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Posts Tagged ‘ACTA’

Sign The Wellington Declaration

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 14, 2010

Frodo holds a hobbit pipe on the stairs cut into the hill in front of Bilbo's House, from Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema

InternetNZ organized PUBLICACTA to give the public an opportunity to critique the ACTA proposals on Saturday, 10 April 2010, 2 days before the ROUND 8 A.C.T.A. negotiation being held in Wellington NZ right now. This round of ACTA concludes Friday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the A.C.T.A. process will finally be opened up and made transparent.

Failing that, with luck the next incarnation of A.C.T.A. could well be leaked. After all, New Zealand is the land where Peter Jackson brought the cinematic Lord of The Rings to life… certainly it’s a land of mystery and magic, and a place where people know the importance of fighting against the dark forces of Mordor.

The Wellington Declaration

Preamble

The participants at the PublicACTA Conference of 10 April 2010 respectfully submit this, the Wellington Declaration, to the parties negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), for their consideration during the Wellington round of negotiations.

Consistent with the European Parliament’s Resolution of 10 March 2010 on the Transparency and State of Play of the ACTA Negotiations (P7_TA(2010)0058), ACTA should be limited to an Agreement regarding enforcement against counterfeiting (the large scale commercial production of illicit physical goods).

The first part of the Declaration deals with general matters and principles.

The second part of the Declaration deals with some of the specific points under discussion in Wellington.

Part One: General Matters and Principles

Preserving the Internet

We recognise that the Internet has enabled creativity and innovation, the sharing of knowledge, citizen engagement and democracy, and is an engine of economic growth and opportunity. This is the result of certain attributes of the Internet: its open protocols and its generativity; the fact that anyone can connect and anyone can build new applications, and find new uses without discrimination. ACTA should preserve these attributes.

Forum for the Negotiations

We note that the World Intellectual Property Organisation has public, inclusive and transparent processes for negotiating multilateral agreements on (and a committee dedicated to the enforcement of) copyright, trademark and patent rights, and thus we affirm that WIPO is a preferable forum for the negotiation of substantive provisions affecting these matters.

Purpose of ACTA

We note that the purpose of copyright is to encourage creation & distribution of works for the public good, by allowing creators a limited opportunity to control their work. ACTA assumes that this is under threat, and further protection must be developed. We call for a clear statement of the problem that ACTA is designed to solve, with independent evidence to support it.

Process

ACTA’s process must change:

o  Transparency

We declare public scrutiny and accountability to be important aspects of life in a free society. We call for full transparency and public scrutiny of the ACTA process including release of the text after each round of negotiations. Governments have been unwilling to respond to specific concerns raised by the public. Public scrutiny will help to ensure the Agreement has no unintended consequences and has maximum positive benefit.

o  Impact Analysis

We believe that Governments should not sign ACTA without an independent impact analysis covering economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts of the agreement on their respective countries. Such analysis should be published well in advance of any agreement being signed, so it is open to public scrutiny and consideration of its thoroughness.

o   Participation

We call for wider participation in setting the agenda and scope of ACTA. The negotiation and consultation process must enable full participation and informed input into reviewing and developing drafts. All governments must be invited to be part of the negotiating process. Input must be sought from affected sectors such as Education, Health Care, Arts & Culture and Information Technology, NGOs, and consumer rights groups.

Local Flexibility
We affirm the importance of local flexibility and the need to preserve a nation’s tino rangatiratanga and sovereign rights to adjust copyright, trademark and patent law to reflect local culture, preferences and conceptions of the public good.

Part Two: Specific matters for the Wellington Round

Should the negotiations continue to deal with wider copyright, trademark and patent issues, we call on the parties to take account of the following matters:

Exceptions and limitations

We declare that ACTA must address exceptions and limitations, such as fair use and fair dealing, to maintain the balance that is fundamental to copyright.

Technological Protection Measures

We note that ACTA is an Agreement to, among other things, enforce copyright interests. TPMs concern access and control and so should be beyond the scope of the Agreement, because existing copyright law is sufficient to address infringement. TPMs should not be protected: copyright works should.

In the event that ACTA provides legal protection for TPMs, such protection shall go no further than Article 11 of the WIPO Internet Treaty. TPMs should not infringe on or limit the rights of users to use or access copyright material in a manner that would be permitted without the TPM.

Preserving civil procedures

Frodu wears the ring on a chain round his neck.

We declare that ACTA must not override or supplant domestic civil procedure. Those accused of infringement must have the benefit of robust consumer protections and safeguards, and access to due process.

Privacy

We declare the importance of maintaining people’s right to privacy including user details, personally identifiable information, IP addresses, and similar information. The Agreement should not require or permit such information to be disclosed to third parties without due process and judicial oversight, and nor should it limit or derogate from any existing data protection or privacy regimes, nor introduce surveillance.

Intermediaries

We declare that ACTA must recognise that intermediaries, such as ISPs, web site hosts, and search engines, are central to enabling people to derive the benefits of the Internet. Their role must be protected and encouraged.

Intermediaries who do not initiate or direct the content on their systems or networks must have the benefit of safe harbours that are not predicated on enforcement obligations designed to address third-party infringement.

ACTA must not mandate secondary liability standards.

Frodo has sting raised but the Rinwraith hasstopped the blade in its hand.

Access to the Internet
We declare that access to the Internet is increasingly necessary for participation in society.

Disconnection, account suspension, or limitation of service, have disproportionately negative consequences for civil rights. ACTA cannot require or allow that it be an acceptable sanction for copyright or trademark infringement.

Damages

We declare that damages:

  • must be determined only by competent legal authorities (such as courts) within each sovereign nation.
  • must be proportionate to the intent, and to the real and actual harm.
  • must not be implemented by means of a statutory damages regime.

Criminal liability

We declare that ACTA must provide a high bar for criminal liability. ACTA must not attempt to reframe personal use and private acts to fit a definition of “commercial” infringement.

ACTA must recognise the need for proportionate criminal provisions acknowledging the problem of large-scale commercial infringement, for profit, that is direct and intentional.

Done at Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday 10 April 2010.

Public ACTA logo

The Wellington DeclarationInternetNZ

Everyone, every citizen of every country, is invited to sign this Declaration.

[Note: Photo Credits:
New Line Cinema: The Lord of the Rings
http://www.newline.com/properties/lordoftheringsthefellowshipofthering.html
“The Eye of Sauron” photo by Amelie, on Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/amunivers/199008242/
“The One Ring” and “Frodi vs. Ringwraith are photos taken by me at Future Shop’s Lord of the Rings DVD release party.]

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Cat Joke: Making Light of A.C.T.A.

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 12, 2010

No Usage Based BillingThe following cautionary cat tale was found in one of the Pirate Party of Canada’s forums.

Pirate Party of Canada logo

Hindgrinder
Re: ACTA Task Force

3 Canadians and 1 American were sitting together watching the Mens Gold Medal Game in Vancouver bragging about how smart their cats were.

The first man was an Internet Service Provider,
the second man was a Copyright Law Professor,
the third man was a New Democrat Member of Parliment, and
the fourth man was a US Corporate Lobbyist.

To show off, the Internet Service Provider called his cat, “Broadband”, do your stuff.”

Broadband pranced over to the computer, logged in as admin and started downloading the entire internet.

Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.

But the Copyright Law Professor said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, “Public Domain, do your stuff.”

Public Domain went over to the computer, instantly sorted all of what Broadband was downloading and printed off a fair copyright royalties due spreadsheet.

Everyone agreed that was good.

But the New Democrat M.P. said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, “Parlimentarian, do your stuff.”

