Hedy Fry Opposes C-61

Hedy Fry, MP Vancouver CentreAshley got a letter from Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre, in response to a petition she signed in opposition to C-61 (note the weird sentence structure & punctuation is verbatim from the letter):

Dear Ms. Richards:

Thank you for your correspondence concerning Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Copyright Act.

As you are aware the previous Liberal government had tabled a Bill on this issue but it did not come to debate because of the election. The current Conservative Bill has been eagerly awaited since they announced their intentions in December 2007.

Canada has signed two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties, but has not yet ratified them. The last time the Canadian Copyright Act was amended was in 1997 but these amendments did not address the WIPO treaty agreements. In the interim, communications technology has expanded rapidly. Everyone is in agreement that the Copyright Act has to be amended to reflect the impact of digital technology.

Bill C-61 should strike a balance between the right of creators to be reimbursed for their creative, intellectual property and the desire for consumers to have access to these creative works.

Indeed digital technology serves both the creator and the consumer well. It increases the reach and distribution of creative works as never imagined, before; which is precisely what creators need and it gives consumers easy access to creative works that can entertain, enrich, and educate.

This Bill does not serve either consumer or creator well. It prescribes narrow, punitive solutions to a complex problem. In fact the Bill could very well have the effect of curbing the use of digital technology, to the extent that it becomes useless. This would be a pity! As well implementation of the measures in the Bill would be nearly impossible, unless one abandons all privacy rights or imposes locks on the digital technology that severely limits its application. How to monetize digital technology to reward the creator and allow free and open use by the consumer is challenging.

As Liberals we believe that there should have been extensive consultations with legal experts, creators, distributors, and conventional and digital media industries to find the right balance of solutions. It is typical of the Harper government that they do not consult but impose.

Liberals intend to begin these consultations over the course of the summer so that when the Bill comes to the House we can propose appropriate amendments. Moreover we believe that the Bill should be further subject to public scrutiny if it ever gets to committee stage. It could be that after we consult with the expert groups they believe that Bill C-61 is unsalvageable, in which case one would have to vote against the Bill and rewrite a new one.

These are exciting and challenging times in media communications technology that can broaden the consumption of arts and cultural products, in a manner unheard of since the invention of the printing press. The challenges seemed impossible then but solutions were found that led to a Renaissance of art and culture. We are at a similar point in history, now. We must not use a sledge hammer.

Once again, thank you for writing. Please feel free to contact my office if I may be of further assistance.


Hon. Hedy Fry, M.P.

Vancouver Centre

While I’ve never been a big fan of Hedy Fry, it’s encouraging to see that she’s on the right side on this issue.

Have you contacted your MP about why Bill C-61 should be defeated?

Why Piracy Wins: Convenience, Timeliness

I had a nice little chat with the PR representative from TeleToon (the Canadian equivalent of Cartoon Network) the other week. She had contacted me for some help contacting TechVibes, and so I took the opportunity to ask when the new season of The Venture Brothers would be airing in Canada. She stated they were working to get it on the air sometime in the new year.

This is, in a word, suicide.

At this point, Cartoon Network had already broadcast half the season in the US already. I pointed out to the PR representative that because the show’s demographic skews heavily toward the geek-set, many of their viewers know how to obtain the show easily, albeit illegally, online using tools such as Miro and sites like tvRSS.net. By the time TeleToon airs the show in the new year, no one will care. She acknowledged this was probably true, and that they were trying to turn around shows faster.

I had a similar conversation at the Bridging Media conference when I talked with Gary Marcuse, a programming executive with the CBC. I asked him when the latest season of Doctor Who and Torchwood would be coming to Canada. Again, the latest seasons were already being broadcast in the UK but nowhere to be found in Canada, despite the fact that both shows are co-produced by the CBC and the BBC. Gary didn’t know the details of arrangement with the BBC, but guessed that the delay was likely due to either licensing legalities, or the terms of the co-production deal.

While iTunes has solved the problem of distributing US programming, the same isn’t true for international programming. While British classics such as Peep Show and the IT Crowd have been running for years, they haven’t made it onto iTunes, despite the sales success of other BBC shows distributed there. You can’t even buy the DVDs of these shows in North America. Your only option to get these programs currently is to buy the non-North American DVDs and a region-free DVD player – a solution which will become illegal if C-61 (“the Canadian DMCA”) becomes law.

I can’t believe that this is problem of manpower – after all, how hard is it to upload a file to the iTunes servers? Or outsource pressing of DVDs to a third party? Not very hard at all. In all likelihood the real culprit here is the nuances of licensing and international law. I imagine there’s a lot of guys spending a lot of time in dimly-lit rooms arguing over fine print for each and every country. No wonder they’re not in a hurry to do this. It sounds horrible.

The incremental approach to media distribution is what’s undermining consumers’ patience. This is why people pirate media – because it’s just damn easier and faster than waiting. In the meantime, media companies are leaving a lot of money on the table by not leveraging their assets to the fullest possible extent.

As consumers have altered their media consumption habits over the past decade, Big Media has tried every trick in the book to maintain the status quo: suing their customers into submission, deploying technological countermeasures, and lobbying for legislation to protect and perpetuate their crumbling business model. But they’ve ignored the obvious solution – we’re willing to pay, but we’re not willing to wait.

We want the good stuff, and we want it now.