Positive change: Green Party on copyright

Along with their commitment to free and open source software in government, the Green Party of Canada takes an excellent stance on copyright reform. According to a response from Green Party candidate Glenn Hubbers and the Green Party response to the Canadian Conference of the Arts questionnaire, the Green Party will:

  • Remove the Levy on Blank Audio Recording Media and replace it with private copying exemptions;
  • Introduce a formal notice-and-notice mechanism for dealing with copyright infringement online, thereby affirming common carrier status for Internet Service Providers (ISPs);
  • Renounce the Crown Copyright applied to all government produced documents, thereby immediately releasing them into the public domain;

It seems almost coincidental that the Green Party’s stated goals so closely match my own. Let me elaborate on why these reforms are necessary.

Currently, for every recordable CD you buy in Canada, you pay recording companies $0.21. This is whether you use the CD for recording music or not. With a 50-pack of CD-Rs available for $19.99 (as of September 30, 2008), this means that the CD levy can account for more than 50% of the purchase price of a recordable CD. Since CDs are used for a variety of purposes other than copying royalty-requiring music recordings, the law should reflect this by removing the levy.

“Notice-and-notice” is an important system to codify into law. It means that web hosting companies are responsible only for sending copyright infringement notices to web site owners, not for removing content. This helps web hosts focus on their business and lets web site owners decide for themselves whether their content is infringing rather than having it deleted without their consent. I included this in the third point of the Bill C-61 petition and Michael Geist has written about it as well.

The current system of Crown Copyright means that all information from the government, unless otherwise noted, is protected by copyright and you must pay to use it. The notion that taxpayers should have to pay again for information their tax dollars already paid for is ludicrous. Works created by the Canadian government should not be protected by copyright, as it is with the US federal government where government works are not entitled to domestic copyright protection and as the Green Party wants to implement.

These reforms are long overdue and I’m glad that at least one party is standing up for them.

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