Russell McOrmond (RM): While US copyright modified by the DMCA is better than Canadian copyright modified by Bill C-32 in many respects, including this one, there is an easier way to deal with this issue. I believe changes to copyright must be managed in a different way.
Canada has tended to create massive, divisive and unreadable omnibus bills once every decade. The process is long, and nobody is ever happy or even able to understand the result. I believe Canadian copyright law has only become worse to a vast majority of stakeholders over time because of this process.
We should instead have a larger number of smaller bills. Copyright law is becoming as hard to understand as tax law. We change tax law through much smaller bills, recognizing that it would be unmanageable to make massive changes to tax law all at the same time. Copyright must receive similar respect.
For instance, if WIPO treaty ratification is the major goal of C-32, then we should rip out anything that isn’t part of the two 1996 WIPO treaties. We can then discuss these treaties, and our implementation of these treaties, without there being so many other things generating noise.
If we have some prerequisites that need to be passed before legislation that would implement the WIPO treaties makes sense, then we should table, debate, amend and pass them first.
There is no reason for Canada to feel rushed to ratify the 1996 treaties. There are various older WIPO treaties that Canada hasn’t ratified, and others that the USA hasn’t ratified. If we use how long the USA took to ratify Berne as a comparison, we don’t need to ratify the 1996 treaties until 2104 or so…
ZP: Does this bill have an impact on the open source and free software movement and GNU/GPL projects in Canada?
RM: Bill C-32 style legal protection for technological measures harms nearly all software authors. Before copyright can protect our interests, including our contracts and license agreements like the GPL being enforceable, hardware owners need to be able to make their own software choices. If people can’t make their own software choices, then how can they choose our software?
Access Control technical measures on content limit access to content to a subset of software that have the keys, and thus is anti-competative. This is harmful to the entire technology sector, excluding those few monopolies which benefit from this anti-competative practise.
Access Control technical measures on devices mean that the manufacturer, not the owner, make software choices which is even more harmful to the entire software sector.
This shouldn’t be seen as an issue that only harms the Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) sector, but that harms all independent and competitive software regardless of what contractual/licensing terms are being used to protect our interests.
ZP: From your perspective, has the reception of the bill been as strong as ever? Are there as many or even more people interested in this bill as seen in previous bills or has attention to legislation like this faded?
RM: I think the government was surprised by the amount of participation in the 2001 consultations, but hasn’t been as surprised since.
The proponents and opponents of the bill haven’t really changed. There are people who blindly believe that if some copyright is good, more is better, and look favourably overall at C-32. In many cases I don’t think they have actually read the bill, or analysed the impact of the bill on their own interests.
The same is true for some of the opponents who believe that Copyright is already unbalanced and tilted in favour of incumbent copyright holders, and oppose this bill as a whole.
There are only a few of us in the middle that will do clause-by-clause analysis and commentary, and that don’t blindly believe that Copyright can be simplified to claiming that “more” or “less” is better.
There is a lot of arm-chair politics on all sides, with people that will be upset but not follow through with talking to policy makers. We need to somehow translate this interest and emotion into actions that can impact the policy. How many people contacted their or other members of parliament over the summer? How many meetings did they have?
If someone did meet with your MP to discuss copyright, I would love to hear about it so that it can be reported on the Digital-copyright.ca site. I posted about a meeting I had with Justin Trudeau over the summer.
Parliament is returning on September 20th. This period when the parties are having caucus meetings prior to returning to parliament is a good time to ensure that Copyright is added to their agenda.
If you are shy to meet, then I can help. You may also be willing to help encourage your MP to meet with someone like myself if you feel I could present your case for you.
Thanks, and I hope to hear from more people about meeting with MPs soon.
We would like to thank Russell McOrmond for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us.
For more information, you can visit Russell McOrmonds blog at Bill C-60 for previous bills. A chronology of copyright in Canada can be found here. His blog also contains petitions including one against ACTA as well as other information pages including an information page on contacting your MP.