Petition asks government to prohibit TPMs on IT devices

Concerned Canadians are collecting signatures for a petition that will ask the government to mandate consent from users before technological protection measures are applied to their hardware devices.

A draft of the petition, which has been published by Digital Copyright Canada, is being translated into French and will be promoted at a copyright-themed industry event next month. It focuses on the use of technological protection measures (TPMs), which Digital Copyright argues strips users of their rights and exposes them to unnecessary security risks such as Sony’s rootkit. The group plans to present the petition in Parliament later this year. 

“Our petitioners call upon Parliament to prohibit the application of a technical protection measure to a device without the informed consent of the owner of the device, and to prohibit the conditioning of the supply of content to the purchase or use of a device which has a technical measure applied to it,” the petition says. “We further call upon Parliament to recognize the right of citizens to personally control their own communication devices, and to choose software based on their own personal criteria.”

Russell McOrmond, an Internet consultant based in Ottawa who runs DigitalCopyright.ca, said the group has only obtained about 30 signatures so far, but they only need 25 in order to present it in Parliament. He said Digital Copyright is in discussions with a Conservative MP who would champion the cause in the House of Commons. 

“I want to get an MP who will hold up a camcorder and say, ‘From my cold dead hands,’” he said. “If we can manage t o do that, then we win.”

TPMs have triggered vigorous debate in the IT industry because copyright owners believe they can safeguard their intellectual property, but some users say they lock them out of their own devices. TPMs are often described as an example of digital rights management (DRM) tools that recording companies and other firms want enshrined in law.

“DRM is state-sponsored theft,” McOrmond said, adding the issue may require considerable education within the federal government. “We need  someone who understands why the means of production and distribution must be in private hands. If we have to explain that, we’re in trouble.”

Canadian IT security researchers, meanwhile, have complained that making it illegal to circumvent TPMs would seriously impair their ability to learn more about how to protect devices from malware or other problems. A group of these firms which calls itself the Digital Security Coalition recently sent an open letter to the ministries of Canadian Heritage and Industry asking them to reconsider what they describe as extreme copyright laws.

Brian O’Higgins, CTO at Ottawa-based Third Brigade and spokesperson for the Digital Security Coalition, said the letter the group received about the open letter did not specifically commit to anything.

“It looked rather like a standard response,” he said. “I don’t know much discussion has gone on. I do think Industry Canada understands our interest and our concerns.”

Other groups, including the Canadian Library Association, have also spoken out about the privacy implications of TPMs.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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