“Parlimentarian got up slowly to the computer, created a Facebook page, linked it to Broadband and Public Domain, drafted a dozen emails and bill 398, made a YouTube video meowing for transparency from ACTA cat and meowed an indian war dance song.
Everyone agreed that was pretty good.

Then the three men turned to the US Corporate Lobbyist and said, “What can your cat do?”

The US Corporate Lobbyist called his cat and said, “ACTA, do your stuff.”

ACTA jumped to his feet…….

Throttled Broadband’s torrents to a crawl and initiated a lawsuit for copyright infringement against both Broadband and Internet Service Provider……..
Scrambled Public Domains online excel sorting rules and shit on the fair royalties due spreadsheet……..
filed an inflated grievance lawsuit for RIAA lost revenue…….
bypassed due process to convict 90% of humans under 40 years old of copyright infringement……
screwed the other three cats and claimed he hurt his back while doing so…….
put in for Corporate Compensation for injury on the job in a foreign country……………and
went home for the rest of the day on paid sick leave…………

Internet Service Provider, Copyright Law Professor and N.D.P. M.P. where last seen pooling their money to buy a dog.

Geist

Angus

Of course, I’m wondering who everyone is…

Copyright Law Professor would have to be Michael Geist.

And it’s more than reasonable to assume that the N.D.P. M.P. would be the most vocal Canadian MP opponent of A.C.T.A. Charlie Angus, but who could the Internet Service Provider be?

talktalk logoIf this was the U.K., it would be talktalk, the brave ISP waging war with the dread Digital Economy Bill (the U.K.’s opening act for A.C.T.A.)

Within the joke, “ISP” couldn’t possibly be Bell Canada or Rogers, since their use of consumer monitoring tools like DPI to help run their empires clearly place them in the pro-A.C.T.A. camp.

MTSallstream logo

So if we’re going to extrapolate the casting for this joke, for Canada the ISP would have to be one of our endangered Independent ISP’s like MTS Allstream or Tek Savvy (you can find a comprehensive listing of Independent Canadian ISPs here).

pseudo FBI Warning

And the U.S. Corporate Lobbyist, well, lobbyists are faceless representatives of the business, or in this case group of businesses in back of a piece of legislation, or in this case a whole body of international legislation.

These businesses have been trying to convince the citizens of the world that we don’t own what we’ve purchased for years. They started by placing supposed FBI warnings on videotapes threatening huge fines for non-commercial infringement. Then the earliest attempts at copy protection (DRM/TPM). Followed by aggressive marketing campaigns directed at the media customer base, in attempts to demonize personal use copying.

Now, in the face of these failed attempts to change global attitudes about copyright and ownership through advertising/propaganda, the copyright lobby seeks to change the laws to force the world to follow their rules.

They’ve been pursuing this war actively on two fronts. First, by lobbying individual countries to criminalize copyright infringement. But lately, this group (dubbed by Michael Geist “The Copyright Lobby”) has gone much further, by convincing the U.S. Government to push the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” which seeks to force the world to change copyright law through this secret treaty on a global scale.

The “Copyright Lobby” is made up of the American led Movie and Music Corporations along with their Interested Associations and Copyright Collectives. Of course this lobby group is attempting to remain faceless. because the real victim in their nefarious activities is their customer base. This is why they are attempting to get governments to do their dirty work, particularly through secret treaties like ACTA. They have the vain belief that they won’t alienate their customers.

The copyright lobby doesn’t have a logo, precisely because the companies they represent are attempting to stay out of the public eye. It’s a thinly veiled secret that the corporation unofficially leading the fight for terrible copyright “reforms” is the same company that once had to be legally compelled to give credit to the animators, actors, writers, musicians, technicians etc. who actually created their movies. Though he hadn’t actually picked up a pencil himself in years, the corporate founder felt that the only name attached to movies made by his corporation should be his own. In those days the law disagreed.

Nearly a century later this same corporation seeks to change the laws of all the world so they can maintain control of a mouse cartoon. Which is why interested parties have created this logo (right) for A.C.T.A.

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

DRM is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 22, 2009

It’s awfully close to Christmas but today Michael Geist’s blog looked at Mihály Ficsor’s writings in praise of DRM and anti-circumvention laws. It occurred to me that this season of consumption would be an excellent time to look at DRM from a consumer’s point of view.

After all, most of us don’t even realize that DRM is a deliberate crippling of the products we pay good money to buy.

NoUBBDRM or “Digital Rights Management” describes a variety of methods used to physically limit the way a purchaser may use a product they have purchased. In this way the manufacturer continues to control the product after they have been paid for it. DRM can be applied to many different things. Possibly the most common application for DRM is for DVDs and DVD players. DVDS have DRM coded in to limit what machine it can be played in. Manufacturers have established “Country Codes” so that a DVD manufactured in England can’t be played in Canada.

DVD region code map

Wikipedia DVD Region Code map by Luxo

DVD DRM was accepted by consumers without question because we were used having a similar problem with video tape. Most people still don’t realize that DRM crippling of the things we purchase is done deliberately. Who could imagine that governments would allow manufacturers to deliberately build in defects to the products that they then sell to citizens.

natural limits on video tape

Because of different levels of technology in different parts of the world, there were different formats for video tape. This meant that an NTSC video tape would play in North American VCRs on North American television sets, but if you mailed the same tape to your cousin in the Netherlands she wouldn’t be able to play it because her VCR and television would only play the PAL format. If you wanted to send your home movies abroad you could go to a professional facility and have them converted. Quite expensive, but worth it if you wanted to keep up with geographically distant relatives.

The Internet and improving technology breaks down geographical barriers. DRM deliberately replaces them.

unnatural limits placed on DVDs

This was not the case for DVDs. There was no limiting factor on DVDs. DVD’s can happily play on any DVD player anywhere in the world… or they could were it not for DRM. Because the “country code” on a DVD is an artificial restriction, deliberately achieved through deployment of DRM.

DVDs I can’t buy because of DRM

BBC’s MY FAMILY stars Zoë Wanamaker and Robert Lindsay

About a decade ago I became addicted to a wonderful BBC sitcom called My Family that the Family Channel was airing very late at night (which was good since I certainly didn’t want my innocent child watching it back then). This is a screamingly funny TV series about the breathtakingly dysfunctional Harper family. In North America, only the first few seasons are available on DVD, and the North American distributor apparently has no intention of releasing the later seasons on DVD here.

There is no real reason why I should not be able to purchase the later seasons on DVD because BBC offers them for sale in the UK. But the country code DRM prevents me from buying them without moving to region 2.

This limits consumers to only buying DVDs that are made for our region. As well as causing artificial barriers to customers wanting to buy goods that should be available, it means that BBC is not making the money that they could be making if they could simply ship DVDs direct to those of us who want to purchase them.

I’ve also accidentally purchased a Region 2 DVD. “An Ideal Husband” was a film I very much wanted to see, so I bought it from an Amazon vendor. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t play it. I had assumed that since the vendor was American it would be a region 1 DVD. Fortunately they gave me a refund. How many other wrong region DVDs get thrown out because they won’t play. It would be different if it wasn’t a deliberate crippling of the product.

scanner DRM

EPSON Perfection V500

EPSON Perfection V500

Because I scan a lot of photographs and negatives, I bought a top of the line flat bed scanner, an Epson Perfection V500 Photo to be exact. My brother the professional artist was aghast that I would spend three times as much as he did for my scanner. But when I am scanning it’s a lot, so the faster speed this one offered made a lot of sense.

There are things that really annoy me though. I use the “professional” interface to scan so I have the most control allowed. Yet every time I want to scan at a very high DPI (necessary for enlargements and high quality photo restoration) I get asked if I really want to do this along with a warning that it will take a long time. I KNOW it will take a long time. Presumably a professional (anyone using the “professional” settings) should know this also. There is no reason I need this warning every time, it slows the process down. Why is this non-sentient bit of hardware presuming to dictate to me? I don’t know if that’s DRM or if it is just annoying.

