Copyright Industry Demands Canada Adopt Three Strikes Law

Copyright industry lawyer and lobbyist for the CMPDA (The Canadian arm of the MPAA) and the CRIA (The Canadian arm of the RIAA) wrote an op-ed saying that it’s “Time to end Canada’s pirate haven” while calling for a graduated response (which is effectively a three strikes law). This latest demand could very easily highlight a change in strategy for the copyright industry – which is confusing given the responses to the Canadian copyright consultation so far.

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

The op-ed was written in the National Post recently. While the subheading strangely resembles the Google mafia spam that gets sprinkled on our forums every so often, this op-ed could highlight a change in strategy for the copyright industry trying to lobby Canada’s policy makers.

As many who follow the copyright debate in Canada might recall, when the CMPDA successfully lobbied the government to introduce an anti-cam law, most experts observing the copyright debates saw this as a thin wedge approach prior to the controversy surrounding Bill C-61 (copyright reform legislation which has since died on the order paper). The anti-cam legislation passed with little resistance, though proved to be little more than legislation to criminalize what was already illegal. As a result, some experts criticized the copyright industry for not understanding Canadian law and, since then, the high profile theatre camera piracy busts utilized the so-called “outdated” copyright laws of Canada. The copyright industry argued that prior to the legislation, 90% of all movie piracy was traced back to Canada – a myth that was debunked, re-debunked, and debunked by the MPAA’s own statistics.

Compared to the laundry list of demands made by the copyright industry, the anti-cam legislation seemed like a small request in comparison. Bill C-61, however, looked like the rest of the demands the copyright industry had been wanting – blanket anti-circumvention laws to override fair dealings, criminalizing file-sharers with statutory damages, etc.

The failure to pass C-61 could have served to remind the copyright industry that they can’t have everything all at once. Politicians backing the legislation received a huge amount of public backlash. So did the copyright industry back off and go back to the thin wedge approach? Apparently not.

It’s particularly bizarre considering what is going on with the copyright consultation organized by the government. So far, it seems public opinion has beaten out the copyright industry’s demands by a landslide with hundreds of submissions from people from all walks of life rejecting the industry approach (nearly unanimous).

In this latest op-en, Barry Sookman, when discussing what he’d like to see in the copyright reform legislation, says, “The bill should also include a graduated response process to help stem infringements in peer-to-peer (p2p) networks. Studies show that over 70% of users will stop illegal file sharing when they receive a notice from an ISP about it, particularly when they also know that not stopping could have consequences.”

In other words, he’d like to see a three strikes law, then in the next sentence, basically proved why notice-and-notice is sufficient.

Sookman repeats the myth that Canada is a pirate haven even though Canada on the world stage isn’t even a drop in the bucket in terms of piracy. Not only that, but it’s been repeatedly admitted in Canada that p2p’s growth has, at worst, stalled and at best, on the decline.

“We should ratify the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties.” Sookman adds, “These treaties represent the overwhelming international consensus on how to protect copyright on the Internet. Canada is alone among its trading partners in not having implemented these treaties. The laws they mandate — including requiring protection for digital locks — have proved useful internationally in stimulating investment in cultural products. The global experience shows they enable more diversified choice and access to digital products for consumers.”

It’s difficult to know where to begin with debunking the logic here. No widely used digital lock has gone uncracked. Digital locks have yet to prove their worth, and as such, many record labels including major record labels have been abandoning DRM’s false promise of preventing copying. Digital locks does nothing to stimulate the creation of cultural goods – as such, anti-circumvention laws does nothing more than harm the cultural industry by creating enemies of their own customers. Digital locks are the very thing that stops choice and access as they prevent users from using legally paid for content in ways they choose. In fact, Amazon’s Kindle proved that digital locks stops customers from owning what they pay for.

Of course, who is Sookman trying to kid anyway? If this push makes any headway in government, it proves that the copyright industry is only interested in fooling politicians into legislating draconian copyright law – now beyond what was so rigorously opposed with the Canadian DMCA. They clearly want it all. It’s politicians that have to deal with the public backlash, not the lobbyists. So if the government sells out a third time on copyright, it’s the politicians that will have protests in their ridings for legally breaking everyone’s equipment. At least if that happens, it would prove ever more obvious who the government ignores.

[Hat tip: Michael Geist]

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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