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September 6, 2011

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» On the nature of ownership

So, as previously mentioned, I own a Kobo and I’ve been using it for a while now, entering the world of ebooks. It’s kind of an experiment really, as I like dead trees just fine, but I also like the idea of ebooks.

Dead trees do what they’re told. You turn the page, and it turns, unlike say, DVDs which tell you that you can’t skip something that the content producer deemed important, like a useless ad, a company logo or the FBI warning…in Canada.

But, books take up a lot of space, and take resources to produce. I love them, but there are definitely cons to all of the pros of dead trees. I have over 100 books on my Kobo right now, so if I go on vacation and finish my current book, I have plenty more. Many of them are copyright-expired free books, and one is from the library, as they’re trying to stay current in this revolution. Good for them. The world of ebooks is motivating me to read more than I usually would, and catch up on the classics that I’ve been meaning to read. As my eyes get weaker I can even increase the font size. Nice.

But, I recently bought a couple of books from the Kobo website, and this turned my attention to the topic of ownership. In buying the book, the books synced via the Kobo software are in “kepub” format, a Kobo extension to Adobe’s DRM Epub format. So they’re not only DRM-protected, but they’re non-standard. It’s like buying a book, but having it wrapped up a lock that needs a key that I don’t own, but can only borrow. And I’m paying money for this? Shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I damn-well please with my own property? A quaint idea in this digital age perhaps, but I think so.

Not to mention the fact that Maria and I normally donate our read books to the library when we’re done with them and sure that we’re not going to read them again, and we loan books to friends too. Thanks to DRM, our friends and the library lose out.

So, what’s an open-source hacker to do in a world of digital books and DRM? I could abstain, of course. Stick with dead trees, and stick my head in the sand and pretend that ebooks are going to go away, while shouting, “la la la” whenever someone mentions them. I’d rather explore the technology though, and understand the problem, before pretending to have a solution.

The Kobo website permits a download of Adobe DRM Epub books for anything that you’ve bought, so you can import them into Adobe Digital Editions. As it turns out, there are tools to remove the DRM from those files. As I’ve paid for the books, should I not be allowed to make legal copies for my own use? Like copying the book onto my phone in case I want to read it there? Or onto my Linux desktop? I think so. I suspect there are many who don’t agree with me though, because they want to charge me for a copy of the book on every platform that I want to read it on. Not to mention that they’re not willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, and they assume that if I can copy the book then I will copy it illegally and put it up on the piratebay or something similar.

Alternatively, if I buy a physical copy of a book, what if I don’t read it, and instead scan it into digital form so that I can read it on my Kobo? IANAL, but I think that would be a legal copy for my own purposes under Canadian copyright law, and when I’m done I can still loan that book to a friend and donate it to the library. Once donated I would even delete my digital copy, but of course no content producer would trust me to do that. I’m guilty until proven innocent.

Perhaps all print books should include the ability to download an epub version, for this very reason, or all epub versions should allow you to print off a copy for donation reasons.

The world of ebooks is far from perfect. Publishers want to impose old, obsolete ideas from the print world onto the digital world, like limiting numbers of copies, and limited loan times for libraries, when these limitations don’t actually exist in the digital world unless you create them artificially. I am positive that this world will evolve over time. I just hope it evolves into something fair for consumers.

August 18, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Call Select does the right thing

I just got a few calls, two of them from Call Select. The first one asked me to call back and the second said that the matter was cleared-up and we would not have to pay anything, meaning that they can’t find any proof that we ever agreed to their service in the first place.

Why they didn’t just immediately absorb the buck-and-a-half of fees incurred is beyond me, was it really worth the hassle? The person I talked to claims that they most-likely made a mistake. Possible, so I shouldn’t overreact here. The fact is that I don’t know, regardless of what my cynical side wants to suspect, so I’ll just let it lie. I’m more interested now in why this kind of thing is possible in Canada.

Anyway, I also got a call from a reporter a the Ottawa Citizen, as I did email him about the issue, and he said he’d been looking into it. I’m not a big believer in coincidences, personally, so I think I’ll go buy the Citizen for at least the next few days. I suddenly like them even more than usual.

If the Citizen wants to follow-up on weak laws around telecom in Canada, more power to them. Maybe it will help the next guy.

August 2, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Still No Long-Distance

So, thanks to our long-distance service being taken over by Call Select without our permission, every time I try to make a long-distance call now, I am asked for an access code.

I was told by a Bell rep that it would be fixed by now, but it’s not and they’re off until Tuesday (long weekend), so no long-distance calls for us.

Thanks again Call Select. And thank you CRTC for working so hard to prevent this kind of thing.

August 1, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Follow-up to the CRTC

I followed-up to the CRTC on my complaint with this, just out of my own curiosity.

Thank you for responding. The issue is resolved for now, my only concern is how easy it was to “slam” my line in the first place.

