Here is a summary of what I would like to see in copyright.
- It is useful to break up copyright infringement into two categories. The first is state of a copy, and the second is the actual act of infringement. The latter is defined in terms of the former.
- A copy of copyrighted content is an infringing copy when it was made without permission of the copyright holder and the copy is currently not otherwise exempt from infringement. Note that exemption from infringement applies to particular copies, not to the individuals creating them.
- The act of copyright infringement is the creation of an infringing copy.
- The concept of fair dealings currently part of Canadian copyright law should remain and copies which meet those criteria remain exempt from infringement.
- A copy made for the personal and private use of the person making the copy should be exempt from infringement. This exemption should apply to all copyrighted works, not just music. Optionally, a levy may be charged on blank media to compensate artists for this exemption.
- The aforementioned exemptions to infringement should only apply as long as the copy from which a copy is made is not itself an infringing copy, or, if the copy from which it is made happens to be in another country, would not be an infringing copy if it were located in Canada (but still only remotely accessible to the person making the copy).
- An exemption from infringement should last for as long as the criteria that allow the copy to be exempt from infringement holds to be true. If it changes during its lifetime, the exemption may cease to apply, and the copy becomes an infringing copy. The creator of that copy should in that case also be guilty of copyright infringement. This does not affect the status of any copies that may have been made from the copy of the work before it became infringing. Once the criteria for an exemption is lost from a copy, it cannot qualify for that exemption again later, even if it should once again meet the criteria for the exemption.
- Transmitting, sharing, lending, selling, renting, leasing, or in any other way distributing a copy of a copyrighted work to anyone else, or merely offering to do any of these, irrevocably voids any notion of personal and private use that might otherwise have applied to that copy, and the corresponding exemption to infringement along with it. If the copy is then found to be infringing, the creator of it shall be guilty of copyright infringement. If infringing, the recipient shall also be considered to be party to the infringement if the recipient could reasonably know that that the content they are receiving is infringing.
What this point means is that downloading copyrighted content via a peer-to-peer service that has not received any authorization to distribute it is illegal, since the copy that the service is providing does not qualify for a personal use exemption on account that it is being transmitted, that copy is infringing. And since one is making a copy of an infringing copy, the new copy is also infringing. It also means that lending your original CD's to your friends is legal. Although the personal use exemption won't apply to the CD's, the creators of those CD's had permission to create them in the first place and so they don't require a personal use exemption to not be infringing on copyright.
- Knowingly possessing infringing copies of copyrighted content should be considered as being a party to the infringement, and may carry similar penalties. If one does not know that copies they possess are infringing, they shall not be considered guilty of this crime, but once such knowledge is gained, any infringing copies must be surrendered to the authorities upon request, and at their own expense, but without any further penalty. Copies so surrendered are to be summarily destroyed, just as counterfeit currency would be. If one discovers that they possess infringing copies that they did not formerly know were infringing, not surrendering such copies to law enforcement for destruction upon request, for any reason, shall be considered equivalent to the crime of knowingly possessing the infringing copies.
- If a person creates a personal use copy of a work and this copy is misappropriated from him or her without their consent, explicit or implied, they shall not be considered to have committed copyright infringement, although the misappropriated copy shall be considered infringing. Anyone found to be possessing such a misappropriated copy, will be guilty of knowingly possessing an infringing copy of a copyrighted work and may be guilty of other laws as well (such as theft, unauthorized computer access, etc). A person who does not cooperate with law enforcement upon request in finding the person or persons who had evidently misappropriated the copyrighted content will be considered to have implicitly consented to these actions and the personal-use exemption to infringement will not apply.
- The act of copyright infringement must be deliberate. If a person is found to be committing copyright infringement without intent, they must surrender all copies of infringing copyrighted works to the authorities, at their own expense, but without any further penalty, and shall be expected to immediately cease and desist from the activity that was causing the infringement. If they are later found to have not complied, they should then be considered guilty of copyright infringement. Neither ignorance of the copyrighted status of a work nor of copyright law itself should be considered acceptable reasons to be ignorant of copyright infringement.
- Copyright holders may, if they desire, create mechanisms that make it more difficult or inconvenient for the end user to create copies that may be exempt from infringement. No legal framework should exist for preventing anyone from bypassing such mechanisms, however, unless the person can also be found to be guilty of infringing on copyright by creating an otherwise infringing copy.
- Copyright needs to be of finite scope. The duration of a copyright ought to depend on the nature of the work, but no copyright duration should ever be greater than 50 years. Once a copyright expires, the work transits into the public domain.
- Copyright law will not assist anybody in protecting any interests that they have in formerly copyrighted works that have gone into public domain. They may be freely copied by anybody. A publisher is not under any obligation to continue to provide access to public domain content, however... the onus for distribution, if any is desired, falls on the shoulders of those who desire it.