Monday, June 16, 2008

Confessions of a Future Copyright Criminal

As Bill C-61 (aka the Canadian DMCA) hits the floor of the House of Commons, there are plenty of smart people doing an excellent job of explaining exactly what the implications are and why this bill needs to be strangled in the cradle. McGrath has an excellent post today, and Michael Geist and Laura Murray have been all over this since C-61 was just a glimmer in Harper's eye.

Me, I'm not a big downloader. I'm a relative newcomer to high speed, I don't own an MP3 player, and I get my fill of movies working at a video store. And yet, under this bill, I would be a multiple offender just because of one project I recently completed.

My husband does props and wardrobe work in the film industry, and I wanted to put together a clip reel for him to show potential clients what he has created for movies like Skinwalkers, Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Saw II-V. So my first offence was obviously going to be transferring scenes from these movies from DVDs that we had bought and paid for onto my laptop in a form that I could edit and play with. This meant that I had to download a utility that would get past the digital lock on the DVDs and convert the files to WMV format. Definitely illegal under C-61.

Even more galling was the process of adding music to the video clips. I particularly wanted Van Morrison's 'Moondance' for the 'Skinwalkers' werewolf sequence, which is an old enough tune that I probably could have found a free copy somewhere. But I was a good girl and spent my 99 cents to purchase the song from ITunes - only to discover that I couldn't actually incorporate the music into the video without downloading yet another soon-to-be illegal utility to get through the digital lock and convert the file. For a song that I bought and paid for!

Keep in mind, this is not something we're going to be selling, nor do we intend to post it on YouTube or even on my husband's website. This is a DVD showing work that he created in the form of a video resume to promote it to people who make movies and TV shows. And yet, under C-61, I would have broken the law many times over to create it and would be charged hundreds of dollars in fines.

The final irony in all this is that my husband is one of the people that copyright laws are supposed to protect. We both recognize the impact that large scale video piracy has had on the film industry and on his livelihood, so we are horrified when we see the open sale of thousands of blatantly pirated DVDs at places like the Pacific Mall. We won't buy them, we discourage our friends from buying them, and we don't understand why the malls aren't fined for leasing space to people who sell them completely out in the open.

But sadly, this bill is NOT about industrial movie piracy, nor is it about protecting the artists and writers who create music and film and television content by making sure that they are fairly compensated for their work. It's just about protecting the profits of the studios and the corporations that produce and distribute that content.

If anyone actually gave a rat's ass about bootleg DVDs or the poor starving musicians losing money to illegal downloaders, a levy system like they have in Europe would have been the way to go. Which is what creative types like the Writers Guild of Canada were pushing for, to no avail.

Alas, money trumps art every time.

1 comment:

  1. It boggles my mind that patents have a max of 20 year lifespan and requires you to pay to file the patent, yet patent drugs require many millions of dollars to develop. Even this limited life is justified by the benefit to society.

    Copyrighted works on the other hand have a virtually unlimited life and when was the last time you heard any public figure try to justify that one? If a government-granted monopoly on copyrights is to encourage the creation of new works, then surely a limited life would encourage writers, musicians and movie makers to produce new works rather than coast of past successes.

    So now here we are, where about 30% of Canadians say the regularly download music or tv shows from the Internet and who knows how many more regularly break technological restrictions for benign, personal reasons. And the government thinks that a law which criminalizes a significant minority of Canadians with no apparent benefit is a good one?

    The chutzpah and anti-democratic forces here make me really angry.