How is it that anyone considers the current system to be in any way secure, where some random phone company can claim that I requested their service without any authentication from me whatsoever? Is that not an obvious flaw in the system that should be addressed at some point?

If the CRTC is not regulating the rates, terms of service or business practices of long-distance service providers, then who is?

Thank you.

» Response from the CRTC

So the CRTC responded.

Subject: Your message of 7/29/2009 6:20:15 PM (Reference Number: *****)

Dear Mr. Soulier,

Thank you for taking the time to contact the CRTC about your concerns.

The CRTC no longer regulates the rates, terms of service or business practices of long-distance service providers.

If your long-distance telephone company is switched to another company without your permission, it’s called “slamming.” Slamming is not condoned by either the industry or the CRTC. To find out who is providing you with long-distance service, call 1-700-555-4141 from your telephone and check your monthly telephone bill. Then, report the transfer to your original long-distance company immediately and ask to be switched back. Pay only the rate you would have paid to your original phone company and file a complaint with the company that switched your service.

If you’re not satisfied with their response, check the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) to see if your service provider is a member. If so, you can contact the CCTS with your complaint.

The CCTS is an independent agency that helps resolve your complaints about your telecommunications service. Contact them at:

* email:
* mail: P.O. Box 81088, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1B1
* fax: 1-877-782-2924
* toll-free telephone: 1-888-221-1687
* toll-free TTY: 711 or 1-800-855-0511 (voice)

I am also providing you with a link to the Fact Sheet entitled “How to File a Complaint About Your Telephone Service” which explains the CRTC complaints process :

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not reply to this message using the email address indicated above as we cannot receive e-mail at this address. To reply or to add to your submission, please click here and follow the prompts:*********

Yours sincerely,

Chantal Proulx
CRTC Client Services

So it doesn’t look like anything will come of this to improve the situation. I’ll follow up with a few questions, but I don’t expect my one complaint to change much.

January 18, 2009

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Life after Nortel

For a few years, my wife and I both worked at Nortel, our first job out of University. We were there during the dot-com crash around 2000, and that company has been heading downwards ever since, for a variety of reasons.

Maria stayed when I moved on to Mitel, as I was fed up and we also didn’t want both of us in the same company in case the whole company went under. Maria stayed, and we kept waiting for her to get hit by a round of layoffs, as they had many. She wasn’t hit, and now she’s still there, which isn’t great considering that they just filed for bankruptcy protection.

The ride was over long ago, but this feels more like the wheels falling off the car at the end. Still, life goes on, and with an eye towards the future, Maria has started a new blog called Life after Nortel. She hopes that it will be a place that ex-Nortel people can tell their stories, network, and find new opportunities.

If you are ex-Nortel, you might find it worth your time.


September 6, 2008

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Dilbert on lawyers

I just love Dilbert’s take on lawyers. This guy must write EULAs for a living.

July 4, 2008

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Response from my MP on Bill C-61

So, I received a response from Gordon O’Connor’s office today.

Dear Michael Soulier:
On behalf of Gordon O'Connor, thank you for your recent
correspondence regarding copyright reform.
On June 12, 2008 our government introduced important
amendments to the Copyright Act to bring it up-to-date with
advances in technology. Our approach is in line with
international standards. It should be clear, however, that
it is a Made-in-Canada approach that will benefit all
For consumers, it allows the recording of webcasts and
television and radio programs to be enjoyed at different
times; music to be copied on devices such as MP3 players;
and the copying of books, newspapers, videos and photos into
different formats. It also sets statutory damages at $500
for individuals if they infringe copyright for private
use-provided the material is not protected by a digital
lock.  (Currently, statutory damages could be as high as
$20,000 for a single infringement). 
Canadian educators and students stand to benefit from
uniquely Canadian reforms that would allow greater use of
material posted on the Internet, the legal delivery of
course material through the Internet, and electronic
delivery of materials loaned between libraries.
For Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs), our bill
includes a one-of-a-kind "notice and notice" regime.
Compared to the "notice and takedown" approach that is used
in other markets, it better addresses peer-to-peer file
sharing, and clarifies the responsibilities of ISPs online. 
Our Made-in-Canada approach strikes a proper balance between
all stakeholders. It promotes the protection of creators'
rights, and access by students and researchers. It means
consumers can enjoy everyday uses of copyright material. And
it provides fairness and clarity for industries that operate
in the digital environment. Its uniquely Canadian provisions
recognize that we all have a stake in fair copyright laws.
For more information, please visit the Copyright Reform
Process website at
Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.
John Aris
Constituency Manager for
Hon. Gordon O'Connor, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Revenue
Carleton-Mississippi Mills
Tel: 613-592-3469
Fax: 613-592-4756

June 22, 2008

Michael P. Soulier
But I Digress
» Canada’s DMCA - Write your MP

If you’re not sure how to phrase a letter to your Minister of Parliament regarding Canada’s version of the DMCA, Bill C-61, this might help.