Friday, June 13, 2008

New Copyright Bill Will Not Work

The Canadian government has tabled new copyright legislation that is similar in many ways to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If the intent is to stop online piracy, then it will fail.

Intimidating-sounding fines like $20,000 for trying to get around copy protection on CDs might stop many people who would otherwise have done it. It might even stop 90% of these people. But, it only takes one person to break the protection and put a copy online for the world to have access.

It will never be possible to stop every single person from breaking protections. Even if the best protection technology in the world is used on some music, somebody will buy the music legitimately, and then record it while it is playing and throw a copy on the internet.

I’m not arguing that any of this is right, because it isn’t. I’m arguing that it is inevitable. This legislation will make criminals out of people who copy a CD to their iPods for personal use, but it won’t stop piracy.

Laws and law enforcement would do better to focus on stopping illegal enterprises from selling illegal copies of copyrighted works. Trying to stop the masses from getting access to music and movies for free is doomed to failure.

The fundamental problem for copyright holders is technology. It is easy now to copy data the size of digitized music. The only reason that piracy of movies has been less of a problem so far is that movies are about a thousand times bigger than a song. As technology advances, movie piracy will flourish.

The real money to be made now is in distribution of content. If a business can make music and movies available to the public for a reasonable price in a way that is more convenient than downloading pirated versions, then that business will succeed. Short of making our society a high-surveillance police state, no amount of legislation will turn back the clock to the good old days for media companies.

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