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Sunday, June 27, 2010

corresponding with my MP

Hello Denise, I am sorry to write just to complain about something, but recent introduction of DRM/copyright related legislation in Ottawa is too much for me to stay silent, especially with my arts background...

I have heard the government is proposing to criminalize the breaking of DRM lock technology...

I have three problems with this. One is that DRM locks are hazardous to consumers. Any DRM locked media is impossible to back-up without breaking the lock. I have known a CD to get a scratch on it and perform inconsistently, but then if I burn a copy of it the copy will perform fine, and the original may be discarded. Since the beginning of computing the law of the land has been that users are allowed to create a backup copy of their media anyway, against just such an eventuality. Besides being common sense; and a courtesy to users who would not wish to buy, for example, a replacement CD with new unnecessary booklet and case; the elimination of this right is just that - the elimination of a functional user right we have had up until now.

The second problem is that the DRM locking section of the proposed bill invalidates many other provisions of the bill. Go ahead and make a legal YouTube mashup, but if you have to break any digital locks for the content, it's illegal. Format- or time-shift media, or back-up if you want, except if it is DRM protected. This is just confusing and completely counterproductive. Our rights would, in fact, be curtailed in ways they were not before.

Thirdly, I have an inherent problem with DRM locks anyway. They are purported to protect the income of artists and art companies. A much more useful step to take to protect artist rights would be to extend the digital copying levy, in proportion, to the purchase of iPods and other media players. The levy already exists on blank CDs and other media, however I suggest it should be brought in at a lesser rate for media devices: as they do not take / are not themselves removable media, they run the line between a computer and a storage disc, and so do not merit the same tax as on a storage disc.

We should not be encouraging DRM, for the sake of cultural continuity. DRM locked CDs, years from now, stand to become irreplaceable technological heirlooms. This is an obscure point, but one that should not be overlooked. What if Homer's Odyssey had been uncopyable? It would have perished, and we would not have that huge portion of culture. DRM is a fundamentally unhealthy, and stupid, way to try and accomplish something worthwhile which may be impossible.

Thank you for your kind attention, and I hope a compromise bill can be created over summer which will also fix the most harmful and insane attacks on fair use which have alarmed teachers and academics as much as artists.



Chris :

Thank you for your email about Bill C-32, the government's latest attempt to update the Copyright Act.

Bill C-32 is not all bad news. There are at least a couple of improvements to the status quo that warrant our backing. First, the bill will enable us to record TV programs for later viewing (so long as we don’t compile a library of recorded content) and to transfer songs from CDs onto MP3 players and make backup copies, practices called time- and format-shifting respectively.

The bill will also create new limited exceptions to the ‘fair dealing’ provision of the current law, including exceptions for educators which, as a long-time educator, I support.

Unfortunately, what the government ‘gives’ in these respects with the one hand, it takes away with the other, ignoring the majority of Canadians who want reasonable, balanced copyright solutions. Stirred to serve the interests of large corporate rights-holders, the government caved-in at the expense of both artists and consumers.

In C-32, the government missed an opportunity to craft legislation that would allow digital locks to prevent copyrighted works from being pirated for commercial gain, while at the same time ensuring fair access for consumers and students.

Enshrining the rights of the U.S. corporate lobby to put digital locks that cannot be broken - even for perfectly reasonable, personal use - will undermine consumers’ rights, including those the government claims to protect in the new legislation.

As digital copyright expert, Michael Geist, has written, “The foundational principle of the new bill remains that any time a digital lock is used – whether on books, movies, music, or electronic devices – the lock trumps virtually all other rights.”

Geist’s University of Ottawa colleague, David Fewer, and Professor Graham Reynolds recently shared their perspectives with the All-Party Arts Caucus that I chair. The kind of collegial dialogue our format allows gave me hope that MPs can come together and get this bill right yet.

I am proud of the extraordinary work done by my NDP colleague, Charlie Angus. As a professional musician, avid music lover and thoughtful, dedicated MP, he is well-positioned to lead our work to improve Bill C-32.

Rest assured that he and I and our NDP team will push for more forward-looking options that will protect artists, innovators and consumers in the 21st century.


Denise Savoie, MP


It was nice of her to write back a considered answer, though it does sound of a batch (no offense). If I could have gone on with one more thing, it would be the importance of protecting innovators. I still don't see how we can allow DRM to exist... least of all give it LEGISLATIVE AND EXECUTIVE SUPPORT... bhar

honestly, all the money they spend enforcing this "allow[ing] digital locks" cockamamie should just be put into fighting ORGANIZED PIRACY

consumers DON'T WANT digital locks and they'll just abandon traditionally published music


  1. I agree, it was nice of her to respond. I just wanted to let you know that I received the exact same form-letter response too.

  2. "consumers DON'T WANT digital locks and they'll just abandon traditionally published music"

    Look what some are doing, IE: Trent Reznor

  3. aha! the batch! I can understand why she would do that... thx for writing, I was curious to know!

    Trent = my fuckin' 21st c. hero <3
    and HDA rouses my BBB to march for joy and liberty


  4. I don't think there's anything wrong with politicians starting with a form response, but it should be tailored to actually respond to your points. After all, they have support staff.

    But it should not be considered "nice" that they bother to respond at all: they are elected to represent us. We employ them. You sat down and crafted a letter; the least they can do is respond. If they can't be bothered to, they ought to be looking for work in a different field.

  5. you know it's funny you should bring this up again

    I am sure this Michael Geist fellow is a nice guy (a professor, someone I would respect anyway) but I was faintly disturbed at the semantics of how my blog entry was presented, which led particularly to all of 250 hits in 1 day from across the country.

    It was something like, "Denise Savoie, MP" [Editor's note, similarly, all respect to Denise] responds to a constituent and expresses concern for certain provisions of ... hang on guys

    NDP MP Denise Savoie, who chairs the All-Party Arts Caucus, has written to a constituent with her views on C-32. Savoie expresses concern with the digital lock provisions and support for the fair dealing reforms, including the new exception for education.


    The most quantitative and unemotional part of my point is that no, she did not write to ONE constituent. She expresses concerns, but as they are not treated to my train of thought, I cannot view this communication as being TO ME. I can trust people I can reason with in a dialogue. I do not trust people's COMPOSITIONS.