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Submission from Ashley George received on July 17, 2001 11:59 PM via e-mail

Subject: Copyright Reform Process Comments

        The attached document contains my comments. I am a student at Dalhousie University and all views presented in the attached letter are my own and do not reflect any views or opinions held by my University or my current employer.

        Thank you for the opportunity to contribute.

        Ashley George

(Address removed)

Fellow citizens,

I am a student of Computer Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I am a programmer, designer and user. I have been following the legal developments in our neighbour countries with respect to technological measures for preventing copyright infringement and I am dismayed to see our liberal country considering the adoption of such extreme concepts of copyright “protection” reinforcement.

I protest the planned legal reinforcement of such technological measures. As noted in the ‘Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues’, technological measures have failed in the past and are often a serious hindrance for legitimate users. Reinforcing technological measures with the law encourages corporations to ineffectively attempt to stall infringement at the expense of legitimate users. These users become forced to endure odious constraints and limitations on the private use of media they have legally purchased and copyrighted information they have licensed.

Technological measures require users to jump through hoops to privately use their purchased media or licensed content in manners the original content authors did not foresee or personally desire. This leads into my second complaint.

Often, technological measures are referred to as ‘protection’. This is a misleading term abused for its positive connotations. Technological measures are not about protection. They are about control: control of sold media, control of content, control of consumer use, control of presentation, control of fees and control of services.

This boils down to control of consumers and their purchases. It is not good enough to sell Mr. X a VHS cassette and then watch him merrily trundle away to enjoy his movie in private in whatever manner he desires. The cassette must be replaced with a new format (let’s call it DVVVD) with technological measures preventing all unplanned uses of the content.

In this particular case, consumers with DVVVD-ROM drives in their computers become forced to purchase expensive software when perfectly good free alternatives already exist. These alternatives would be illegal under proposed changes to the law because they circumvent the encryption on the DVVVD discs. Does the government really wish to legalize anticompetitive product tying?

Even better, electronic books could be encrypted to render reading material proprietary and under the control of specific corporate entities. Thus, one could no longer read a purchased book without one’s E-BookReader™. This is a clear example of a move from an open format (paper and text files) to a closed, proprietary and selfish format (encrypted data). As I previously stated, this obviously allows companies to cross-pollinate and tie their products together. Again, this is anticompetitive.

In the United States, in a case ‘Connectix vs. Sony’, Sony sued Connectix for publishing and selling a software program emulating the Sony Playstation™ game console. The court found that because Connectix created the emulator “cleanly” without reference to the actual Playstation hardware that such emulation is a legal act. Therefore, in the United States it has been agreed at least once that consumers have a right to play media they have purchased without being bound to buy the commercially associated console. The only difference between a Playstation emulator and a “fictitious” DVVVD player emulator is that the DVVVDs are encrypted.

It follows that in order to exercise one’s right to play purchased media with DVVVDs, one must be capable of circumventing the access controls in the manner of one’s choosing. If law reinforces access controls, this creates a morally dubious legal tie between the software (DVVVD) and the hardware (the DVVVD player). Thus, access controls should bow before one’s right to privately use a purchased product in their manner of choosing.

Reinforcing technological measures hardly sounds like a positive improvement. The present laws can be adapted to apply to software and related technologies without redundantly reinforcing technological measures. I concur with the suggestion in the ‘Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues’, that technological measures may possibly be beyond the scope of the copyright law.

Even so, I submit that any law should never reinforce technological measures for preventing copyright infringement. The shackling of information can only be detrimental to our society. It is better to punish infringing parties individually than to punish everyone by imposing physical barriers and filters upon the flow of information. Since infringing parties already infringe by definition, only users will be seriously affected. Companies will feel encouraged to add cumbersome technological measures and casual legitimate users will suffer. The law should be enough of a deterrent without enforcing tedious physical barriers encouraging strict information monopolies and anticompetitive behaviour.

Technological measures are an act of intellectual aggression and domination. They are purportedly directed solely at infringing parties, but they affect us all equally. We are denied our ability to fairly use the media we have purchased and that is unacceptable.


Ashley George

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