Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A (non)Copyright question in a Canadian federal election 2015 quiz.

On Monday many co-workers were circulating around a links to political quizzes.  I was asked what I thought about one that included a copyright related question, and if I was happy that Copyright was considered important enough to be part of one of these quizzes.

I would have been excited, except that what I found was one of those non-copyright related issues which people commonly lump in with copyright law -- including governments who add these non-copyright related issues to copyright acts.

The issue is so-called "digital locks", which when applied to content in the form of encrypted media are a competition law issues (Tied selling) and when applied to devices and software is a property law issue (IE: non-owners applying locks to things they don't own).

The wording of the question and the available answers were:

Should the government allow digital publishers to place locks on their content (MP3s, etc)?

I of course clicked "Add your own stance" and said "No, these locks should be considered illegal tied selling under competition law.  There has been no proof that these technologies benefit the interests of artists."

  • I obviously disagree with the unjustified "Yes"
  • Saying "No" over-simplifies the question and allows the presumption in the question that this is an issue that only or even primarily affects "digital publishers" and thus they should be the only ones involved in decision.  The impact to software authors and hardware owners is far greater than the impact to "digital publishers" - and in all cases the impact is negative (Beneficiary is hardware vendors).
  • Statutory monopoly laws are a massive government intervention in the market, so the pseudo-libertarian folks can't have it both ways.  Other than those with an orthodox ideologically blinded view on statutory monopolies, most recognize a need to have anti-trust/competition and other laws balance the statutory monopolies granted by government in copyright, patent and related laws.
  • I have yet to see evidence that encrypted media (digital locks, access controls applied to multimedia files) protect rather than threaten artist's revenues.  Most analysis that claims benefit are based on incorrect understandings of how the technologies actually work, and thus lead to incorrect conclusions about the impact.

The Bill C-11 FAQ contains quite a bit of information on digital locks and the real-world issues around them (Rather than the Harry Potter fictional understanding most non-technical people have of digital locks).

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