There is for sure some DRM built into the thing. I was disgusted when the scanner’s DRM kicked in and prevented me from scanning Canadian currency. No, I’m not a Counterfeiter, I’m a blogger. I already knew that it is perfectly legal for Canadians to scan money so long as you follow the rules.

“Reproducing anything in the likeness of a current bank note is an offence under the Criminal Code
Section 457 of the Criminal Code provides that anyone one who makes, publishes, prints, executes, issues, distributes or circulates, including by electronic or computer-assisted means, anything in the likeness of a current bank note is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months and a maximum fine of $2,000.

No one shall be convicted of the above offence if the likeness of the Canadian bank note is

1. printed;
2. less than 3/4 or greater than 1 1/2 times the length or width of the bank note; and
3. in black and white or only one-sided.

No one shall be convicted of the above offence if the likeness was produced with the permission of the Bank. ”

Bank of Canada: Bank Notes

HP computer photo quality  printer

HP D7160

My scanner warns me that scanning money may be illegal, and takes me to a website that tells what the scanning laws are for all the countries around the word. And following through to the Canada part it confirmed what I knew: my scanning activities are legal. BUT. The scanner STILL wouldn’t let me scan money.

Obviously the DRM is preventing me from using the scanner to scan material I am legally entitled to scan. For the integral image I needed for my blog post I had to get the image somewhere else. That is ridiculous. This is like a hammer telling me I am not allowed to drive that nail. It is surely the last time I’ll buy an Epson scanner.

printer DRM

There is DRM built in to my beautiful printer and/or ink cartridges. It makes beautiful images but the cartridges say that they are empty after they have printed a set number of pages, not because they are empty but because they are programmed to be empty.

Even more fiendishly clever, the ink cartridges won’t print after a pre-programmed date, even if the ink is still fine. So be careful about buying large stocks of discounted cartridges.

Use the Kindle keyboard to add annotations to text

When you consider that ink jet printer ink is the most expensive liquid in the world you can get an idea of the problem. Because of the DRM not only can I not use ink that won’t come out, I can’t refill the cartridges either. The printer prints beautifully, but it would be less expensive for me to go out to a copy shop to have prints made. Last time I buy an HP printer.

ebook DRM

The most famous case of DRM though was Amazon Kindle‘s withdrawal of the ebook “1984”. People had purchased electronic copies, but it turned out that there was a copyright challenge and the book consumers had purchased was deleted from their Kindle ebook reader the next time the Kindle phoned home.

I don’t know if this is true or an urban legend, but I had heard that a PHD candidate had made great use of the annotation feature for their doctoral dissertation on 1984, and when the ebook was deleted, so were the notes.

video editing DRM

I have bought two different video editing software packages to be able to edit home movies. Since DVDs are so cheap it should be a wonderful and inexpensive way for families to distribute home movies. Unfortunately, although I loved the intuitive interface provided by the first software package I bought I could not successfully burn my home movie to DVD. Which is why I bought a second software package. It’s interface is less intuitive but it does other things better. Yet it too has a hard time burning a DVD. When you want to give home movies to geriatric family members you want them to be able to put it in the DVD player and just be able to play it. However my home movies only play in some DVD players. I am convinced that this is a DRM issue.

I also have a VHS-DVD recorder so I could transfer home movies from VHS and video cam. Unfortunately, when the VHS image breaks up, my recorder tells me that I am infringing copyright and shuts off. I’m not quite sure whose copyright my family visit to Niagara Falls infringes on… I’d have thought that since it was my camera, and *my* family, it was my own copyright. Funny, the VHS-DVD recorder cost about five times what buying a VHS and a DVD recorder would have cost. I bought it for convenience of transferring my home movies, but it would have been better to have bought better quality units and cabled them together. I realize that Big Copyright doesn’t put a high dollar value on my home movies, but let me tell you, to me they have far more value than anything Hollywood has produced.

picture of a forest

DRM is bad for Nature

DRM and the environment

As an environmentally aware citizen I am horrified at how much material is being consigned to our garbage dumps due to DRM.

DRM and consumers

When consumers buy goods we expect them to work. DRM allows manufacturers to deliberately cripple the machines and media we buy and prevent us from having them work the way that they should. The justification for this is that we are going to behave criminally if these controls are not put in place. Further, laws like ACTA and the EU agreement strive to make it illegal to circumvent the DRM.

That is wrong.

On the assumption that consumers are going to steal from them, the products we are purchase in good faith are deliberately crippled. From a consumer’s point of view, it certainly looks as though manufacturers are committing fraud against me on the assumption that I am a criminal.

That is wrong.

STOP Usage Based Billing

Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

A.C.T.A. is still BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 11, 2009

No Usage Based BillingIn my previous two A.C.T.A. posts, A.C.T.A. is BAD and errata: A.C.T.A. is BAD, I passed along the sad tale of the 22 year old Chicago woman who made the terrible mistake of attending her sister’s birthday party at a screening of the movie New Moon.

Maybe ten or fifteen years ago I first noticed movie theatres promoting the idea of holding birthday or other parties at the movies.   Many of them offer special deals and party facilities. Just like MUVICO, the theatre where this incident took place.   And many people have unofficial birthday parties at the movies too.   Even though I haven’t, I have taken my camera to movie theatres and taken photographs of family members gathered to watch a movie inside the theatre on more than one special occasion.

Samantha Tumpach’s crime was taking home video of her sister’s 29th birthday party.   Less than four minutes of footage on her camera showed the movie screen. Maybe I empathize so very much because I am the photo nut in my family.   It might have been me dragged off in handcuffs.

TorrentFreak reports that the charges have now been dropped, and she is free again.   This young woman should not have had to spend two nights in jail for going to a movie theatre birthday party.

Pint sized Zorro poses in the Galaxy Theatre

My Zorro "En Garde"

I’ve made plenty of amazing Hallowe’en costumes for my son over the years, many based on movie characters.   The year my son decided he wanted to be Zorro for Hallowe’en was the year that The Legend of Zorro was released theatrically.   So naturally my small Zorro wanted to see the new movie in his awesome (Don Alejandro) Zorro costume.

Small boy dressed as Zorro sits in the movie theatre seat.

My Zorro waits for the movie to start.

So of course I took the camera to the theatre and took lots of photos of my Zorro.

And of course I was using my very first digital camera which had video capabilities.

Had I not been enjoying the movie, I could easily have taken photos or video of my little Zorro watching the big Zorro onscreen.

I wasn’t detained by theatre staff or arrested.   Seems I was lucky.

It doesn’t matter if the staff actually believes the MPAA copyright propaganda, or whether they acted out of fear of MPAA, the result is the same.

The movie industry put a patron in jail.

Kudos to New Moon director Chris Weitz, who contacted the Samantha Tumpach and offered his support.

The three minutes of footage she shot inside the theater, Tumpach said, also included film previews and ads, along with short segments of the film — and her talking about the camera and the movie.

“It was never my intention to record the movie,” Tumpach said. “You can hear me talking the whole time.”

Chicago Sun-Times:’New Moon’ director defends woman accused of piracy

Most people working in the movie business probably don’t support the draconian copyright laws the MPAA is lobbying for.   But they need to make a living, and so I can understand why feel they can’t speak out against MPAA lobbying or A.C.T.A.   Most are probably just as much in the dark about A.C.T.A. as the rest of the world, since most elected representatives in the countries negotiating A.C.T.A. appear to be uninformed.   This would be why A.C.T.A. has already sprung so many leaks.   Since President Obama has labelled A.C.T.A. a national security issue, it is probably far too dangerous for Americans to risk leaking further documents.   Yet being an international treaty there are many parties to the negotiations so I expect leaks will continue to be provided by people of conscience.

