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Piratin’ music, under siege

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Arr me lovelies! Me name is Mikey Jones, also known as Captain Chrome, and on most days I spend me free time journeyin' the Cyber Seas, pillaging bounty like MP3s and racking up doubloons through BitTorrents. Today, though, I am on a different quest indeed.

It all started the other day when I stumbled upon the most troubling artifact.

It seems a single mother of four named Jammie Thomas-Rasset just got fined a mighty $1.92 million by the U.S. government for sharing 24 measly songs with the rest of us cyber sea dogs. And then, low and behold, I find she's not alone with her unfortunate fate. Another American fellow, a 25-year-old physics student who goes by the name of Joel Tenenbaums, was also fined $675,000 for a similar crime.

That is a heap of money!

Me fears were further heightened when my old partner-in-crime, Long John Johnny 69, informed me that our Canadian freedom to rove the Internet as we please may also be sunk; some mighty discussions are going on in Ottawa as we speak.

I've always counted my blessings that I live in the good ol' country of Canada instead of that there United States to the south.

Thanks to a Canadian court ruling some years back, we northerners are technically given the blessed freedom to copy any recording from the original copy, even them files we don't personally own like the bounty to be had off peer-to-peer networks. Meanwhile, our fellow American music pirates have had to navigate the harsh and restrictive law of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed in '98.

Alas, Long John Johnny 69 informed me that our privateerin' days may be numbered.

He says the top dogs in Ottawa, the federal government, are in the midst of a major review of Canada's Copyright Act that was last updated in 2001. Seems the laws are now out-of-date and need a rejiggin'. LJJ69 says the government tried to change the laws before, in 2005 and 2008 with Bills C-60 and C-61, but neither was brought before the mast.

But now, he tells me, the Conservative government has brought in the Copyright Consultation Roundtable to discuss how digital music and sundry on the Internet should be governed. (I do believe there may be a bit of pressure from the U.S. government in the mix as well.) The Canuck governors started their consultations this July with the hope of getting it rigged by September so they can keelhaul through this new legislation by the fall.

But be warned: although the Copyright Consultation Roundtable is open to the public, it has not been all clear seas and smooth sailings.

As you can bet, the people who be speaking the loudest at these roundtable discussions are the music industry execs who rely on CD and MP3 purchases to fill their vaults with billions. They are lobbying Ottawa to get our Canadian copyright laws looking more like the United States' DMCA legislation.

The music bigwigs want to enact a "three strike policy" on Canadian soil whereby Internet users who continue to download illegal MP3s (or other such copyright infringement behaviour) would no longer be allowed Internet access. They also want to prevent the people from "picking digital locks," so they can copy CDs and DVDs and such, as well as legislation whereby the government can make people take copyrighted material off their personal server.

So I'm off to Ottawa to pick my battle at the Copyright Consultation Roundtable!

I have 10 days left to get me word in, and I'm bringing with me a slew of signs, petitions, and me old trusty one-legged parrot. His favourite phrases are "This is B.S.-squawk" and "Don't slap the hand that feeds you, give us a kiss." He will be a great companion.

Yes, I strongly believe that the music industry should find another solution to their financial woes than simply suing the daylights out of otherwise innocent people.

The technology is out there. People will use it regardless, no matter what restrictions the government or big business CEOs put on MP3 use. There will always be some 14-year-old techno whiz who will find a safe route around the ol' legislators.

The Internet has permanently changed the way information be transmitted. Now 'tis up to the music industry to dust off their ol' business models and find new ways to inject cash into their revenue streams.

And I believe people who make their money off other people listening to music should, well, encourage people to listen to music. Suing yer best customers is not a great way to reap a large profit.

But what do I know? I'm just a little-known buccaneer with an annoyin' accent. Why do they call us music pirates anyways? Have your own say about our copyright laws. Up until Sept. 13, you can visit http://copyright.econsultation.ca and submit your finely attuned opinions to gov. 

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