I am a High School Student, University Auditor, Open-Source Textbook Author, Open Source Software Developer, Canadian Citizen, and in the near future, a Canadian voter. I am deeply concerned with copyright law, for obvious reasons. I wish address several topics in this email: Copyright duration and properties, Digital Rights Management, invasions of privacy,
The Nature of Copyright
It is my belief that no person has an intrinsic Right to Copyright, but rather that it is a social contract between creators and consumers, to promote creation.
The Length of Copyright
The length of the duration of copyright in modern copyright law makes it a unfair social contract, heavily biased towards the creator. I believe this is one of the main reasons my generation is quick to disregard copyright law: it’s not fair to us. In fact, I’ve heard on more than one occasion people quote Martin Luther King Junior: “One has a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws.”
Furthermore, excessively long Copyright stifle innovation, as one can’t build on other works, without their author’s permission, for such a long time. (A related point: copyright should require that creators release their works in a format that makes it easy to modify, at the very least at the end of the duration of copyright. Otherwise, no one can build off of it, and it looses a substantial part of its value to the public that makes copyright reasonable.)
Thus, I feel that the length of copyright law should be around five years, which provides a substantial motivation for authors, but is short enough that the consumer can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that products can build off each other.
Example 1: WINE is a piece of software the implements the Windows API (Application Programming Interface) so that one can run Windows Software on Linux, OSX, and other operating systems. It is very much in development and can only run some Windows software. It would greatly benefit from being able to build off a five year old version of windows. At the same time, Microsoft would no doubt have found ways to incorporate open source software (their Unix compatibility package comes to mind). And someday, if they decided they wanted to break backwards compatibility, they may have ended up taking advantage of WINE itself! Both parties would have better products, and the consumer would have benefited.
Example 2: Many fans of creative works will make fanfiction (a piece of literature that extends the original work). Presumably, if there was a shorter copyright duration, we would see an explosion in fanfiction as the authors began to write commercial works.
I agree that a derivative work should cite the works from which it is derived, even after the copyright has expired. I reject the idea that an author should be able to control how their work is used. If they want control, they can keep it to themselves.
Digital Rights Management
I only use open source software, on moral grounds. Unfortunately, the legal enforcement of Digital Rights Management would make it impossible to legally implement an open player for DRM’d content. This means I would have to choose between my morals, respect for the law, and viewing content I have purchased. I would rather not be put in this situation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (of which Canada is a signatory) states in article 12, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, …” Unfortunately, that is what warentless monitoring of the Internet is. The article goes on to state that, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
I believe that the UN General Assemblies decision to include this Right in the Declaration was wise. Privacy in communications is essential for Democracy (How can an opposition function when all their communications are monitored?) and our development as Human Beings (we are shaped by our interactions).
I personally feel that Democracy and Human Development should supersede the enforcement of Copyright.
Thank you for your consideration,