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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Copyfight Rages

We've talked about this before, but it bears repeating. One of the dumbest pieces of legislation the US ever drafted [take your pick, right?] is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is the law trotted out whenever a giant entertainment corporation threatens to sue a soccer mom in Arkansas for using a Daughtry song as background music on a YouTube slideshow. Canada's lack of such a law is probably one of the reasons why neither of us have gotten C&Ds in our inboxes.

Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

This week, Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice will introduce Canada's version of the DMCA to Parliament, before heading to Japan and South Korea next week. To be clear: the DMCA is the law that technically says you can't transfer the songs you bought on compact disc, onto your iPod, among other things. It gets whipped out anytime anyone wants to threaten someone who's done something on the web someone else doesn't approve of. It's also highly likely that the bill will cater to interests in the US. [Michale Geist has the talking points.]

Think I'm lying? Was it not just last week news broke that the US already had the authority to snatch your iPod or laptop if they thought it contained copyrighted material? And that Canada was thinking of getting on that train? Oh yeah, it was.

As I've said before, don't misunderstand, mine [and others'] issues with laws like this has nothing to do with protecting the right to be a thief. Copyright protection, whether you like it or not, needs to be there in some form [though some would argue that any artists who's generated enough interest that people want to steal the fruits of their labours should be thankful, not litigious]. The problem is that such laws want to tell you what you can do with your own property. Under such an act, not only can you not rip a movie to your iPod, libraries can't carry the same film. You can't burn mixes for your friends. And on and on.

Books have been protected from this sort of shenanigan by the 'first sale doctrine' for a century. But with no similar law in place for other forms of physical media, expect numerous pains in the asses for all of us, not to mention the criminalizing of the remix, one of the most vibrant artforms to emerge in the last 20 years.

Provided there's even time to do so, write your MP when this drops. Make an issue of it, don't just let it slide through the legislature. There's a respect for ownership, and there's greed. You don't need a crystal ball to know what this is.

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