Canadian Copyright Consultation – Transcript of Round Table 1 Online

The first round table on the copyright consultation has concluded and its subsequent transcript was posted online. There was plenty being said including scepticism over the existence of crown copyright and blanket banning of circumvention activities. There also seemed to be a couple of themes including how creators are, at some point, consumers of content, and the need for expanding fair dealings.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

You could probably write an entire encyclopedia on all the different aspects of copyright and how Canada should reform its copyright laws. It’s probably why the transcript, in spite of its length, seemed to abruptly end with lots left unsaid as time ran out. While there was the assertion that all of the topics were actually touched on during the round table, in fact, things like the issues surrounding patents, something that tends to be a whole different ballgame at times, was completely absent from the round table. That’s not to say the round table was narrowly focused, it actually did cover a huge wide range of topics. One could probably have three round tables and still not touch on all the subjects around reforming the copyright laws in Canada.

Perhaps one of the issues that might be of interest to Americans was something that was left unsaid – no one was supporting the Jammie Thomas conviction. The commentary surrounding the conviction noted that the million and a half dollar fine was disproportionate, though the fine was actually much closer to 2 million. On a number of occasions, Jared Moya, the other writer for ZeroPaid, noted how while the file-sharing lawsuits were supposedly to educate the public and deter them from file-sharing, the huge fine would likely have the opposite effect where people would question the legitimacy of the fine. This concept most certainly resonated with those that participated in the round table and sparked commentary how a punishment for copyright infringement should fit the crime – and most agree that a $2 Million fine for 24 songs is disproportionate given that one can buy an individual song for $1.

There was also commentary on how stopping file-sharing, short of tearing down the entire internet and rebuilding it from scratch, was not going to happen. There was also commentary on how the entertainment industry needs to work with ISPs to set up a business model where, for example, users pay a flat fee and offer popular files on a server. This would alleviate stress on the networks (though it should be noted that bandwidth consumption has been going down in recent years) and give users what they want.

DRM, TPM’s and other “digital locks” was under the spotlight with a very notable tone that a blanket ban on circumvention was wrongheaded given that it blocks uses that would otherwise be legal. There were only two representatives that supported digital locks, Steven Ellis for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association who argued that it enables geo-fencing and Danielle Parr with the Entertainment Software Association of Canada who said that digital locks enables users to play World of Warcraft and gives consumers choice while in the same breath saying that revenues are up for those that he represents in a country that doesn’t currently ban the act of circumventing digital locks.

Go back to the idea of geo-fencing. What geo-fencing is is basically selling content online only to those that are located within a certain country or in certain countries. Typically, a given system would read what IP address you are connecting to a server an determine what country that IP address originates from. If that IP address is recognized as an address that comes from a country outside of the allowed ranges, the server will prevent that user from doing some things including buying content. This system seems to fail to acknowledge that the internet makes users all over the world be a part of a global village. Blocking people from other countries from, most notably, buying content, is not a sustainable business model. It’s like owning a store in the middle of downtown and you would only sell your products to those who have a permanent Cleveland Giants tattoo right on their bicep. What if you like the Oakland Raiders instead? Tough luck, but you’re not wanted in this store. Geo-fencing online is pretty much the same thing. What if you don’t want a tattoo in the first place (ala anonymous online users not using a proxy in the correct location). Sorry kid, not happening. Most people would question how sustainable that store is in the first place.

Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. The people behind prominent online music store certainly feels your pain:

We all know how frustrating these restrictions can be. A lot of our employees are DJs from all ends of the spectrum- from basement DJs, to club residents, to DJs who have toured all over the world. Even our CEO Jonas Tempel holds a residency on Saturday nights at Beta, and regularly tours with Bad Boy Bill. And those of us who don’t fall into the DJ category are at the very least, electronic music aficionados. So we all know how frustrating it can be to listen to a track that you absolutely love, only to find out that it’s not available in your territory.

As many of you may already know, these restrictions have always been around, but were just not as noticeable as they are today. For example, in the past when you went into a record store to buy your music you only had access to what the distributors were allowed to sell. Similarly, the agreements that we have made with our labels can limit the areas where a release may be sold if it is already available by another, more prominent label in those regions. Release dates can vary from label to label as well. Some releases that are available in all territories may not be available everywhere at the same time. In fact, a lot of the limitations that we deal with now are still based on standards that were set by physical distribution. We are working hard to change some of these outdated practices, however, we always try to keep in mind and respect the fact that our labels are trusting us with their most valuable asset.

At the end of the day we are all here for the music, and we would love to see worldwide rights on all tracks. Until that is possible, we feel that keeping a more extensive label catalog brings us one step closer to reaching our goal.

Some might go as far as to say that those who restrict their catalogues to the paying public have absolutely no right to complain about slumping sales.

Overall, it looks like the round table does reflect the overall situation in the open portion of the consultation we reported on earlier. A very small minority of stake holders are beating the drums that support C-60 (Liberals) and C-61 (Conservatives) while the vast majority of Canadians disagree with that approach. Not hard to see just how far left field the government was when they tabled Bill C-61.

See also:

Michael Geist’s notes

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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