Commentary  We are all criminals

Re: “Montreal copy stores busted for photocopying textbooks” | News | January 27

It is rather unfortunate that the several copy stores in the area who were willing to skirt the law and cheaply photocopy textbooks for students have been brought under criminal inquiry. I understand that these copiers were self-interested, trying to make money from facilitating the creation of a cheaper textbook alternative, and while I have never had personally used this service, I can’t help but consider their actions courageous, as well as beneficial for the student population.

As the article indicates, this is not a new practice, and one proprietor admitted to having copied textbooks for years. What is unfortunate is the arbitrary nature of copyright law enforcement. I would be surprised if any McGill student could admit to never having wilfully infringed copyright law, most commonly accomplished through the downloading of movies and music over the internet. While the laws may make us all criminals for these actions, I doubt that most of us feel that way. Because we all violate copyright law, it can only ever be prosecuted on a case-by-case basis, meaning that the enforcement of copyright standards is inherently at risk of abuse by the authorities. Unless everyone is prosecuted equally the application of the law can in no way be considered just. The laws have made all of us into criminals, meaning our prosecution is subjected to the whims of the authorities, regardless of the severity of our actions.

James Hirsch

U3 Political Science and North American Studies