I just sent my first-ever letter to my MP

You can read it too:

> June 13, 2008
> The Honourable Andrew Telegdi
> House of Commons
> Parliament Buildings
> Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
> Dear Sir,
> I am a constituent who is concerned about copyright and intellectual
> property issues. As a member of Waterloo’s high tech community, I
> make my living from my intellectual property. I understand the need
> to balance the interests of all stakeholders.
> I do not believe that [Bill C-61](http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Docid=3570473&file=4), the amendment to the Copyright Act
> tabled by minister Prentice yesterday, strikes that balance.
> As has been noted, copyright is complex and nuanced. Time and care
> are needed to make sure changes to this important piece of
> legislation do not result in consequences that are damaging to
> Canadian culture and industry, and that Canadian citizens (ie.
> “consumers”) are treated fairly and with respect.
> I am [concerned](http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/3025/125/) that the provisions to protect technological
> protection measures trump all hard-won protections for consumers and
> render illegal activities like device-shifting, time-shifting and
> back ups that are legal and common practice today.
> I am concerned that the technological measures protections may have
> far-reaching consequences beyond the above, stifling Canada’s
> high-tech innovation. I also do not believe that these protections
> have rendered any real protection to artists in jurisdictions where
> they have been put in place. There may very little benefit for a
> change to law that comes at a very high cost.
> I am concerned that the “making available” provision could open
> Canadian citizens to indiscriminate and extortionate lawsuits like
> those seen in the United States.
> I am [concerned](http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080612-canadian-dmca-brings-balanced-copyright-to-canada.html) that strengthened “moral rights” provisions could
> stifle Canadian culture, particularly a thriving remix culture and
> Canada’s long, but unprotected tradition of parody.
> Most of all, I am very concerned that all of this will be enacted
> without due consultation with Canadian citizens: Canadian artists,
> Canadian consumers, Canadian industry and Canadian institutions.
> This is a complex matter that requires considerable deliberation.
> This is not a bill that can be railroaded through the House.
> I sincerely hope you take the time to review these issues and vote
> against any bill that does not truly balance the needs and interests
> of Canadians ahead of powerful international lobbies.
> Sincerely,
> Darcy Casselman

I’m sure there’s more, but this is about the best I can do at 6 in the morning running on about 3 hours’ sleep.

You might want to [write](http://www.copyrightforcanadians.ca/action/firstlook/) too.

*Edited to add:* I’m now a supporting member of the [Electronic Frontier Foundation](http://www.eff.org) in support of [Online Rights Canada](http://www.onlinerights.ca/).

Also, if you can’t bring yourself to do anything else, you should probably join [the Fair Copyright for Canada group on Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6315846683) if you’re on Facebook. I know, that’s not many of you, but maybe you could pass it along to your Facebook friends. The size of this group has been referenced on the floor of the House of Commons to demonstrate that Canadians actually care about intellectual property issues (bizarre, I know).

On Canada’s DMCA

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a CD comprised entirely of [bootleg Christmas remixes](http://www.djbc.net/santastic3/). Even under current copyright, this stuff shouldn’t exist. And while most of it’s kind of awful (but awful in a good way, I think), there are tiny bits of beautiful brilliance that *should* exist.

Today, Canadian Industry minister Jim Prentice was supposed to put forward a new Canadian copyright reform bill. The phrase “copyright reform bill” sends a chill down my spine. While Canadian copyright reform could use some reform, I’m pretty sure that the idea of “reform” in the minds of the authors of the bill will be quite a bit different than what I think would actually be useful or necessary.

As I was saying, there was supposed to be a new copyright reform bill today. But there isn’t. It’s been “delayed.”

Continue reading On Canada’s DMCA

The True Tragedy of Richard III

We went to Toronto last night on a bit of a whim to see [The True Tragedie of Richard III](http://www.elizabethanauthors.com/truetragedy01.htm) (“wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the smothering of the two yoong princes in the Tower: with a lamentable ende of Shores wife, an example for all wicked women. And lastly, the coniunction and ioyning of the two noble houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was playd by the Queenes Maiesties Players”–as good a summary as any).

This is not to be confused (too much) with Shakespeare’s Richard III. This is the play Shakespeare based his play off of.

I haven’t actually seen Shakespeare’s Richard III. (There’s a Doctor Who audio that messes with it–[The Kingmaker](http://www.bigfinish.com/81-doctor-who—the-kingmaker-149-p.asp)–but I don’t think that counts). I know enough about it, though, that it was all pretty familiar.

The play was put on by the [U of T Medieval and Renaissance Players](http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~plspls/). It’s a bit of a research project, as well as a theatrical performance. They tried to stick to Elizabethan acting tradition as much as possible. Which means they didn’t have a director and the performance we saw was the first full run-through. And while you might think that that sort of experimentation would maybe get in the way of the performance, I think they pulled it off rather well, much to everyone’s surprise (including and especially the actors’).

There was a Q&A session at the end which actually ran both ways. They were asking us (the audience) as many questions as we were asking them. I had unpleasant flash-backs of university arts courses.

Thinking if I had a question to ask, though, I kept coming back to the copyfight argument. Much of what Shakespeare did in his time–“borrowing” and modifying whole works–would be outright illegal today. While a writer is able to ask permission to do things like that, unless they have a dump truck full of money, that permission is rarely forthcoming. If Shakespeare was doing his thing today, he’d be sued to oblivion. Or, to put it another way, if today’s copyright regime existed in Elizabethan times, what is considered the greatest body of work in the English language would not exist.

I think that should probably give people pause for thought. And it’s that sort of thing that the [Creative Commons](http://www.creativecommons.org/) was created to address.

I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up that didn’t come off in a “Did you think of this?!” sort of nerdily confrontational way.

Thinking about it, though, I actually started to wonder how the Elizabethans thought about this sort of thing. Today, we get all huffy about *piracy!*, *plagiarism!* and *our!* intellectual property, like culture is a physical thing that we can hold onto and keep from other people. I’m pretty certain they didn’t see it that way.

Which isn’t to say that is was a rosy utopia. The reason that they didn’t do a full run-through until the first performance was the same reason that none of the actors got to see a full script. If the script got out before the performance, somebody else might swipe it and perform it first and, I don’t know, take credit or something.

Kinda like zero day movie torrents, I guess.

To be honest, I don’t know how Elizabethans thought about these things, or even if they did. I grew up with the Berne convention and WIPO treaties. I don’t have much of a concept about how these things were thought of before those existed.