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Copyright Bill is plain wrong 

Jim Prentice and Bill C-61 are totally tasteless tubers

In honour of the International Year of the Potato, I planned to scribble an editorial this week lauding the humble spud. But then, Mrs. Prentice's boy Jim---who obviously has mashed potatoes for brains---introduced his new copyright bill. It would place severe restrictions on our enjoyment of music and movies, TV shows, e-books and photos. So, fuck the tasteless tuber. This Upfront salutes the tens of thousands of outraged Canucks who are joining Facebook groups to fight the minister of industry's stupid law before it gets passed, making all of us into lawbreakers.

Prentice tried to defend his new copyright bill by claiming it would give us peons new "rights"---the right, for example, to continue copying the CDs we buy onto our computer hard drives or listening devices strictly for personal use. But that right goes out the window if the CD maker installs a digital lock designed to prevent copying. If you pick the lock, the law would allow the music company to launch a $20,000 lawsuit for every song you copy. If you give your old iPod to a relative or friend with the music you paid for still loaded on it, the companies could sue your ass for $20,000 per "illegal" song. Same thing if you make a backup copy of that DVD movie you bought. And for god's sake, don't upload your professional wedding pix to Facebook. Under the new law, the photographer you hired would hold the copyright to your photos. Unless you purchased the rights, you could end up paying a $20,000 penalty for every uploaded photo. Not to worry. You could record a TV show for later viewing, but you would have to watch it within a few days and then destroy the recording. The bill's harshest provision imposes million-dollar fines and five-year jail sentences on people caught circulating tools designed to pick digital locks. As Vivien Stern points out in her recent book Creating Criminals, globalization is criminalizing more behaviour and increasing the number of people classified as criminals. What's legal today will land you in court tomorrow.

OK, everyone agrees creative people should get paid for their work. The trouble is that under the copyright system that Prentice is trying to protect, the big companies and a few big-name artists and performers get stinking rich while most others starve for a living. Instead of this new law designed to protect the corporate monopolies, we need ways of sharing music industry money more fairly. The Songwriters Association of Canada has suggested that a $5 monthly fee be levied on each internet account to pay for music downloads. The money would be divided among people in the music industry. In return, the law would make it legal to share music over internet or wireless networks, by email, or through the exchange of CDs and DVDs. (Details at songwriters.ca.)

Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, has come up with an even more radical proposal called an Artistic Freedom Voucher. All adults would get a $100 yearly tax voucher they could divide among favourite musicians, groups, performers or independent record labels. The $100 voucher would serve as a refundable tax credit. Artists who choose to receive AFV money would agree to make their work copyright free for a minimum of five years allowing anyone to download, copy and share it. (Details at cepr.net.) Baker argues that allocating tax money to support artists makes a hell of a lot more sense than spending it prosecuting music fans who share their recordings. His proposal would redirect millions to less well-known artists and smaller music groups who could gain national audiences through everyone's access to free and downloadable music. Best of all, it would mean more freedom for artists and their audiences instead of the stupid restrictions that Potato Head and his corporate buddies want to impose.

Credit where credit due:Courtney Kelsey should have been credited for taking the Cool Dad photo in the New Music Issue (June 12).

Send your $100 Editorial Freedom Voucher to brucew@thecoast.ca.

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