This is a Poll … A WHAT? … A Poll!

Our government is in the midst of making a law called Bill C-11, the “Copyright Modernization Act”, which will have serious consequences to all of us. But I’m wondering: how many of us actually understand what it is all about?

All the Canadians who responded to the government’s copyright consultation have some idea of the importance of the issue. The people who read Michael Geist, Russell McOrmond’s Digital Copyright Canada, ZeroPaid, p2pnet, itworld, Tech Dirt or Boing Boing will know something about it. If you make a living from one of Canada’s many copyright collectives or from the mainstream CRIA, RIAA or MPAA — you’ll probably know the company line and will have some understanding of what its all about. There are even some creators — the people who create the work that is “protected” by copyright — who understand the issues.

But I’m wondering if most Canadians are tired of hearing about copyright law it, or because they have no idea what it’s really about. This matters because the changes to Canada’s copyright law will effect the lives of every Canadian, not just those involved in the copyright industry.

You may recall reading how much I hate polls. But the polls I hate are those used as marketing rather than for information gathering. I want to gather information for that last few posts I will be writing before the government passes Bill C-11. And a poll seems the best way to proceed. I’m putting polls anywhere I can to find out if my assumption that most Canadians have been left out of the loop is correct. So I hope you’ll help me out here by answer my three little questions. And by the weekend I’ll write an article incorporating the results.

And now you can listen to Jesse Brown’s Audio Podcast #127: Digital Locks have Nothing to do with Copyright


DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and TPM stands for Technical Protection Measures. Both of these are terms for “digital locks”. Digital Locks allow the manufacturer to control their product after we have bought them. Personally, I would think that a digital lock should be illegal, because once I buy something, I own it. But that’s another article.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

The Canadian DMCA has just been tabled by the Conservative government. The main provision of Bill C-32 the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act” that pretty much everyone agrees is bad is that the resulting law will make circumvention of digital locks illegal.

Which got me thinking about PDFs. A PDF is a technical protection of content locked in a digital format.

I used to be simply annoyed by PDF files. If I am getting information online, I don’t think it should be necessary to download special software in order to read it. So unless I really want the information badly, I won’t. And then I won’t use the Adobe reader which alwasy seems to have security warnings about all the ways Adobe Readers allow malware to get into our computers. How do computer viruses spread? By putting insecure things in our computers.

Everyone everywhere on the internet can read files in html without having to put software they don’t want on their computer. That’s what we see when we look at web pagees, or blogs or email.

I recently learned that the reason PDFs exist is to lock the document format for printing. So really, the only reason to put your information into a PDF file is to send it to a printer. It is not the right choice for disseminating online information.

If the information is really important to me, I will use the PDF reader I have. So it is possible for me to deconstruct important information like say an ACTA leak into html so that people can read it Shine a Light on ACTA: A.C.T.A. Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Unlocked Then the information can also be indexed by search engines.

But the question is:

Is a PDF DRM or TPM?

The reason people put content into a PDF file is to preserve the formatting. A PDF file uses technical protection measures to preserve the formatting. Many people have software to deconstruct PDFs, dor me, if I want to circumvent a PDF’s TPM I have to do it the old fashioned way, by re-typing it.

So if they pass Bill C-32, deconstructing a PDF will be circumventing a digital lock. It will be illegal, won’t it?

P.S. Oh look, more warnings:

engadget: Adobe’s Flash and Acrobat have ‘critical’ vulnerability, may allow remote hijacking

ZD Net: Adobe warns of Flash, PDF zero-day attacks

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Adobe Reader and Acrobat customDictionaryOpen() and getAnnots() JavaScript vulnerabilities

ars technica: Flash security vulnerability exploited in PDFs