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Collective Thoughts on User Rights, and Canadian Copyright

There are two different camps when it comes to copyright on both sides of the copyright debates.  Those that believe in copyright enforcement, and those that believe industry needs to adapt.  I’m in the middle of these two with my perception of things.  However when it comes to copyright in law, there’s a lot of politics, reputations, and ego’s in Canada rather than applied economics when dealing with changing copyright law.  We have yet to see an actual independent judicial economic test thrown on industry as to the actual damage (if any) that has been caused by a download from a file sharing network.  In fact the in the US, the Obama admin is trying it’s best to ensure that doesn’t happen with a file sharing case that’s made it to their supreme court.  I think we’re all owed an explanation as to what the actual damages are caused by a P2P user.  Is it piracy, or is it ideology driving the copy “right” side of the debate?  If actual harm cannot be proven, than I believe we need not have laws governing deterrence of use within a newly formed medium.

The Canadian Government has reduced the statutory damages for non-commercial infringement in the new copyright act to $100 – $5000. Those damages are not set up to reflect actual damages, meaning they are set up as a deterrent on the P2P networks.  Even if no damages have occurred as a result of P2P download/upload, consumers are still on the hook for not just legal costs but damage awards that are disproportionate to actual harm (if any) caused.  This could mean that these damage awards are purely meant to punish users, rather than reflect actual economic harm.

At the time of the copyright consultations in 2009, those supporting the notice to notice trolling approach felt that a threat of a $5000 law suit would be enough to “deter” users from using a medium that industry has yet to prove any actual damages have occurred as a result of a user download/upload. We have laws in place as a result that threaten and harass users, for no other proven stated purpose than the lack of adaptively, and lack of meeting market demands by industry. I’m strongly opposed to this, and those that support this approach regardless of their backgrounds.

Users and consumers represent the market. In a free market society we should not be trying to dictate on how the market adapts to technological advances. That slows down innovation, puts unfair advantages on new emerging businesses (especially in the digital economy), and as a result can cause economic harm.  Those in industry and abroad that think government needs to dictate how industry works and adapts to technological change stems from an ideology that should not be accepted in today’s applied economics, or even be considered socially acceptable. Putting preference within law on those who refuse to adapt can be a very dangerous approach to take with an economy going through a transition and revolution. That also presents a moral hazard on those entities that should be innovating around market needs, and are choosing not to due to the protections afforded to them within law and regulations. Maybe the delay in the governments Digital Economic Strategy is a result of discovering this?

Users and consumers should not be harassed, threatened or punished by industry because they have chosen different and innovative distribution models within media that industry has issues with.  Users that upload pictures or share media online through social media (an accepted use of file sharing) are just as guilty in the eyes of the law for “piracy” as those downloading off of the file sharing networks. Every single socially savvy internet user is responsible for copyright infringement several times a day. So what are we do? Harass and sue the population because they are using the Internet?  I don’t know about you, but something doesn’t sit right with me on that.  The internet, industry and market has now evolved around the sharing of media. It’s time the law reflects this as well on the user side.

I do believe however that industry itself needs fair rules, and still very much believe that commercial copyright enforcement is needed. However that system is a mess right now and not innovator friendly especially within media. Copyright is extremely complex, often with overlapping licensing fees (due to years of industry lobbying). Sometimes no licensing fees exist for certain things and it’s extremely expensive to innovate around copy protected works in the current system. The copyright board needs to be open to public submissions in order to change this.

I have very strong convictions against undue prosecution and prejudice within society.  As Canadians, we have a very long and well documented history of having the courage to stand up to fight those who present such ideologies. If history has taught us anything, it’s to keep questioning those responsible and who assist with undue prosecution and prejudice on members of our society.  If we do not question the facts surrounding prejudice, than history would have taught us nothing.  There will be a lot of people that will disagree with my views, both in and outside the pro-internet community.  That’s fine, however if there is justification for the prosecution and prejudice on users for non-commercial copyright infringement that’s based on fact not ideology, I’m all ears.

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