Stories like this reflect very badly on the movie industry.

More and more consumers are coming to realize that the media industry has effectively declared war on us.   Which is precisely why the major media companies are lobbying so hard to have governments around the world enact A.C.T.A.   The want the government to be the “bad guy”.

It is the real reason why A.C.T.A. is secret: so that no one will be accountable for drafting or implementing the draconian copyright laws that will necessarily result from ratification.

Yet if A.C.T.A. was in place NOW, there is a very strong probability that Samantha Tumpach would not have been released after a mere two nights in jail.

Tumpach dared to infringe copyright, even though it clearly was not for the purpose of “bootlegging”. Under the laws that A.C.T.A. is seeking, innocuous personal use “infringements” like this one will be treated the same as “for profit infringements”.   Even in the face of contrary evidence, MPAA and other A.C.T.A. lobbyists claim that file sharing damages their business.

Whether this is because the MPAA is actually so ignorant of what is happening that they don’t understand the phenomenon, or if this position is assumed to convince their shareholders that they are doing something to combat bootlegging doesn’t really matter.   Not only will laws like this fail to prevent criminals from continuing to profit from bootlegging, but the result will be uniformly bad for consumers and citizens.

Although A.C.T.A. means “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” it seems clear that the name is a product of doublespeak since it actually seeks to criminalize personal use “copyright infringements”..   They have tried to change the way people think by including anti-piracy commercials in theatres and on DVDs.   Since that has not worked, they’re playing hardball.

Why Secrecy is So Essential

The copyright lobby believes hiding behind A.C.T.A. secrecy will keep us from knowing that they are responsible for having our young people locked up for sharing.

  • They think that we will instead blame the lawmakers.   After all, they will have made the laws.
  • And the law enforcement officials.   They will be the ones investigating, arresting, prosecuting and jailing these copyright infringers.

The politicians also believe hiding behind A.C.T.A. secrecy will absolve them from blame. They think they will be able to escape blame by saying:

“But you can’t blame us for this… all the other governments did it so we had to do it too”.

Every parent knows the classic parry to the “Everybody’s doing it” argument: “If everybody else was jumping off a cliff would you do it too?”

jumping off a cliff at Tobermory

If everyone jumped off a cliff...


Since we don’t buy that excuse from our children, why would they think we’d accept such a feeble excuse from our government?

Do they think we’re stupid?

Because we will know who to blame.

Maybe I am just not subtle enough for this. Maybe I think too much in terms of black and white. After all, in the “mom” game, you quickly learn to skip over the shades of gray. You teach your two year old, “people are not for hitting”, because a two year old doesn’t have the life experience to be able to judge when hitting can be justified (as self defense, say).

Cut to the chase: right and wrong.

But then again, what do I know?

I thought part of being a mother was teaching kids the value of sharing.

Something else parent need to consider is possible consequences. So I began wondering what the consequences of A.C.T.A. might be.

A.C.T.A. Introduces a New Criminal Class

The special interest group behind A.C.T.A. believes that they will be held blameless for the fallout.

They think that once people know file sharing would will send them to jail, they’ll stop.   And that will frighten other people so they won’t do it anymore either.   Right.

It seems to me that now the people who are prepared to go to jail for copyright infringement are the criminal bootleggers. Like the alcohol bootleggers before them there are enormous profits to be made.   They feel it is worth the risk to make such enormous profits.

The people who are file sharing don’t believe they are doing anything wrong.   They believe that they can share music and movies they’ve bought with their friends.   I doubt any of them expect to go to jail.   (After all… everybody is doing it…)

But once A.C.T.A. passes and the laws of all our lands change, I think that many of the young people who feel so strongly about this will start expecting to go to jail.   I rather think that A.C.T.A. will increase filesharing.   I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the evolution of an A.C.T.A. underground resistance movement.   A war could well be fought between the forces of idealism and the forces of greed.   Sooner or later the young people who believe that file sharing is a good thing will be in charge.

Insult and Injury

Of course the ways to bring these nasty file sharing criminals to justice would certainly involve “3 Strikes” laws, where allegations of copyright infringement can result in websites being taken off the internet.   Even without A.C.T.A. currently the U.K. is looking at doing this with only 2 strikes, and huge fines.   This is being challenged by the British ISP talktalk who have launched a petition in an effort to prevent this bad law from being passed.

Every example I have heard of this type of law includes making the Internet Service Providers spy on our internet activity.   None of these laws seem to require mundane things like search warrants or evidence.   The accused is guilty until proven innocent.

Who will pay for this?

The jails are full.   In a world where murderers rarely serve as many as ten years, my question is, where are they going to put this new criminal class? It will cost as much to incarcerate a personal use copyright infringer as it will to incarcerate a rapist.   It costs a lot of money to keep people in jails.   Because the criminal justice system is so expensive, plea bargains are already putting dangerous offenders back on the streets too quickly.   What about the overextended law enforcement agencies?   Where will the money come from to pay for the police man hours and court overheads?

Who will pay to draft and enforce these laws?   Governments will have to foot the bill.
For the MPAA and the Canadian Recording Industry Association this is an excellent reason to put personal use copying under criminal law rather civil because that puts the onus for investigating and prosecuting (and just as importantly, paying for investigating and prosecuting personal use copyright infringements on to the government.

And since government money really comes from the citizens, the reality is that we will be paying for this.

In order for ISPs to spy on our internet connections and computers, they will need large outlays of cash pay for the specialized equipment and personnel to run it and correlate the huge quantities of data required.   Who will pay for this? The ISPs.   Of course they will have to pass along the cost so…the reality is that we will be paying for this.

Who will pay for this erosion of civil liberties and human rights?
The reality is that we will all be paying for this… especially our children.

Bootlegging

Bootlegging is wrong.   Videotaping a movie in a theatre or duplicating a DVD you purchased in order to press your own counterfeit copies to sell is theft.   As a law abiding citizen, I do not purchase bootleg merchandise from flea market stalls or retail stores.   If the vendor was aware that the merchandise was bootleg, I might even be inclined to complain.

But it seems that Hollywood isn’t even bothering about professional bootleggers.   So why should we?

Hooray for Hollywood

In the 1950’s Hollywood lived in fear of government witch hunts.

In the 21st century will we all have to live in fear of Hollywood?

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errata: A.C.T.A. is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 8, 2009

er⋅ra⋅ta
  /ɪˈrɑtə, ɪˈreɪ-, ɪˈrætə/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [i-rah-tuh, i-rey-, i-rat-uh]
–noun
1. pl. of erratum.
2. a list of errors and their corrections inserted, usually on a separate page or slip of paper, in a book or other publication; corrigenda.
Origin:
1625–35

Usage note:
Errata is originally the plural of the singular Latin noun erratum. Like many such borrowed nouns (agenda; candelabra), it came by the mid-17th century to be used as a singular noun, meaning “a list of errors or corrections to be made (in a book).”

–dictionary.com

analogy revision

It has been impressed upon me that it is better to create an additional blog post than to edit one which has already been published. So here are the (is the?) errata for A.C.T.A. is Bad.

I’ve had a few verbal comments about the two analogies I presented in respect of the Chicago woman arrested for trying to record “Twilight” on digital camera. The point I was initially trying to make was that the wrongheaded copyright laws are causing minor infractions to be unjustly treated as very large and serious crimes.

