By Ryan McGreal
Published June 24, 2010
James Moore, the Canadian Heritage Minister and the Conservative Party's pitbull-in-chief for their new, public consultation-dismissing Copyright Bill, claimed this week that the only people who oppose the new bill are "two groups of radical extremists".
What the "radical extremists" principally oppose is a provision in the copyright bill that makes it a criminal offence for a customer to copy legally purchased content - even for well-understood lawful, personal use like backing up or using on multiple devices - if the company selling the product adds any mechanism of "digital rights management" (DRM) or copy protection to it.
This provision is called anti-circumvention because it makes prohibits customers from circumventing 'digital locks' on the content they purchased.
The bill's apologists point out that the bill makes exceptions for fair personal use, educational use by teachers, and so on, but all these protections are subject to the anti-circumvention provision and hence toothless.
Moore has been active on Twitter throughout this long exercise in dismissing public consultation, and yesterday I posted the following comment to him:
@mpjamesmoore Bottom line: if content owners can nullify consumer rights just by adding DRM, the legislation is broken.
Soon after, Moore replied:
@RyanMcGreal I don't think it is quite that simple. Certainly not across all business models. I trust the market
@mpjamesmoore Is it "trusting the market" to give corporate content owners the power to ban consumer rights just by adding DRM?
@RyanMcGreal No, to trust consumers to purchase products they want and creators to follow
In other words, if consumers don't want products with added DRM, they won't buy the products, the market for those products will shrink and businesses will respond by selling products without DRM.
@mpjamesmoore That doesn't work when an oligopoly of corporate content owners works together through a coordinated DRM lobby.
Moore did not respond to this comment.
It's interesting that Moore "trusts the market" to provide what customers want, and yet advocates state intervention to criminalize fair personal use of a product that a corporation decides to saddle with DRM.
If the government really "trusts the market", then the government should trust an open, consistent legal framework that treats everyone fairly and really does "let the market decide" what products customers want to buy and use.
Instead, Moore and the PMO insist on what Cory Doctorow calls "state prohibitions on lawful enjoyment of private property".
By the way, the set of "radical extremists" who oppose the bill includes: the Canadian Consumer Initiative, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Library Association, the Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright, the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Bookseller Association, and the Documentary Organization of Canada.