Oh. My. God.
Industry Minister Jim Prentice agreed to be interviewed on the CBC Radio One program, Search Engine. Prentice is the man behind the new copyright reform bill C‑61. That he agreed to be interviewed surprised me, but it got weirder and weirder.
The host was very explicit about how the interview was structured. People sent in scenarios questioning how the bill will affect them in what they do. They received hundreds of responses. Prentice promised 10 minutes of his time so the questions were very concise. For example, the first question was:
My grandfather had a vast collection of rare jazz records. When vinyl became obsolete, he repurchased most of them on CD. Now, CDs are on the way out and I was to transfer the music onto a new iPod I bought him. Some of these CDs have digital locks on them that I can easily bypass. Is that legal, or does my grandfather now have to buy the same music for a third time?
According to the bill, bypassing the DRM in this scenario is certainly illegal. On the other hand, recording the grandfather’s vinyl with the computer and turning those into MP3 files to copy to the iPod would be completely legal. There is no protection with vinyl so no DRM is being bypassed and the copies are for his own personal use, therefore there is no infringement.
Prentice managed to waste three minutes thrashing about like a fish out of water and finally latching on to claiming that very few CDs in Canada are protected so he’d be surprised if the grandfather had any. Dude, listen to the question much? Even after the interviewer refreshed his memory by stating explicitly that the grandfather does indeed have protected CDs, he continued on about how the recording industry is moving away from using DRM. He then went on to say that the record companies aren’t going to hunt down individual infringers so there’s little chance of having to pay statutory damages. So is he trying to say that since the chances of being caught are so low that there really is no reason to worry about breaking the law? The wildebeest defence?
The other answers were no better. He sounded like he was barely familiar with the bill. Just after the 7 minute mark he said he had to leave for a meeting but the host kept talking. Prentice began to talk over him and hung up after having devoted less than 8 minutes of the 10 minutes he promised.
This was the time line:
- 0:00 — Podcast start
- 2:48 — Interview starts with first question
- 6:48 — Second question
- 8:04 — Third question
- 10:00 — “I have to go to a meeting”
- 10:34 — “I have to go to a meeting, bye!” Click [dial tone]
I have to keep reminding myself that Prentice is part of the government representing me and not a slimy used-car salesman. It’s a pathetic performance.
Hat tip to Micheal Geist for posting the podcast link.