Sunday, August 24, 2008

RE: Bill C-61, the Canadian copyright bill.

Dear Jim Prentice,

I've been following recent developments regarding the new C-61 copyright bill. There are many things I don't like about it. Here are three.

1) It becomes illegal to copy DVDs for backups or for playing on another device.

I have recently started to move my DVDs onto a separate hard disk so that I can play them from my computer without going through the bother of finding the physical disk first. Essentially I have made a sort of crude movie jukebox. I find this to be a great way of watching movies.

I also make temporary copies of DVDs to my laptop for use on long flights or bus rides. Playing from the digital copies doesn't take up as much battery lifespan as playing them from disk. Also I don't need to carry around the DVD drive, not to mention the disk itself. This is especially useful since my laptop machine doesn't have a DVD drive.

I am concerned for people making copies of DVDs for use in their iPod movie player devices. While I don't do it I don't think this should be made illegal. I can see a time in the near future where it will be possible to put every movie I own onto one of these devices. I would like to see this doesn't become illegal.

I am also concerned about the parents who want to make backup copies of their children's DVDs because their children tend to destroy them. I think this is a reasonable, fair use.

2) The anti circumvention clauses.

All free and open source DVD players on linux are, to my knowledge, based on the DeCSS. This code was backward engineered to allow DVD playback on Linux. This would be made illegal.

From my understanding, the development of this code would be illegal. I'm not even sure that the use of this code is legal, therefore I'm not sure whether there's any way of legally playing DVDs on linux. I think this is a bad thing.

Putting linux aside for a moment, the breaking of CSS has opened up the possibility for me to make copies of DVD for the uses I mentioned above. In a very real way I owe these new capabilities to the breaking of the encryption. It looks like bill C-61 makes format shifting in general illegal and breaking DRM to do so doubly illegal.

I believe that DRM and encryption are examples of how digital technology can be used to create new business models. Digital technology, and the use of encryption, can allow the content producer to control how their content is consumed and paid for. Historically, this has been defeated by other who break the encryption and backward engineer their formats. Anti-circumvention legislation removes the ability of third parties to do this and tilts the balance of power in favour of content producers.

With DRM, piracy is a red herring. DRM certainly doesn't help stop piracy since all you need is one non-DRM copy to begin to circulate for all piracy to be possible. It is, however, a great way of getting people to pay extra for the ability to VCR programs for later viewing... Or to pay to re-buy tracks they actually own but need to buy again because their tracks all use a DRM for a type of player that doesn't exist any more.

Finally, I would like to mentions the Sony root kit incident. Sony's CD copy protection DRM was obnoxious and invasive. It used a root-kit style attack more common of trojan horse (computer virus) cracking attempts. It's buggy modifications to Windows has caused me personally to spend time fixing machines broken by its buggy implementation (known commonly as the Sony rootkit fiasco). In my opinion this sort of drive by virus-like behaviour from software should be illegal and not any attempt to circumvent it!

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