I saw this article talking about how “a group of 13 industry associations – including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Marketing Association, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada” are petitioning for the ability to have unrestricted access to your computer and adjoining resources to prevent piracy. This quote, from the site, explains what is being requested.
This provision would effectively legalize spyware in Canada on behalf of these industry groups. The potential scope of coverage is breathtaking: a software program secretly installed by an entertainment software company designed to detect or investigate alleged copyright infringement would be covered by this exception. This exception could potentially cover programs designed to block access to certain websites (preventing the contravention of a law as would have been the case with SOPA), attempts to access wireless networks without authorization, or even keylogger programs tracking unsuspecting users (detection and investigation). Ensuring compliance with the law is important, but envisioning private enforcement through spyware without the involvement of courts, lawful authorities, and due process should be a non-starter.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and other business groups want to ensure that the anti-spam law does not block their ability to secretly install spyware on personal computers for a wide range of purposes. In doing so, these groups are proposing to turn the law upside down by shifting from protecting consumers to protecting businesses. The comment period on the draft regulations may have closed, but it is not too late to tell Industry Minister Christian Paradis or your local Member of Parliament to reject demands that would gut the anti-spam bill and legalize spyware for private enforcement purposes.
The problem stems from the fact that these companies products are not a physical object that can only exist at one place at one time, but instead exist digitally and can be replicated. In this instance the involved companies and organizations are more than willing to sacrifice the right to privacy afforded to their customers in favor of allowing invasive monitoring software to “ensure” that their software is not being pirated.
Prior to this (as mentioned in the article) Sony caused a scandal by including in their compact discs a root kit to protect their intellectual property (digitalized music in this case). One problem was that their root kit created vulnerabilities in the customers machine making it susceptible to malware. The other problem was it violated the rights of customers and resulted in a number of law suits against Sony, and ultimately a discontinuation and removal of the root kit.
Other organizations such as the RIAA and MPAA have used a different tactic best described by Grand Moff Tarkin, “[f]ear will keep them in line.” This fear has been recently realized in the case of Aaron Swartz case, but has been going on for a while by bullying and extorting people with egregious lawsuits demanding huge sums of money to force an out of court settlement.
This doesn’t even address the issue of how much revenue is truly lost due to piracy? In this case it seems that the customer is best off voting with their dollars (or lack there of, OSS) and political processes when the opportunity permits.
To wrap it up, here is a humorous image illustrating the differences between pirated movies and purchasing the DVD.