Canned responses to C-61 letters

While I haven’t yet printed, signed and sent any of the copyright petitions, I did manage a bit of an email writing spree regarding this hideous proposed legislation. Would it surprise you to know that I haven’t had a real response from anyone yet?

To be fair, our politicians might just be getting a tiny earful on this one, so I’ll reduce my expectations to … nil? I would have thought Ujjal Dosanjh (my MP) might have responded directly. However, why would he start doing anything now?

The first email I sent directly to him and the second I sent to Stephen Harper, Josee Verner and Jim Prentice, with copies to Ujjal, Stephane Dion and Jack Layton.

My email notes

The snippet below is the substantive gist of the first email:

As long as I’m not distributing what I buy for profit, I can’t understand why the Harper government is so willing to pander to business in this regard. I can’t understand why governments are so slow to understand that using my own media on multiple devices does not hurt the copyright holder. And, in fact, sharing will generally increase sales.

Copyright law this stringent does nothing for Canadian citizens and stifles the creativity and ingenuity that open standards and open access to technology and digital media creates. Plus, this is doomed to failure in any regard as people will simply expend more effort to go further underground in how they access, acquire and share digital media.

When you combine it with ACTA, which the feds have also been negotiating (and also not consulting their constituents regarding), normal people will be under attack every day, defending what they own and likely forced into expensive and unnecessary legal fights.

And the second, with more of a pleading tone:

Since this bill was introduced last week, there has been near universal opposition to it. Media coverage has been solid and comprehensive and has spanned the globe. The only ones who seem to be in favour of this are the US trade reps who have been pushing the Canadian federal government into crafting it in the first place. They still feel it does not go far enough. Far enough for what? A complete stripping of our rights? Or, is this really only about ensuring closed wall licensing to make big business copyright holders richer, at everyone else’s expense?

Most independent artists understand that, in a business landscape dominated by large labels and distributors, they need audiences to be built through open sharing of their works. This is how careers are often built and sustained. This bill does nothing but discourage this behaviour. The lost leader provisions around time-shifting are made useless by the fact that this content is not someone’s to keep and use for their personal entertainment. Plus, since the software used to allow this behaviour on locked works will now be illegal, I’m not sure how you expect people to avail themselves of that provision. That using a legally purchased digital media asset on more than one device, again for my personal entertainment, might somehow make me a criminal, would be laughable were it not so sad.

Who do you think is doing most of the file sharing and digital media posting to the web? Teens and younger folks. So, you’ve effectively targeted them as criminals, blindsiding them via over-zealous and poorly thought out legislation. Do you seriously think you’ll be able to extract the $500 penalty for peer to peer sharing, or the $20,000 penalty for sharing via aggregate platforms like YouTube, Flickr, or other social media sites? And what about someone who wants to comment on a copyrighted video via their own blog, which they saw on YouTube and further embedded on their own site? Does that make them a criminal?

Mr. Prentice and Ms. Verner, I honestly doubt you could even answer this last question, as it’s fairly clear to me that you don’t really understand how online social media not only works, but is completely changing the way people connect and communicate. If nothing else, I ask you to think of the innovation this will kill. I also ask you to do some real consultation across this country to understand why this legislation is bad. That is, if the firestorm you’re presently enduring is not helping you to understand.

Should this legislation go to the Commons for a vote in the fall, it could go either way. If it succeeded it would just be a sad harbinger of where this country would be headed under a Conservative majority, and likely means the Liberals were more frightened of an election than they were concerned for the rights of Canadians. However, what I hope, should it get that far, is that it would get voted down and actually trigger that election. Mr. Harper, if the Conservative strategy is that the next election deliver you the majority you crave, misreading public sentiment on this issue may actually have the reverse effect.

The spot-on responses

First I got Jack’s response, eerily similar to exactly the same as what Michael Geist shared from a commenter:

Thank you for sharing your concern with the Harper government’s Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Copyright Act.

The NDP is strongly opposed to this legislation. We are calling on MPs from all parties to listen to their constituents and join the growing chorus of those who are against C-61.

New Democrats are pushing for proper legislation that will ensure artists and creators are compensated for their work while allowing consumers reasonable rights of access. Over the past two years we have urged the Conservative government to consult with stakeholders and develop relevant legislation that would protect artists, innovators and consumers in the 21st century. However, this government has completely ignored all calls to bring forward reasonable copyright legislation and regrettably this bill is worse than originally feared. There is no evidence of any attempt to strike a reasonable balance to protect both either artists or consumers. Instead, C-61 represents a full capitulation to the U.S. corporate lobby that will pave the way for the criminalization of perfectly reasonable behaviour–like format shifting of most legally purchased content.

What can you do? If you haven’t already, you can contact the Ministers of Industry and Heritage, the Prime Minister, the leaders of the other opposition parties and your local MP to tell them of your opposition to Bill C-61. Encourage your friends and families to do the same. For contact information, please visit:

Please know that your participation is important to building an opposition to this bill that will be hard for Parliament to ignore.

Again, I appreciate the time you have taken to contact me on this critical issue. Feel free to pass along my email to anyone who may be interested.

All the best,
Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, Canada’s New Democrats

But, surely Stephen Harper would be paying attention, right?

Dear Mr. Wanless:

On behalf of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, I would like to thank you for your recent e-mail.

Please be assured that your comments have been noted and that they will receive due consideration from the Minister, who has already received a copy of your correspondence.

L.A. Lavell
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister’s Office

For his part, Dion is as informed and articulate as always:

On behalf of the Honourable Stéphane Dion, we would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence and thank you for taking the time to contact the Leader of the Opposition.

It is an extraordinary feature of our democracy that there exists clear lines of communication with our elected representatives. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive it may take some time before we can reply.

Mr. Dion always appreciates hearing from Canadians and being made aware of their views. Please be assured your comments and concerns have been reviewed and noted.

We are confident that by working together we will achieve Stéphane Dion’s vision for an economically prosperous, socially progressive and environmentally sustainable Canada.

The Office of the Honourable Stéphane Dion, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

And, finally platitudes and nothingness from the dynamic duo, Prentice and Verner (whose presser was really sad commentary on how far over their collective heads they are) which didn’t address any of my points:

What does Bill C-61 mean to Canadians? Specifically, it includes measures that would:

  • expressly allow you to record TV shows for later viewing; copy legally purchased music onto other devices, such as MP3 players or cell phones; make back-up copies of legally purchased books, newspapers, videocassettes and photographs onto devices you own; and limit the “statutory damages” a court could award for all private use copyright infringements;
  • implement new rights and protections for copyright holders, tailored to the Internet, to encourage participation in the online economy, as well as stronger legal remedies to address Internet piracy
  • clarify the roles and responsibilities of Internet Service Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network facilities
  • provide photographers with the same rights as other creators

What Bill C-61 does not do:

  • it would not empower border agents to seize your iPod or laptop at border crossings, contrary to recent public speculation

What this Bill is not:

  • it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright laws. Our Bill is made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including Japan, France, Germany and Australia

Draw your own conclusions. I know I have.