However it’s been pointed out to me that this woman wasn’t even committing an infraction so much as being a byproduct of daily life, a happenstance. Looked at in that light, she wasn’t in the wrong at all. At worst, she broke a theatre rule, which at most should have gotten her kicked out, not sent to jail.   So it was an error on my part to even suggest that she was legally in the wrong at all, as in the case of a teenager with a joint. Although smoking pot is only considered a minor crime, it is still clearly illegal in Canada. So, I needed to craft a more accurate analogy (as follows):

This is the equivalent of charging a teenager who has walked through a cloud of marijuana smoke as a drug dealer.

a second correction due to imprecision

A lack of clarity is more to blame for the problems with the second analogy than error. But the point is to communicate an idea, and if done too broadly it can result in a spectacular failure. The problem was with this:

“the child who swiped a tempting lollipop from the grocery store.”

In my mind I was picturing an innocent toddler in a stroller passing the lollipops (fiendishly placed at stroller height) and naturally the angelic baby reaches out for the temptation. The intent was to produce an illustration of a guileless infraction, entered into without any awareness of wrongdoing.

However it has been brought to my attention that “child” can just as easily bring to mind a practiced semi-professional young offender, so if that’s how you read it you’ll go away with a rather different idea than I intended, so that analogy doesn’t achieve the desired result.   (It is also an excellent argument for beta-readers.)

From a purely common sense point of view, there is no way that the product of this “infringing” recording would be commercially marketable to even the most die hard Twilight fan, so clearly there can be no demonstrable intent to bootleg the film, making the very charges a gross miscarriage of justice.

accidental recording

When I was writing the original I didn’t get into another area which will certainly lead to trouble for innocent citizens, because these absurdly punitive laws also criminalize accidental recording.

Since video cameras first appeared on the market it has always been extraordinarily easy to record accidental footage. I can’t tell you how many hours of video I have inadvertently recorded over the years of feet, floors, sky, or, my personal favorite, more than an hour of the zippered interior of the camera bag.

This is accidental footage, and it may very well contain inadvertent copyright infringement. When you are not aware that the camera is recording you could easily be playing a music CD.

One of my saddest moments as a videographer was when my son was spontaneously invited on stage to perform with an amazing local musical group at a Canada Day celebration. Although I stood on a picnic table (quite likely annoying the people sitting there) to record my child’s 15 minutes of fame, I was SURE I was recording. However, looking at the tape at home although there is an entire inadvertent documentary on the doings of the ants in the grass, the one thing that was NOT recorded was my child’s stage debut. (Fortunately the local paper took a picture, but still.)

Because it is as easy to not record when you want to as it is to record when you don’t want to.

Digital cameras are doing video so well now, but sometimes it is even easier to accidentally record on them.

What we need to realize is that the companies who are creating this technology we are using to record our daily lives are quite often the very same ones who want to send us to jail for what they call copyright infringement.

At this point, it is looking more and more dangerous for us to go to the movies. It will certainly be much safer to not buy or play commercial DVDs in our homes. After all, we might end up in jail as a result.

It is certainly safer to alter our habits and watch movies and listen to music produced by companies who do not want to put us in jail.

Movies like Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues or legal free music downloads available from the Pirate Party of Canada’s Canadian Pirate Tracker

Because 3 Strikes Laws & secret ACTA treaties are nothing more than a declaration of war on consumers.

chocolate frog*

With all of the bad copyright things going on, today Michael Geist’s blog provided Canadians with a most amazing chocolate frog:

Canadian Recording Industry Faces $6 Billion Copyright Infringement Lawsuit:

“ The defendants in the case are Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada, the four primary members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.”

Like many of the people who commented on Mr. Geist’s home page, my attitude is that it looks good on them, and I for one expect the court to NOT go easy on them. As a cynic I expect the defense they will drag out is the “we can’t afford to pay what we owe or we’ll have to go out of business” plea. And sadly the judge/jury will probably fall for that.

Yet every one of those corporations are Canadian “branch offices” so there is no reason the mother companies couldn’t be convinced to contribute. Since these guys give no quarter to non-commercial infringement, as deliberate systemic commercial infringement they should get none, otherwise our government is condoning bootlegging which should be illegal and prosecuted.

Personally, I would rather see these corporations put into receivership if necessary. All the copyrights they hold could revert to living creators, the assets can be sold off, perhaps at fire sale prices to the technicians who actually did the hard work of pressing disks and distribution.

Maybe this is just what we need to jump start the digital music industry. Artists who have established a following can enter equitable agreements with the music distribution companies who will not own the soul (or copyright) of the creators in the manner of a “company store”. Because after all its better for our talented musicians and songwriters to do the work they are suited for. This could be the beginnings of a GOOD music industry, and a celebration of Canadian musical culture not seen in this country since the 1930’s. Bravo.

[*Chocolate Frog:   Sorry, no actual chocolate here, or frogs either for that matter. My family watches the end credits of movies all the way to the end, and are sometimes rewarded for doing this by way of a bonus scene at the end, usually something to make me smile. After reading the Harry Potter books we started calling this a “Chocolate Frog” because it was an unexpected extra.]

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A.C.T.A. is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 7, 2009

Hollywood taught me about Democracy

Jesse Brown reported a very scary story How do you say “clueless” in Italian? on his Search Engine site.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Four Google execs may face jail terms because they didn’t pull an offensive video from their site BEFORE anyone complained about it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be a very big story, yet it is a perfect illustration of the incredible danger facing the internet. There is no way that large busy websites or the ISPs that host them can possibly monitor all of the material that is uploaded to the internet without seriously curtailing what is being uploaded to the internet.

For instance, when logging into Flickr I am told:

“There were 2,710 uploads in the last minute ”

Thousands of people upload images to Flickr every minute. It would take thousands of people to screen those images. If Flickr was forced to hire thousands of people to police the images members upload to the site, suddenly what Clay Shirky calls “ the transaction cost” would stop being nearly nil because the cost to maintain Flickr would skyrocket. It is doubtful that Flickr or YouTube or any other wildly successful website could cope with this without going bust.

Wikipedia, for example, has many people all over the world contributing articles and changing other people’s articles all the time. You would think that this would result in all kinds of internet vandalism happening.   But it doesn’t.   Sometimes people make mistakes, and the way Wikipedia works is that other people can fix those mistakes, And they do. And Wikipedia users also correct deliberate misinformation or vandalism.   So even if someone attempts to do a bad thing and vandalize wikipedia articles or disseminate misinformation on Wikipedia, Wikipedia is policed by its own editor/users.

As soon as anyone complains to Google, or YouTube, or Flickr about offensive content, the content is taken down. Now, I have to tell you, even though I am not by any means a young pup, in terms of understanding the internet, “I am only an Egg.” The internet we know today didn’t exist twenty years ago.

Like most people, I’ve been busy, so I wasn’t paying very much attention. Every now and then some new toy or gizmo having to do with computers would pop up — like iphones or ebooks or blackberrys. Or some new uber-cool thing like blogging or facebook or twitter or VOIP would suddenly be everywhere. And we can’t forget endless tales and dreams of dot com millionaires. The way the wold works has been changing very very fast. Six months ago I had no idea what Usage Based Billing was. About two months ago I started writing a simple little article explaining the mechanics of how the internet works. It turned out to be incredibly difficult to learn, let alone explain and mushroomed into “the alphabet series”. Simple? No, and the more I learn the more important I realize Net Neutrality is.

So I do understand why most people don’t even realize that this stuff is going on, or even that it matters. But the thing is that the internet has been slowly growing up and becoming more important in the world, and at the same time a much larger force for change. Which is why it is so important that there be Net Neutrality. Because the internet has come so far so fast it is especially important that it not be turned against it’s users.

Alongside Net Neutrality people in this brave new world are also talking about file sharing, “3 Strikes laws” and ACTA. Terms like piracy and theft are being hurled around and “copyright infringement” has been elevated to a near executable offense.

