There's a not-so secret about activists that those pursuing anti-democratic policies have unfortunately spotted: they burn out. A trade association has its choice of professional lobbyists willing to be paid to argue the cause during working hours. The supply of people willing to donate their lives to sparking protest for little or no money is much smaller, however, and the toll is intense.
(Amongst other things, the idea of getting a law degree and leaping into the current Intellectual Property fray on the side of good has a great deal of appeal to me, and this is why. There are plenty of excellent law firms taking up the interests of the monied corporations, but few folks standing up for remixers, independent artists, consumers, and so forth -- almost nobody can afford to.)
The committee considering C-32, the copyright reform bill before the Canadian House of Commons, invited public feedback on the bill. Here's what I sent them.
Dear Honorable Members of the C-32 Legislative Committee,
If a hotelier could alter the laws which governed conduct at their inn simply by posting a notice on the door, what might they write? Failing to make your bed might be punishable by a fine or imprisonment; perhaps use of the hotel glassware to consume beverages not purchased there would be similarly forbidden. Surely, this scenario is beyond absurd, but it is effectively what the technological protection measures provisions of Bill C-32 let copyright owners do: to themselves write the copyright law that applies to their materials instead of having it determined by Parliament.
As someone who writes prose, creates software, and performs music, I understand and sympathize with concerns about copyright infringement and its potential effect on creators' income. I would welcome a legislative framework that addresses people who are trying to make a profit from large-scale unauthorized copying, but it's equally important for content users -- that is to say, every Canadian -- to be able to freely, fairly, and fully use the materials they've legitimately acquired.
To best serve society, copyright needs to strike a balance between the rights of users and those of creators. Vesting creator-authored restrictions with the force of law upsets that balance in the most catastrophic way possible.
Mark Shuttleworth (the CEO of Canonical/Ubuntu) has been in the news recently because of comments he made during a conference presentation. I was present at a Ubuntu Open Week session where he was questioned about diversity, and wrote a brief guest post on the Geek Feminism blog about it.