Your Rights: Copyright Surveillance: Moving Closer to Big Brother

by Irma Arkus

The first signs of surveillance to detect “copyright infringement” are showing. A US federal judge recently ruled that Google is to hand over the records of all videos users have watched on YouTube to Viacom, as Viacom is suing Google for failure of censoring posted videos legally owned by Viacom.

In response to this ruling, Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner sent an open letter to Fleischer and Brin of Google. Cavoukian encourages Google to challenge the request, as it advocates surveillance of public in order to enforce copyright laws, chipping away at privacy of its users.

Copyright issues (in Canada – Bill C61, and in US, an already approved Digital Millenium Copyright Act), are very much pertinent to issues of surveillance. As previously mentioned, if Bill C61 is to be approved in Canada, and all these various ways of enjoying, using and exchanging media are to become illegal, the question begs: how are these “illegal activities” to be verified?

In other words, if your computer holds various mp3s suddenly charged to be illegal as of 2008, how are these mp3s to be “found” by authorities in the first place? This implies severe invasion of privacy and increased surveillance of members of public at large.

Most critics have duly pointed out that Bill C61, as frightening and as ridiculous as it may be, is solely serving corporate enterprises rather than the Canadian public. The implementation of the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act seems to already indulge corporate interests at the expense of personal privacy.

What further complicates things, is the undeniable fact that due to blurring of private and public spaces, such as in case of google, myspace, and facebook, our personal information is very much owned by private companies, and thus legally bound by corporate laws and interests.

What about the public Internet spaces? Do we have them? Should we have them?