Why now?

It is no secret that governments around the world have been lobbied long and hard by the “copyright lobby” large media corporations, music and movie companies who are attempting to legislate prograss back into the twentieth century and change the way we think. They have been turning their media might into a propoaganda tool of epic proportions. Because of the incredible power that they can bring to bear, copyright laws around the world are being changed to appease these lobbyists.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad

Copyright law “improvements” enrich the lives of Americans

An inflammatory Chicago Sun Times headline reads Woman arrested for trying to record ‘Twilight’ on digital camera. The article recounts a story about a young woman who is being criminally charged– to the same extent and in the the same way a professional bootlegger would be charged– for recording scenes of her sister’s birthday party at the movies. The video picked up about 4 minutes of movie fragments. This is the equivalent of charging a teenager with one joint as a drug dealer, or the child who swiped a tempting lollipop from the grocery store with grand theft. It is simply not reasonable.

I’ve taken photographs of family and friends on special occasion trips to the movies. I’ve made videotapes of birthday parties. If you make a video of a child’s birthday party and a movie or video game was playing on the TV in the background, you too could be criminally charged. Under ACTA what will happen when you email a copy of this copyright infringing video to Grannie in England? Will she be fined or jailed or will you?

These laws are already absurd. And then… here comes ACTA.

All of the citizens of the world are being deliberately excuded from all ACTA negotiations. President Obama, so recently praised for his commitment to Net Neutrality, believes this to be a matter of National Security.

There is a huge difference between “personal use copying” and “commercial bootlegging” which the copyright lobby is lumping together as “piracy”. This is all a wrongheaded attempt to legislate away progress. Instead of trying to adapt with the technology, the copyright lobby has chosen to pour millions (billions?) into lobbying for this legislation that will not in fact do anything to stop commercial bootlegging. To give the appearance of doing something they instead choose to criminalize the mostly young citizens who are not harming this special interest group. Personally, I would rather see the best and brightest of Canada’s younger generation find themselves in universities rather than jail.

ACTA is bad. Very Very Bad.

Hollywood Influences

Growing up I learned a lot from “Hollywood”.

Like most Canadians of my generation TV and Movies gave me a better understanding of the American legal system than the Canadian.

Hollywood taught me that:

  • free enterprise is admirable.
  • free speech is important
  • individuals have rights
  • democracy is good, and good government is responsive to the wishes of the citizens
  • communism is bad, because the government spies on its citizens
  • a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty

BUT.

Hollywood taught me "innocent until proven guilty"

Apparently that was all just “content”.  ACTA makes it pretty clear that Hollywood’s true objective is for governments around the world to:

  • suppress free speech,
  • shackle their competitors,
  • dismantle democracy,
  • spy on citizens and
  • throw out the rule of law to punish people on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations.

The saddest part is that it isn’t for some misguided ideological reason that they think will improve the world. This is pure greed.

ACTA links

“Canada and its international trading partners each have distinct copyright policies, laws and approaches for addressing the challenges and opportunities of the internet. Canada’s current framework provides strong intellectual property protections and our copyright laws apply in the digital context, including on the internet. Moreover, Canada’s regime for

the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights is fully consistent with its international obligations.”

The Honourable Tony Clement, The Hill Times – Canada’s Politics and Government Newsweekly

YET.

Somehow Canada continues to participate in the secret ACTA treaty negotiations.

“Secret ACTA negotiations would criminalize Canadian internet use” says New Democrat Digital Issues Critic Charlie Angus, who demanded that Tony Clement reveal the ACTA negotiation mandate letter. Tony Clement Responds To Concerns That ACTA Will Circumvent Canadian Copyright Law

Ambassador Kirk: People would be “walking away from the table” if the ACTA text is made public . Maybe that is what should be happening.

Russell McOrmond tells us about:

Word manipulation, hypocrisy, and the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in it world.

Bytestyle TV’s Shelly Roche tells us a few things about ACTA, including the fact that it is being undertaken as an executive order, and therefore will not require ratification by the U.S. Congress. If it’s any consolation, American citizens are being kept just as much in the dark as Canadians, and, well, every other country in the world. ACTA: Internet Users Guilty Until Proven Innocent and ACTA: Will Corporate-Run US Government Destroy the Internet?

The Electronic Freedom Foundation Senator Bayh Responds on ACTA illustrates just how badly informed Americans (including Senators) are about ACTA.

Fortunately all Senators weren’t created equal. Senators blast Obama’s secret trade talks as Fox head calls for ‘3 strikes’

Michael Geist brings us: EU ACTA Analysis Leaks: Confirms Plans For Global DMCA, Encourage 3 Strikes Model

Where Paolo Brini passed along the news that the ACTA “negotiations now are not compliant with the Lisbon Treaty, which has come into force the 1st of December” EU negotiators show too many incompatibilities between ACTA and EU laws and Telecoms Package: 3-strikes forbidden in Europe He says further that “The agreement between the Council and the Parliament led to a new amendment which clearly forbids 3-strikes, in the sense meant by ACTA, and restrictions to fundamental rights without following very precise parameters (not respected by ACTA).”

Jamie Love’s blast from the past: Seven Secret ACTA documents from 2008 which includes the link to a PDF of the “Canada Non-Paper on institutional issues under the Agreement” is then discussed in Howard Knopf’s EXCESS COPYRIGHT: Canadian Proposal for ACTA Secretariat

Wired Magazine weighs in with the Threat Level column: Privacy, Crime and Security Online Report: U.S. Fears Public Scrutiny Would Scuttle IP Treaty Talks

New Zealand would like to know: Dunne: What are we signing up to, Mr Power? – 4 December 2009

Last week on BoingBoing Cory Doctorow passed along Javier “Barrapunto” Candeira’s information on the Spanish activists issue manifesto on the rights of Internet users which was created to battle the proposed suspension of due process “in the name of ‘safeguarding Intellectual Property Laws against Internet Piracy.”

1 .- Copyright should not be placed above citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy, security, presumption of innocence, effective judicial protection and freedom of expression.

2 .- Suspension of fundamental rights is and must remain an exclusive competence of judges. This blueprint, contrary to the provisions of Article 20.5 of the Spanish Constitution, places in the hands of the executive the power to keep Spanish citizens from accessing certain websites.

3 .- The proposed laws would create legal uncertainty across Spanish IT companies, damaging one of the few areas of development and future of our economy, hindering the creation of startups, introducing barriers to competition and slowing down its international projection.

4 .- The proposed laws threaten creativity and hinder cultural development. The Internet and new technologies have democratized the creation and publication of all types of content, which no longer depends on an old small industry but on multiple and different sources.

5 .- Authors, like all workers, are entitled to live out of their creative ideas, business models and activities linked to their creations. Trying to hold an obsolete industry with legislative changes is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model was based on controlling copies of any creation and this is not possible any more on the Internet, they should look for a new business model.

6 .- We believe that cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and affordable alternatives to survive. They also need to adapt to new social practices.

7 .- The Internet should be free and not have any interference from groups that seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and stop the free flow of human knowledge.

8 .- We ask the Government to guarantee net neutrality in Spain, as it will act as a framework in which a sustainable economy may develop.

9 .- We propose a real reform of intellectual property rights in order to ensure a society of knowledge, promote the public domain and limit abuses from copyright organizations.

10 .- In a democracy, laws and their amendments should only be adopted after a timely public debate and consultation with all involved parties. Legislative changes affecting fundamental rights can only be made in a Constitutional law.

The Spanish government withdrew the draft law that would have legalized punishment without due process.

