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September 17, 2021
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing in regards to the Consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things regarding the issues of:
- Agriculture producers’ ability to repair and adapt farm machinery to their situation without bypassing safety requirements or emission standards;
- Interoperability between agricultural equipment that is produced by short-line and original equipment manufacturers; and,
- The ability for producers to retrieve, store and share the data collected by their machinery between platforms.
With the advancement of technology in agricultural machinery, there is an emerging issue of agricultural producers being unable to repair the computerized or software-based components of their equipment that are being protected by copyright. Agricultural production involves short periods for panting and harvesting and any delays in the field can have significant negative impacts to producers. Recently, there has been reports of producers experiencing delays related to software-based issues. Producers require quick resolution to machinery breakdowns in the field. While there is a need to prevent the bypassing of safety and emission controls, this needs to be balanced with the ability of producers to adapt their equipment to the needs of the individual farm operation. The present review of the Copyright Act presents an opportunity to help address this emerging issue and ensure that agricultural producers are able to repair their machinery, access local support and avoid production delays.
The issue of interoperability between agricultural equipment that is produced by short-line and original equipment manufacturers has also been raised as an issue by some of the province’s short-line agricultural equipment manufacturers. In Saskatchewan, there are a number of companies that produce farm implements for a variety of larger host machines (e.g. headers for combines). Use of digital locks or other technological protection measures on host machines can prevent short-line manufacturers from producing agricultural equipment. I recognize that the use of technological protection measures encourages investment and innovation, but I also recognize the potential to prevent competition, investment and innovation.
The Copyright Act review can foster the growth of the agricultural technology sector. Entrepreneurs and start-up companies with artificial intelligence/machine learning or internet-of-things (IoT) based solutions require clear expectations to build and validate their prototypes before commercialization. Digital lockouts or stringent rights protections disrupt this process, preventing agricultural manufacturers and producers from adopting new technology like IoT-connected sensors to address urgent problems or improve inefficient work practices. Technology companies could also apply their solutions outside of the agricultural sector if they feel unable to protect and fully pursue their innovations, limiting future growth opportunities across the agricultural supply chain.
Likewise, that ability to share data gathered by these systems and move the information between platforms is essential, especially in the agriculture environment where products and services are evolving quickly. Farm operators are increasingly relying on this information to make management decisions their operation and these decisions can span several growing seasons. Providing the flexibility and assurance that data can be easily migrated if required would support innovation and development and ensure that producers have access to competitive options in the future.
Issues of copyright need to keep pace with technological change in the agriculture industry. Careful consideration will be necessary to balance the needs of end users and developers in this deliberation. It will be important to maintain a system that protects investment in developing this machinery, yet provides enough room to support competition and future innovation in the sector. Unfortunately, with the timing of these consultations falling during the busy harvest season, agriculture stakeholders may not have had sufficient opportunity to share their views. I encourage you to consider the perspectives and needs of agricultural producers and equipment manufacturers in the review of the Copyright Act and seek out future opportunities to engage with the sector directly before this consultation is finalized.
Thank you for your consideration.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture
Deputy Minister of Trade and Export Development
Honourable David Marit, Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture
Honourable Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan Minister of Trade and Export Development and Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan