By John Klein (aka Saskboy)
Imagine buying a house, and being locked out of the basement by the previous owner. That’s what digital locks do. If you’ve been following Canadian politics, particularly the new Copyright Act (Canada’s DMCA) Bill C-11, you’ve heard of “digital locks.” A digital lock, or Digital Rights/Restrictions Management (DRM), is a technology added onto a product you purchase, which keeps you from using the product the way you’d expect to be able to do as an owner. Media sold to you with DRM is more accurately described as “rented,” because it has limited access to important digital capabilities you get with media you create or media that is not digitally locked. You need to contact the landlord of the media in order to make full use of your purchase.
So, why would people buy this crippled product? Consumers haven’t had a lot of choice for one thing (if they buy music, rather than pirate it illegally). iTunes included DRM with purchased music, but removed it for music in 2009. At the outset of MP3 music downloading via file sharing sites like Napster, MP3s were DRM free for pirates. It was literally a more versatile product, for free, than you could get from iTunes by paying. Do people wonder why file sharing/piracy became the norm in the early years of the last decade? In the free market, the majority of people don’t choose to pay for a less desirable product, even under threat of punishment.
Now the Conservatives are set to quickly pass Bill C-11, and force through a new Copyright Act after previous governments (including many iterations of their own) failed to do it. I was starting to think that the Copyright Act would doom whichever government tried to pass a new version, but now it looks like it would take a miracle to stop it. There are going to be harsh penalties for anyone who tries to back up a movie DVD they’ve purchased. DVD movies contain digital locks you see — we’ve just forgotten they’re there because the pirates’ circumvention software is so practical and useful in our legal daily use of our home entertainment purchases.
Michael Geist writes, “As for claims that no locks will wipe out the industry, note that Canadian digital music sales have now grown faster than U.S. sales for the past six consecutive years, all without digital lock legislation.
“The reality is that the digital lock rules were overwhelmingly opposed as part of the 2009 national copyright consultation and generated strong opposition from opposition political parties, business groups, creator associations, consumer groups, and education representatives.”
There is also ample evidence that Conservative ministers are meeting only with pro-copyright extremists in the lead-up to passing C-11. The government isn’t looking out for Canadian voters, they’re singing to a different tune. That tune is protected by digital locks, and copyright, so don’t try copying it.