Thursday, August 27, 2009

Canadian Copyright Town Hall - Toronto Edition

I got to attend the Government of Canada's Copyright town hall in Toronto. It was hosted by the Minister of Industry, the Honourable Tony Clement.

To say it was disappointing is an understatement.
I was not disappointed by the event itself. It was run well considering how many people wanted to speak. But my frustration stems from the views that were presented, or more importantly, the ones that were not.

First problem was the room was a stacked deck. The majority of the attendance made a living off of copyright. They were not all "evil industry executives". A lot of the people who spoke, and spoke well, were average Canadians trying to make a living off of their creative works. It was actually very good to hear these people speak about their struggles. However, the amount of Warner Music Employees who spoke equaled the amount of what I would consider regular, non-creative industry people who got a chance to speak. That was three. This is not anyones fault. I understand why the average Canadian couldn't be bothered, or more importantly, even know to come to this event.

Next problem was professionalism. The three people who did speak about fairness and balance, were barely coherent and in some cases laughed at. It was depressing to see. There was a fourth guy, but he actually stood up and claimed to be a huge wholesale pirate with 3 terrabytes of data he was sharing. He actually said works should be free. Not Helping.

The last, and biggest problem was the misinformation. And boy was there plenty of it. I'm not going to state them here as most of them are covered in what I would have said if I had the chance. My talking points morphed and changes as the night went on. So the speech as it is now was in some ways influenced by what I had heard throughout the night.

Without further delay, here is my very terse 3 minutes take on Copyright

My Name is Paul Tichonczuk and I'm from Toronto.
I'm a programmer and photographer.
Copyright is an important part of my every day life. Without it, I would not be able to make a living, use software to do my job or enjoy the music I listen to throughout the day. I am not represented by a corporation or a trade industry group. As a creator of works protected by copyright, I have had my work used without permission and understand the frustration that a lot of creators feel with what is happening in today's technology driven world.
I cannot however stand behind most of you and claim that draconian copyright enforcement through new legislation is the way to go. This may not be what many of you intend in asking to be allowed to make a living of of your works but it's very likely what may happen.

One gentlemen blurted out "Don't do what the US did". This couldn't be farther from the truth. The US is one of Canada's largest critics. Yet the DMCA has been for the most part a huge failure. It has not saved the music industry from it's eventual demise. It has resulted in stifling of competition, user choice and more lawsuits then could be listed in three hours let alone three minutes. One of the creators of the DMCA has publicly stated "Don't do what we did".

Creativity is not the creation of new things in a vacuum. It is the consuming, learning and re-creation of our culture. At their core, most creative works are a mixture of something borrowed and something new. We cannot move forward as a society with laws that will restrict competition and creative growth by imposing artificial locks, through things like DRM technology. It is also important to maintain the agnostic position of ISPs. As the telephone companies that most of them are, they should not be responsible for what is done over their pipes. Turning ISPs into gatekeepers would be the slippery slope towards the halt of Internet innovation in Canada.

I do not envy your position Mr. Clement. I do not have the answer to the many problems presented here today. Not one person here, including myself has put forth a reasonable approach to this issue. I only hope that whatever bill is presented to Canadians will look forward to the future, not at our limited past.

Thank You.