Spanish Blogroll:

[this is only a smattering of the websites bearing the manifesto… a Google search shows “de aproximadamente 351,000 de manifiesto en defensa de los derechos fundamentales en internet”]

and the list goes on….

Bravo Spain.

Talk about this.

And please, contact your MP, Prime Minister Harper as well as the Honourable Ministers Clement and Moore.

Because ACTA is bad. Very very bad.

STOP Usage Based Billing

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D: BitTorrent

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 24, 2009

No Usage Based Billing
No Usage Based Billing

[The First Part of this series was <<A: Open Source. The second installment of the Stop Usage Based Billing alphabet series was <<B: Packets and the Internet. The third installment was <a href=”<<C: Deep Packet Inspection, and the final installment will be E: Open Source Deep Packet Inspection]

What is BitTorrent Anyway??

“BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it accounts for approximately 27-55% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009.”

Wikipedia on BitTorrent

BitTorrent is an extremely fast and efficient means of uploading and downloading. BitTorrent is an excellent way to distribute large materials to many people via the internet.

Radical Ideas

Like so many of the radical new ways to do things that technology and the internet have made possible, BitTorrent can only work through co-operation. BitTorrent requires a network of “peers”, or other people’s computers who are willing to share the file. This is referred to as “peer to peer” or “p2p.

If I have a large file I want to transfer, the first step is to “seed” the file, transferring portions of the file to multiple members of the p2p network.

BitTorrent begins seeding portions of the file for transfer

Diagram 1: Seeding

It only takes a small fraction of the file to be passed along before the process speeds up enormously.

Seeding continues, but peers have begun exchanging data

Diagram 2: Seeding and Sharing

Once I have a small portion, i pass it along at the same time as I’m receiving new bits of the same file, either from the original seed source of another peer.

uploading and downloading

Diagram 3: Upload + Download = Speed

With many participants (peers) uploading and downloading at the same time, large files can be distributed very quickly indeed.

Diagram 4: Finish Fast

Bell Canada “Throttles” BitTorrent

Bell Canada

When Bell Canada was first caught “throttling” internet traffic to the Independent ISP customers, Bell Canada’s justification to the CRTC was that the internet was too crowded, and that it was necessary to “manage” the traffic. Bell claimed that they needed to employ Deep Packet Inspection to identify BitTorrent Traffic so that they can “throttle” it.

Mandate:
“The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. ”

CRTC Role, CRTC Website

Amazingly, the CRTC had nothing to say about Bell Canada’s plans to discriminate against particular Canadian internet users.

The CRTC has accepted Bell’s unsubstantiated contention that this discrimination was necessary, and in approving it they have allowed Bell Canada to think that this discrimination is acceptable. In no way does this serve the Canadian public.

You might almost think that the CRTC mandate was to suppress Canadian creativity and the creation of Canadian movies and music. The availability of the technologies that exist to make it easy to create our own movies and music should be welcomed as an opportunity to add to and help grow our Canadian Culture.

Why single out BitTorrent traffic for throttling if it is an efficient use of the available bandwidth?

One of Bell Canada’s arguments for implementation of Usage Based Billing is that Canadian internet bandwidth is in short supply, making it necessary for them to “manage” bandwidth by penalizing heavy users.

So how could anything as efficient as BitTorrent possibly be seen as a bad thing if the Internet is so crowded?

It doesn’t make sense to discriminate against BitTorrent use. There is nothing inherently bad about BitTorrent use or BitTorrent internet traffic. But Bell Canada’s contention is that BitTorrent is bad because people use it to download movies and music.

Which begs the question: how does that make BitTorrent bad?

The Copyright Red Herring

The “Copyright Lobby”, which consists of large media producers and distributors (like Disney), and corporations and organizations (like MPAA), who distribute commercial movies and music, want us to believe that this is a bad thing.

This corporate special interest group has spent a great deal of time, energy and cash trying to promote the “pravda” that any digital copying of copyright works is bad. Making no distinction between commercial bootleggers who distribute illegal copies for profit and legal purchasers who seek to make a back-up copy or digital format shift for personal use, the Copyright Lobby has been pressuring governments the world over to criminalize personal use copying.

The problem for ordinary citizens is that these corporate interests have vast quantities of money to spend and a great deal of media power. This makes it incredibly difficult for governments to stand up to their onslaught. In some parts of the world this persistent advocacy has paid off for the Copyright Lobby, as lawmakers knuckle under and legislate to the detriment of their own citizens by making it illegal even to copy or download movies or music for personal use.

Here in Canada the Copyright Lobby is seeking to influence our lawmakers to criminalize personal use copying. They are trying to make Canadians think that people who make copies for personal use are performing criminal acts, and should be penalized the same as a a bootlegger who films the latest theatrical release off a theatre screen and proceeds to sell hundreds of thousands of bootleg DVDs.

Once again, Channel Four’s hilarious I.T. Crowd puts this question in perspective with this send-up of a video piracy commercial I found on YouTube.

Strong and free?

Strong and free?

Canadian Law says

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, personal use copying is simply not illegal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, use of the BitTorrent file transfer protocol is also perfectly legal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, peer to peer (p2p) file sharing is legal; Canadians break no laws simply by joining in a p2p network.

The Copyright Lobby’s smear tactics have gone a long way toward making the world believe that BitTorrent is inherently bad.

Bell Canada has convinced the CRTC that it is acceptable to “throttle” BitTorrent, because of BitTorrent’s reputed connection with possible copyright infringement. So although BitTorrent is perfectly legal, Canadian internet users are paying the price for the success of this Copyright Lobby propaganda.

Myth: All BitTorrent/p2p internet traffic consists of copyright movies and music

The Corporate world doesn’t understand radical ideas like Open Source software and p2p file sharing because these concepts are so different from anything appearing in the old business models. Even more incomprehensible to the outdated business models is the fact that it may or may not generate a direct monetary profit.

International Business Machines

The classic example of corporate myopia is:

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. ”

—attributed to Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines, circa 1943

IBM For many years IBM has taken the rap for this quote whether or not Mr. Watson really did say it. (Most likely not.) Maybe proving it wrong is part of why IBM is such a going concern in the 21st Century. Having weathered the storms of fortune today’s IBM is a world leader by continuing to innovate and adapt alongside evolving attitudes and technologies. IBM has been steadily increasing their participation and involvement with Open Source software in this new century.

The reality is that IBM not only understands the importance of open source, the corporation has actively supported and promoted adoption of Linux and Open Office in the corporate world. And naturally BitTorrent is a part of the equation because it is such an efficient means to distribute large files (like for instance, Canonical’s Ubuntu.)

“Think.”

—Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines

Seems IBM actually does heed their most enduring slogan (which definitely was coined by Mr. Watson). Sadly, this type of foresight is uncommon. Because BitTorrent is such a radical idea, most entrenched corporations simply aren’t capable of understanding it.

There are other uses for BitTorrent that are not only legal, but even perfectly acceptable in polite society.

The Nightingale and the Rose
Probably my favorite use of BitTorrent is the amazing Project Gutenberg. This organization has been digitizing books in the public domain and distributing them freely… via BitTorrent, since this is such an efficient method of digital distribution. After all, BitTorrent is used for transferring very large files like music and movies because it is very efficient.
firefox logo

BitTorrent file sharing is not all movies and music. Like IBM, many people actually use p2p to help distribute open source software like OpenOffice via p2p. There is a growing body of open source software available, for instance my favorite web browser is Mozilla’s Firefox.

In fact, there the awesome SourceForge website which provides a place to find all manner of open source software, or where you can release your own.

When a new distribution of Ubuntu is released, people around the world gather together and have Ubuntu Release Parties making more good use of BitTorrent

And of course the Pirate Party of Canada has established Captain: the Canadian Pirate Tracker, their own BitTorrent site where Recording Artists and Filmmakers (and I imagine novelists, and software creators as well would be welcome to utilize this) to freely distribute their work.

