Monday, July 21, 2008

Copyright waste

Michael Geist has been pointing out that Canada's proposed new copyright law Bill C-61, could also have undesirable environmental costs.

"The notion of "green copyright" sounds odd, yet the policy choices found in Bill C-61, Industry Minister Jim Prentice's controversial copyright bill, disappointingly run directly counter to the current emphasis on the environment...

Despite attempts to reduce e-waste, Bill C-61 establishes new barriers to the reuse of electronics. If enacted into law, it would prohibit the unlocking of cellphones, forcing many consumers to junk their phones when they switch carriers (there are an estimated 500 million unused cellphones in the United States alone).

Similarly, the U.S. version of Bill C-61 has resulted in lawsuits over the legality of companies that offer to recycle printer ink cartridges. In one lawsuit, Lexmark sued a company that offered recycled cartridge and though it ultimately lost the case, the lawsuit created a strong chill for companies set to enter that marketplace.

Bill C-61 also creates new barriers in the race toward network-based computing, which forms part of the ICT industry's response to the fact that it accounts for more carbon emissions than the airline industry...

The bill prohibits companies from taking advantage of cloud computing to offer network-based video recording services (as are offered by some U.S. based providers). It also stops consumers from shifting their music, videos, and other content to network-based computers, limiting these new rights to devices physically owned by the consumer. In fact, the bill even blocks consumers from using network-based computer backup since multiple copies of purchased songs or videos is forbidden."

It's good to see someone of Prof Geist's standing noting this, as it has been largely invisible from the debates on the knowledge society. Digital devices use vast quantities of energy. They also have short lives and generate vast quantities of toxic waste. In spite of the long standing myth that digital content is perfect and "free" it has never been so. The environmental cost of intellectual property policy stretches beyond James Boyle's second enclosure of the commons (of the mind) and has a substantial and increasing impact on our physical environment.

Thanks to Michael Geist himself for the pointer to his article.

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