As a student, I was constantly being called upon to support various causes, through means ranging from making donations to attending rallies. Usually, such activities have a very indirect effect; sometimes, they cannot be reasonably expected to have any effect at all. Not so, recent protest activities around Canada’s new copyright act: a draconian piece of legislation that would have criminalized all sorts of things that people have legitimate rights to do, such as copying a CD they own onto an iPod they own.
Defending the fair use of intellectual property has become a rallying point for those who don’t want to see the best fruits of the information revolution destroyed by corporate greed or ham-fisted lawmaking in the vein of the much-derided American Digital Millennium Copyright Act. At their most controversial, such acts criminalize even talking about ways to circumvent copyright-enforcement technology, even when such technology is being mistakenly applied to non-copyrighted sources: such as those covered by the excellent Creative Commons initiative or those where fair use is permissive for consumers. Watching a DVD you own using a non-approved operating system (like Linux) could become a criminal offence.
For now, the protests seem to have been successful. Of course, the temptation for anyone trying to pass a controversial law is to hold off until attention dissipates, then pass it when relatively few people are watching. Hopefully, that will not prove the ultimate consequence of this welcome tactical victory for consumer rights.
Related prior posts:
- Public broadcasters and the web
- On digitized books
- Public service announcement (on Digital Rights Management)
- Unlocking the iPhone
- Forbidden features
- If you can’t open it, you don’t own it
Feel free to link other related matter in comments.