Monday, December 10, 2007

It can follow you like a dog

I'd like to direct everyone's attention to the blog of my friend, the Freshwater Mermaid, who has taken it upon herself to singlehandedly advocate against the proliferation of TASERs and the tabled Canadian DMCA bill. While I'm not going to weigh in on the former, because it's not my area of expertise, I will speak to the latter.

This is, honestly, a very scary bill. One of the privileges of being an arts lover and artist in Canada is that our definition of fair use was broad - copying discs for private use was A-OK. And with resources like the Bibliothèque Nationale and the McGill music library at my disposal, it was a veritable treasure trove. BANQ has a wonderful selection of jazz, with a surprising amount of "out" and out-of-print material. It was there that I discovered the Braxton gems Creative Orchestra Music 1976 and Dortmund, which have proven to be my points of entry into his astonishing world. McGill's classical collection is stunning, and the jazz collection is achieving parity.

Now, the mere act of ripping - even if it's for the purposes of back-up, archiving, or transferring to my own digital device - would become illegal, as would disabling any DRM technology that comes embedded on CDs or other files. This worries me on many levels: as a keyboardist, I have converted my rig to software synthesizers, and my computer is my career. It holds all my sounds and all my scores (thank you, Sibelius!). My father worked in the computer industry for a long while and is vigilant about keeping clean systems. If I want to play a CD while I work on my computer, I don't want to be obliged to install whatever DRM-rootkit-proprietary-player crap. I also want to know exactly what is being installed, and what information is being sent to third parties. If this bill passes, we would not be allowed to spy on the spies. What's more egregious is that in the event one locates the hidden DRM files on one's computer, the proposed software would be regenerative - delete it, and not only are you a criminal, the software reinstalls itself. Never mind the fact that as an artist, I'm still paying copyright levies on blank CD-Rs so I can send MY OWN MUSIC to festivals, radio stations and other members of the industry.

As an educator this is also disturbing. Music is an aural tradition. I'm not going to insist my students track down x, y and z recordings, and any CDs I'd make for my lessons are protected under fair use for education. How are the powers-that-be supposed to know the difference between ripping for pleasure and ripping for education?

Michael Geist has far more information on his website, and there's even a Facebook group. If you are a Canadian artist or arts lover, write your MP and protest this bill.

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