How Bill C-32 stifles responsible product ownership
Hayley Gray, Staff Contributor
The federal Conservatives want to lock up your devices so that even after you pay for them, they are still owned by corporations.
I understand why it’s sometimes hard to care about copyright law. Nobody is directly suffering abuse or death. We’re not talking about cutting healthcare funding. Often, when one thinks about copyright, they get a twinge of guilt about that movie they downloaded and then go on with their day.
However, a new law which the Federal Conservative government is pushing through the House of Commons dictates what you can and cannot do with the technology that you own.
On Nov. 8, Bill C-32 received its second reading. This bill states that you will no longer be able to update, fix or modify your technology and media storage devices.
The Conservative government backed Bill C-32 by stating that it is simply meeting with the provisions outline by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, disagrees.
“The WIPO internet treaties provide a fair amount of flexibility in their implementations,” he says. “They don’t say that you have to have a digital lock trump your rights in every situation, in the way that we find in Bill C-32.”
I know most don’t get the same thrill I do when I install RAM onto my netbook, so let me put it into another context: what if designers passed a bill stating that you couldn’t modify the clothing you bought? If your jeans were too long, it would be illegal to hem them. Whether or not you like to modify or reinterpret your wardrobe, the idea of the police charging you for adding a patch to your jeans is a little ridiculous.
What are we buying in an economy where technology can only be adapted by corporate hands? Can you call a computer yours when you have DRM (digital rights management) software watching your every technological move, ready to confiscate at the first attempt at updates or sharing? As Cory Doctorow—author, Creative Commons advocate, and editor of the blog Boingboing—explains: “C-32… includes a sweeping DRM clause that makes it illegal to modify your own equipment, even if you’re not otherwise breaking copyright law, making it one of the most radical DRM laws in the world.”
The UK has already attempted to bring forward policy which states that individuals guilty of piracy will have Internet stripped from their homes. I don’t mean to flood you with images of an Orwellian Dystopia, but Big Brother is packing heat.
In North America, where we are already throwing out too much, our Conservative government is attempting to make it illegal to fix it.
The technological boom in the 1990s did not occur in corporate offices. It happened with hackers—individuals, often with no formal training, who learned the language of code and algorithms and who started to create.
In essence, that ability to create is just what this bill attempts to end. In a society where raw materials have lost their primary importance place, the intellectual property with which we create is often copyrighted and incorporated. If we allow our computers and technology to be literally copyrighted out of repair or modification, what other outlets of ingenuity and creativity are up for grabs?