Interest Groups Make Demands Over Copyright Reform

A debate about Copyright reform. There was probably a time in Canada where a debate on Copyright reform was severely lacking.

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

Now it seems a debate on copyright reform is plentiful between key different groups. Recently, other voices expressed concern over possible proposed copyright reform. This time, it is all about Canadian privacy.

Publicity over copyright reform has never been greater. Between CIPPIC, the Sam Bulte incident, the start-up of Online rights Canada, Bill C-60/Bill C-74, Canadian’s suing Sony BMG for their controversial Rootkit technology, CRIA’s (Canadian Recording Industry Association) Pollara study and the controversy that followed, Graham Henderson’s (President of the CRIA) speech, the creation of the CMCC coupled with the NDP backing them, it seems the topic on Copyright and all related issues in Canada has grown exponentially over the past two years.

If the debate over copyright reform was a fire, more fuel may have just been added. A group known as Intellectual Privacy Canada posted an open letter to two Canadian ministers; Honourable Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Honourable Maxine Bernier, Minister of Industry. In the letter (PDF), Canada’s Privacy Community states, “DRM [Digital Rights Management] is used by some copyright holders ostensibly to control access to and use of copyright works. In fact, DRM technology can be used to override fundamental privacy protections. DRM typically uses surveillance to monitor and collect detailed information about people’s access to and use of creative works.”

“Rather than consulting on privacy and considering copyright law reforms that would protect Canadians from the use of DRM (as an increasing number of commentators have suggested we should do), our former government proposed copyright reforms that would provide protection for DRM. Proposed ‘anti-circumvention’ provisions would make it illegal for people to circumvent copyright holders’ DRM. Such legal provisions could cripple Canadians’ ability to protect their privacy and to enjoy copyright works in private, free from copyright holders’ DRM ‘spyware’.”

“We seek assurance that:

any proposed copyright reforms will prioritize protection by including a full privacy consultation and a full impact assessment with the introduction of any copyright reform bill;

any proposed anti-circumvention provisions will create no negative privacy impact; and

any proposed copyright reforms will include pro-active privacy protections that, for example, enshrine the rights of Canadians to access and enjoy copyright works anonymously and in private.”

So just who is ‘Canada’s Privacy Community’? According to the open letter, the following were signatories in the open letter:

Association for Media and Technology in Education in Canada

Atlantic Provinces Library Association

BC Civil Liberties Association

BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

BC Library Association

Colin Bennett, Professor of Political Science, University of Victoria

Canadian Association of University Teachers

Canadian Federation of Students

Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic [CIPPIC]

Canadian Library Association

CLUE: The Canadian Association for Open Source

Consumers Association of Canada

Electronic Frontier Canada

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa

Marsha Hanen, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Victoria

Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology at the University of Ottawa

Library Association of Alberta

Online Rights Canada

Ontario Library Association

Bruce Phillips, Former Privacy Commissioner of Canada (1991-2000)


Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Teresa Scassa, Director of the Law and Technology Institute and Associate Professor at Dalhousie Law School

Val Steeves, Professor, Faculty of Criminology, University of Ottawa

Paul Van Oorschot, Canada Research Chair in Network and Software Security, at Carleton University

Also, there was a separate letter (PDF) of support to Canadian Minister of Heritage and the Minister of Industry. The letter was signed by Jennifer Stoddart (Privacy Commissioner of Canada), Richard Dicerni (Deputy Minister – Industry Canada), Judith A. LaRocque (Deputy Minister – Canada Heritage and Status of Women), Susan Bincoletto (Director General, Marketplace Framework Policy Branch – Industry Canada) and Patricia Neri (Director General, Copyright Policy – Canadian Heritage). The letter states “I appreciate the need to modernize Canadian copyright law to account for the Internet and new technologies, but am aware that DRM can be used in a manner that invades the reasonable privacy expectations of Canadians. It is therefore critically important that any copyright reforms contain privacy protections in relation to DRM. Legislation proposed by the previous government failed to do this”

Ann Cavoukian, privacy commissioner, stated in a letter addressed to the same people, “Many DRM applications require the collection of some personal information (data collected from the user’s operation of the DRM application and the content it provides access to), in order to work effectively. For example, some companies using DRM rely on the technology’s capacity to collect personal information and transmit it back to the publisher of the content. They may also use the personal information and other clickstream data as a means to track customers’ demographics and usage patterns and, as a result, learn how to market to particular segments of the population more precisely.”

“I explore the potential threats to privacy arising from DRM in a paper entitles, ‘Privacy and Digital Rights Management (DRM): An Oxymoron? (2002)’. The title speaks for itself.”

“After reviewing the potential impact on privacy, the paper argues that companies using DRM technologies should do so in a manner that does not diminish Canadians’ legitimate privacy expectations.”

A CIPPIC press release (PDF) states ““The Canadian government has not publicly consulted on the privacy implications of possible copyright reforms,” notes CIPPIC staff counsel David Fewer. “The signatories to the open letter argue that the infamous Sony BMG ‘rootkit’ DRM demonstrates that their privacy concerns are well-founded, and that the time has come for the Canadian government to consider ‘copyright law reforms that would protect Canadians from the use of DRM’, and not ‘reforms that would provide protection for DRM.’”

So it’s clear that their major concerns were demonstrated by Sony BMG’s Rootkit technology as well as the Canadian action followed up by more Canadian action against the corporation as they wish to protect Canadian’s privacy from future similar technology. While some may appear to support DRM, it looks as though they all disagree with the data collecting methods. It appears as though spyware is in trouble through Copyright reform.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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