Michael Argast

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Michael Argast



Documents received have been posted in the official language in which they were submitted. All are posted as received by the departments, however all address information has been removed.

Submission from Michael Argast received on September 8, 2001 via e-mail

Subject: Canadian copyright reform

To whom it may concern,

I have a large, recent, horrifying fear over what is occuring in the area of copyrights, freedom of speech and thought control in our society.

Large corporations have successfully lobbied the US and International governments to pass increasingly draconian copy protection controls. These controls are being used to limit the freedom of speech of researchers and academics around the world, and emboldened by their past success they are taking even more drastic actions. They are taking steps to ensure that every electronic device on the planet has copy protection mechanisms built-in, which will have a dramatic impact on the manufacture, fair-use and creation of these new technologies.

These same corporations will tell you that they do this to protect the interests of the artists, writers, songwriters. This is a bald-faced lie. The creative artists who have laboured to make these works are having their rights stripped away by these same corporations. These corporations have lobbied to have musical recordings labelled "Works for Hire", meaning that after a set period of time, the copyright transfers back to the corporation, and the artist loses all future rights to compensation. This is looking after the artists interests? The corporations have also lobbied to extend copyright priviledges again and again and again, ensuring that these creative works never fall into the public domain and benefit all of society, which was the initial intent of copyright legislation.

To understand just how pervasive their attempt at thought control is, you only have to look at their attacks on libraries. As you and I know, libraries are often staffed by underpaid, passionate people who have no desire other than to spread knowledge. The library book loaning method has brought vast educational and informational resources to the poor people of Canada who otherwise would not have access to copywritten materials for the advancement of their knowledge. These same corporations that are lobbying for dramatic changes to our copyright act are attacking libraries, calling them thieves and pirates.

Finally, at a time when it is becoming widely accepted that Internet connectivity can be a great equalizer in our society, and that access is of paramount importance, the corporations have lobbied successfully in other jurisdictions (the USA, for example) to have 'suspected' copyright violators access cut off. They've even made it so that the ISP is liable for legal action if they do not cut off this access, regardless of guilt or innocence. In fact, they don't need a warrant, a court order, or even evidence. They just need to call the ISP and claim that copyright violations are occuring. They have even attempted to cut off the access of people here in Canada - in a jurisdiction where we don't even have the same laws.

We need to take immediate, and drastic actions to prevent the devastation these corporations are bringing. We need to:

1. Enshrine fair use in the copyright act. Legislate that all media have methods for fair use by individuals (lending, time shifting, changing of media, making backup copies).

2. Protect freedom of speech. Do not allow technology developers to hide weaknesses in security algorithms by jailing professors or researchers.

3. Enshire the right to connectivity. This doesn't fall under copyright law, but if the Internet is truly to be a great equalizer, we need to ensure that everyone's access to that network is protected by strong laws.

4. Ensure that the artists are protected - make sure that the intent of copyright - the creative artists realizing profit from their creation, is protected and that corporations do not successfully lobby the government to take their rights away in the interest of corporate profit.

5. Ensure that copywritten materials, whether it be music, literature, research material, etc., be conserved in a non-encrypted format in our National Library, and made publicly available upon the expiration of the copyright. This will ensure that copywritten materials are not lost to us forever due to corporate failure, or accidental destruction.

This is an incredibly important issue. As we move forward into the information age, the power over control of information, and the fair access to information will become incredibly important. The societies which properly embrace the opportunities and understand these issues will thrive. Those that don't are doomed to competitive, educational, social and democratic failure.

I realize that as an individual it is terribly difficult to stay on top of and keep track of the blur of issues that is covered only briefly in my letter here. I gladly make myself available to you for any consultation on these issues if you so desire, as this is an ongoing concern I have, and something I feel quite passionate about.

Thanks, and keep up the good fight,


Michael Argast
(address removed)

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