After the controversy surrounding last year’s proposed copyright bill C-61, which eventually died on the order table when Parliament was prorogued, the Federal government has decided to hold consultations across Canada before introducing a new version of the bill. While only time will tell how responsive the government will be to the public’s submissions, the series of town halls and round tables is definitely a good start in making the process transparent and taking the views of a wide variety of Canadians into account. Below is an expanded version of MNet’s submission to the Round Table held in Gatineau, Quebec on July 29th 2009.

The history of the Internet – and the history of technology in general – could be described as one big demonstration of the doctrine of unintended consequences: a system designed to help researchers collaborate, and developed to protect military communications in the event of a nuclear war, wound up being used primarily for shopping, socializing and entertainment. The same is true of many of the products and services on the Internet as well. In its early years it was mostly seen as a one-to-many broadcast medium, like TV or radio, but over time it’s the more interactive elements that have proven to be most popular, with users producing at least as much online content as professionals.

It’s a persistent phenomenon: the faster we move into the future, the more we find it embedded with the bones of the past. Why else, for instance, would we still talk about “dialling” a phone, and later about “hanging it up”? Few people remember the early TV remote controls that worked by sending high-frequency sounds, but we still call remotes “clickers.” We still say “stay tuned,” “CC” (carbon copy) e-mails, “rewind” DVDs, and “post” online messages. Even new media darling YouTube contains an old-media artefact of this kind: the name is obviously meant to make us think of television, the “boob tube,” but few TVs have tubes in them anymore.

With the recent spate of marine piracy off the coast of Somalia, culminating in the abduction and rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, it’s a bit disorienting to see the word “piracy” used to refer to, well, pirates. That’s because for the last few decades the word has been much more often applied to those who “pirate” intellectual property such as software, music, and videos. In fact, the use of the word in that context has a surprisingly long history: Daniel Defoe, in 1703, used the term to describe printers who made unauthorized copies of his work.

With the tremendous success and spread of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, along with home-broadcasting sites such as YouTube and Flickr, many people have become concerned about what effect they will have on our attitudes towards privacy. Now a new question has arisen: whether Facebook postings violate the Youth Criminal Justice Act if they identify suspects or victims covered under the act.

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