Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and esteemed members of the committee.
My name is Alissa Centivany. I'm an assistant professor at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University, where I work on technology policy, law and ethics. I have a JD specializing in intellectual property law and a Ph.D. in information science. I've had research appointments at U of C Berkeley's law school at the Center for Law and Technology, and at the University of Toronto law school's Centre for Innovation Law and Policy.
I'm currently the primary investigator of an SSHRC-funded study on copyright, computerization and the right to repair. I'm grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today.
Repair is impeded by design choices; business strategies; constraints on access, materials and information; various social factors; and laws. By permitting the circumvention of TPMs for diagnosis, maintenance and repair, this bill represents an important, incremental step forward toward reclaiming the right to repair in Canada. For the health of our economy, our planet, our communities and ourselves, repair must be available, affordable and accessible. I'd like to emphasize three points for consideration.
First, the purpose of copyright law is to benefit society by promoting the creation and sharing of creative and artistic works. The purpose of copyright is not to protect business models. Nor is it to ensure that the incumbent beneficiaries of the existing regime reap the rewards of that status in perpetuity. It's absurd that manufacturers of things like tractors, tanks, wheelchairs and washing machines can co-opt copyright law and impede repair, simply by embedding code into their products. This bill carves out a necessary, common-sense exemption to the act's anti-circumvention provisions, while leaving the provision intact for contexts that might bear a legitimate relationship to the overarching purpose of the act.
Opponents of this bill claim that the exemption carries risks to the environment, safety and security. In response, I'd like to say first, “You're barking up the wrong tree.” There are laws that could address those concerns, but they are not copyright laws, which, as just mentioned, are concerned with the production of creative works.
Second, the only way this exemption would impact emissions, safety and security is if the software that governs repair also governed emissions, safety and security. I doubt that this is the case, but if these systems are being bundled together, that is a serious design flaw that manufacturers should remedy.
Third, most consumer devices are insecure for reasons that have nothing to do with repair. The ubiquitous smartening of products through network computerization creates security risks, thus much of this innovation is of questionable benefit to consumers and society.
Fourth, positioning consumers and the repair providers they choose as threats is pretty blatantly anti-consumer.
Finally, whether this exemption is codified or not is irrelevant to risks posed by actual hackers, who have far more sophisticated tools and techniques already at their disposal.
The second big point I'd like to make is that this bill is pro-innovation. In my research, I've interviewed farmers, teachers, engineers, artists, community organizers, health care workers, mechanics, volunteer fixers, schoolchildren, and people living in cities, in the suburbs, in rural areas here in Canada, and also in the U.S., in Europe, and in regions of the global south. A common thread across these differences is that the practice of figuring out what is wrong with something and fixing it is innovative. Our understanding and valuation of innovation in this country has gone astray. We overemphasize novelty, newness and invention, and we underemphasize the work, skill and adaptive situated problem-solving required to keep the things we already have running smoothly. Rather than undermining innovation, as some of the opponents claim, this bill undoubtedly promotes it for the good of workers and the economy.
By the way, this position is shared by our most important trading partner. A brief released two days ago by the White House noted the importance of the right to repair in building a healthy economy. At present, 20 U.S. states have right to repair bills under consideration. Bill C-244 is pro-innovation and is consistent with the actions and interests of our key trading partners.
Finally, repair is not only good for the environment and the economy; it's also good for us as people and as communities. Every act of repair is embedded with important human values. These include productivist values like learning, skill development, self-efficacy, self-determination and digital citizenship, as well as non-productivist values like care, continuity, heritage, hope, mutual support and meaning-making, which together make up the fabric of a richer, more resilient, more livable society and enable us to collectively project a more hospitable, habitable and humane shared future.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about Bill C-244.