Sunday, October 11, 2015

Harper locking Canada into failed Clinton-era policy at root of software-based corruption

Most people have heard about the emissions scandal where Volkswagen was caught hiding the fact that they were deliberately breaking the law.  This specific issue is minor when compared to the inevitable fatalities which will result from vehicles that allow remote control, or medical devices where the person whose life is being maintained by the technology aren't allowed to independently audit what and whose instructions it is obeying.

Harper amended the rules for a caretaker government this election so that his minister can continue pushing forward controversial policy which would lock Canadian law to disallow the required transparency and accountability of the very rules which govern everything from transportation and communications to medical devices and in some cases elections.

While the "copyright" aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are being covered elsewhere, there are non-copyright aspects embedded in the leaked Intellectual Property Rights Chapter that regulate the general transparency and accountability of software.

Unlike the 1996 WIPO treaties which tie what are now called "use controls" to copyright infringing activities, article QQ.G.10: {Technological Protection Measures} of the TPP mandates legal protection of access controls.  The TPP is based on the USA's DMCA which is based on the failed Lehman report from 1995 during the Clinton administration. While Bill C-11 also protects access controls, this is a critical mistake by the Harper government that a future government will need to fix.  Harper is aggressively pushing Canada into the TPP which will require that a future government get permission from TPP "partners" to finally fix these problems.

Access controls are controversial for a number of important reasons:

  • Access controls and other non-owner locks on software and hardware reduces the transparency and accountability of the rules that govern these devices.  Technology owners are disallowed from making their own independent software choices, as well as doing their own or having trusted third parties do software audits.
  • Access controls applied to multimedia content (more commonly known as "encrypted media" outside of policy circles) are used to tie access to culture to specific brands of access technology, pretty much always technology where the hardware and software has non-owner locks to disable auditability.  This type of tied selling is known to be harmful to the economy (is included in most anti-trust or competition policy), but also impacts cultural rights embedded in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • These policies allegedly relating to "copyright" are being applied to technology which intermediates most aspects of our modern lives.  While there have been expensive court cases to create narrow exceptions for uses of devices unrelated to copyright, most businesses (and even fewer individuals) don't have the financial resources to fight court battles to protect basic property and other rights.  The harmful impacts to the economy go well beyond copyright related industries, and the harmful impacts extend to issues surrounding health and safety, privacy, and national security.
  • There has been no credible evidence to the claim that these controls reduce copyright infringement, and considerable evidence to suggest they induce infringement
  • Creators of cultural works are as dependent as audience are (if not more) on having control of their own technology, and thus these non-owner locks on technology harm creators' rights

The cost to taxpayors alone of Harper doubling-down on this failed policy cannot be understated.  As one small example, the Canadian Forces are hiring people to hack into vechicle control systems (See: Cyber Security of Automotive Systems (W7701-166085/A)) to do basic auditing, but given the illegitimate claims of exclusive rights this taxpayer funded audit will not likely be widely published. The only reason why taxpayers have to foot this bill, rather than the costs being distributed across other interested and skilled device owners is because of this Harper policy.

It is sad that Harper even promotes his reckless behavior during the election, trying to pull the wool over voters eyes by claiming the TPP is "trade" policy rather than the harmonization of non-trade related policies --- often untested policies, or where the policies were proven failures in countries where they were tested.

Harper suggests people should vote for him and his nominated candidates because of their record on the economy and on security. This policy is one example among many where Harpers record indicates failure.

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