*Canadian technology and privacy watchdog Michael Geist reported today that the Prime Minister has asked for a US-style DMCA bill to be delivered in six weeks. This sudden turnaround in policy is an alarming development, given the current fair regime we enjoy today. I was moved to write a letter to my MP, who happens to be the Finance Minister. I’m including this letter below with the invitation to my fellow Canadians to crib as necessary in crafting your own letters to your MP. *

As Michael Geist suggests in his piece, I’ll be printing and mailing this letter to Flaherty, Heritage Minister Moore, Industry Minister Clement, Harper and Michael Ignatieff, leader of the opposition. I encourage all like-minded Canadians to do the same.

*Jim Flaherty
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

May 5, 2010

Dear Mr Flaherty,

I am writing to express my growing concern over the Government’s moves to strengthen copyright protections for the benefit of both the United States and their entertainment industry. As Michael Geist reported today (at http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/5008/125/), we hear that Prime Minister Harper has ordered the creation of a DMCA-like bill for Canada. In such a bill, there are two vectors in particular that I consider harmful to Canadians:

1. First, the repeal or reduction of “fair use”, which allows consumers to make copies of legally-purchased works for personal use, such as a backup copy of a DVD that would otherwise get scratched or jam-smeared by your kids.

2. Second, the mandating of anti-circumvention technology, which would make it illegal to work around digital rights management technologies. Not only would this step prevent the execution of fair use, but it would stifle innovation, making basic research with digital content illegal.

Since the proliferation of digital content began in the early part of this decade, the entertainment industries have reacted with ham-fisted tactics to lock down their content. We watched as the music industry utterly failed in its attempts to stop people from sharing their music. Instead of investing their resources in providing a legal solution — such as an open, fairly-priced digital storefront — they squandered their chance on lawyers to sue their customers, locking technologies and lobbyists. Only since the introduction of viable commercial music sites (such as Apple’s iTunes Store) has the rampant piracy of music declined. Consequently, the TV and film industries are suffering much less as they have worked diligently to make their content available more readily online, and it appears the book industry is doing the same.

The lessons here are plain to see: heavy-handed copyright legislation is not the way to control the spread of unlicensed content. Instead, the market itself has it within its power to stop its problems.

These are tumultuous times: the Internet has changed the rules of content distribution, now that everything has become digitized. At this time, Canada has a choice: embrace the future by supporting its current copyright policy, or fight the future and stand against the rights of consumers by supporting the outdated business model of American copyright holders.

This is not just an issue of consumer rights. To me, it’s an issue of sovereignty, because the pressure for this bill isn’t coming from Canadians, but rather from the American politicians you work with. Given the breadth of this legislation, it will touch the lives of every Canadian, both now and into the distant future. Can you honestly believe that any Canadian, from Victoria to St John’s, would be in favour of giving up the freedoms they currently enjoy?

Kill this bill, Mr Flaherty. Let the market deal with this problem, and let the Americans suffer with their own short-sightedness.

Aaron Vegh

James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage
Tony Clement, Industry Minister
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Michael Ignatieff, Opposition Leader