Every bit of music and every movie transferred is not a copyright infringement. If I get to the point where my home made movies may prove marketable, I would certainly be looking at BitTorrent Distribution. In fact it would probably be easier to distribute home movies to family via BitTorrent than it would be to try to burn DVDs. (DRM makes the two commercial movie making software packages I’ve purchased almost unusable. Of course it doesn’t slow down the bootleggers.) If YouTube is an indicator, I’m not the only person who wants to transfer music and movies freely … not as copyright infringements. I have paid levies to the music industry for home movies I have made and burrned to CD for distribution to friends and family. If I choose to transfer them via BitTorrent now I can avoid the levy but instead suffer the added expense of Bell Canada’s deliberate throttling inflation?

Another really good legal use of BitTorrents are the actual commercial websites where people can go to to purchase downloads of music. So far no one seems to have found anything wrong with this practice.

But that’s not all. Canada’s own CBC Television Network tried their own experiment by releasing an episode of their program Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister via BitTorrent. Unfortunately the BitTorrent didn’t work so well because of Bell Canada’s CRTC approved BitTorrent “throttling”.

Geist tweets about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation

Which is not to say it wasn’t a good idea. Not too long ago Michael Geist tweeted about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation‘s foray into BitTorrent use. All accounts indicate that their experiment was very successful indeed, which is having a big impact in the way they do business.

Ink Poster

The sad tale of a pirated Independent film can be found in this TorrentFreak article Indie Movie Explodes on BitTorrent, Makers Bless Piracy.

I guess it isn’t such a sad story after all.  

Thanks to piracy this Indie film called INK was has been achieving a distribution level that the filmmakers had never dreamed of.  They are of course extraordinarily pleased.

I think what is being called piracy here is BitTorrent p2p personal use sharing. Friends sharing with friends is one of the most effective ways to achieve recognition. They used to call it a “grass roots” movement. This is one of the major issues for the large movie studios. This is the place where they complain of being ripped off. What they don’t seem to realize is that this is a good thing. Exposure garners fans, makes a “name”. Fans buy stuff.

BitTorrent Traffic is not the only thing Bell Canada is Throttling

keys
Rumour has it that there are people who actually work from home.

Time was the government encouraged the idea of people working from home. There are all sorts of advantages to society, like reduced congestion on actual highways, less wear and tear on our roads, a decrease in commuting based pollutants in our environment, a reduction of human depletion of fossil fuels.

But if you work from home, you are probably going to have to transfer files back and forth between your home and workplace. Chances are good that you are going to encrypt this type of traffic for security reasons. Although Bell Canada says they are only “throttling” BitTorrent traffic, in fact there have been instances of Bell throttling encrypted internet traffic on the assumption that if it’s encrypted, it must be BitTorrent traffic.

Bell places the onus on the customer to prove their “innocence” before they will consider stopping throttling.

Since the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection to inspect our packets, the only way to ensure that our private information remains private is through encryption. And in Canada any encrypted internet traffic will most likely to be throttled.

Canadian Copyright Consultation

The Canadian Government is looking at updating Canadian copyright law. They held a copyright consultation process this year, traveling around Canada soliciting opinions of stakeholders. Even better, they set up a website where they accepted submissions from any Canadian who wished to contribute. This website was flooded with thousands of submissions. Some are simply a few lines, some are extensive essays covering all sorts of topics, but all I’ve read are heartfelt. Because of the overwhelming response it took a long time to get all the submissions posted. (My own submission finally made online.)

This process led a lot of Canadians, including me, to believe that the copycon process might actually mean that our elected representatives were listening to us.

Unfortunately there is currently a lot of pressure on our government to make copying movies, software and music for personal use illegal. The secret ACTA meetings have caused a feeling of dread to settle over most Canadians. There has been deprecating talk about weak Canadian copyright law.

Except it isn’t true.canadian copyright

If anything, Canadian copyright law is probably more robust than is good for us.

The essential problem that the copyright lobby is attempting to overcome the problem of suing their own customers for what they imagine are infringements. They have noticed that fighting personal use copying garners bad publicity. This problem can be neatly solved by passing the responsibility for finding and prosecuting copyright infringement to governments. And of course the only was to get government to take ob the responsibility is to convince them that the copyright infringement is a criminal offense.

Regardless, currently copyright law is imprecise as regards personal use copying. So we’ll just have to wait for an actual law to be passed before it becomes illegal. (This pressure is actually largely from foreign owned interests– like Disney. It will be interesting to see if our government caves to this outside pressure.)

mixed messages


The government mandated levy we pay every time we purchase a blank CD is a tacit governmental admission that it is legal to burn CDs of our own music.

In the pre-Tivo era, Canadian cable networks actively encouraged Canadians to videotape the movies that they showed so we could watch them when it was convenient. They called it “time shifting” in their massive advertising campaigns. But no media giants took our cable companies to court back then. For the same reason artists will lend or give away their work for free when they’re starting out (because they need to build and audience– exactly like the INK producers mentioned above), back then even Disney didn’t have a channel in Canada. So Disney didn’t kick up a fuss even though they had to have known this was happening. They let it go because it was in their best interests to allow time shifting (i.e personal use copying). Disney knew this was in their best interests because it would help the Canadian cable companies build their market.

Of course now Disney doesn’t want us to record their movies for personal use. Disney would be happy if our government decided personal use copying was illegal. They would be happier still if our government spent time and energy searching out and charging people who download Disney movies.

Disney would be happy they no longer had to expend time and energy chasing down copyright infringements. They would be ecstatic if our Mounties were to do it for them. Gratis.

But this precedent indicates copying movies for personal use is also legal in Canada

So even though p2p networks or copying movies and music are not actually illegal in Canada, our friends the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to “throttle” anyone using BitTorrent transfers. Because the assumption is that even if you’re not technically performing criminal acts, per se, anyone who uses BitTorrent can’t be very nice.

The CRTC, the government body that is supposed to safeguard Canadian telecommunication consumers, gave Bell Canada legal permission to mess with BitTorrent traffic. Its discriminatory for one thing. If there are copyright infringements happening, there are laws to handle them. It isn’t any of Bell Canada’s business. Or the CRTC’s.

[More on copyright in my other blog– in the wind: Personal Use Copying vs. Bootlegging]

Dudley Do-Right?

Eirik Solheim's metaphorical image of the internet is the best I've seen: The internet is a series of tubes

Even if it were true that Canadian consumers were downloading music or movies, and even if it had been made illegal under Canadian Law, it should not make a whit of difference.

Because Internet Service Providers or Internet Carriers are NOT branches of Canadian law enforcement. They have not been deputized to enforce the law by the RCMP. If Bell Canada was in fact a Law Enforcement entity they would not be allowed to peek in any citizen’s packets without first acquiring a search warrant. Corporations don’t exist to uphold laws, they exist to make money.

The internet has been called dumb pipes, or a series of tubes, or a highway. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, what is most important is access for all.  
The people who control the pipes should not be allowed to discriminate against particular users for ANY reason. Net Neutrality is so important: the internet should be accessible to all.

revolutionary ideas

In the United Kingdom The Times Online Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing? article looked at the benefits of personal use copying applied as peer to peer file sharing with some dramatic results.

Canada’s own ThisMagazine presented this thought provoking article Pay indie artists and break the music monopoly — Legalize Music Piracy which advocates making the law serve the artists and consumers rather than just the corporations.

Further rumblings about changing the way we look at this issue were reported recently by the The Globe and Mail blogs article NDP, Billy Bragg make case for free music


http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
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