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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Student Strike: Have Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses?

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It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.”

— Daniel Weinstock

When I went to college in Ontario in the ’80′s, anyone could access higher education. Ontario provided loans and grants to qualified students. If you (or your family) were wealthy, it might be all loans; if you and your family were of low income, it might be entirely grants. The difference is that grants don’t have to be paid back, ever.

This seemed reasonable.  Among other things, that system ensured that people  best suited to being doctors don’t end up driving cab. My friend Malcolm says “50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.”   That is even worse when the pool of potential doctors is reduced as it has been.   How many Canadians right now are putting up with bad doctors because they dare not complain and risk going doctorless?

Back in the ’80′s, I went on a demonstration at Queens Park to protest the round of education cuts Ontario was starting, just as I was just finishing.  But the government didn’t listen, and over time went on to entirely abolish grants in the years since.  Ironically, Ontario is just now reintroducing grants.

There are countries in the world that make higher education entirely free to citizens.  I think that’s not only civilized, but smart policy.  It’s good for any society, because it means that citizens can be fully engaged.  It means that society is making best use of resources, because the most important resource is our citizens.  You can probably tell that’s what I think that’s what we should be doing. [Yes, I know, they always say there is no money; but that is hogwash. They can find the money if they want to, since they can always find it for stupid things.]

I do, however, believe in democracy.   And even if Canada doesn’t go that route, it is something that should be decided by Canadians, not dictated by government.  So what is happening in Quebec is very disturbing.

I’ve heard that most Quebecers disagree with the strike, but of course, that is information obtained by polls, and polls can be gamed. And the mainstream media has descended into entertainment, so “the news” needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  I myself look to the Internet for my news.  The following open letter I share with you here was referenced by @ryanweal in a conversation on Identi.ca

An open letter to my English-Canadian friends. Please circulate in your networks as you see fit.

“You may have heard that there has been some turmoil in Quebec in recent weeks. There have been demonstrations in the streets of Montreal every night for almost a month now, and a massive demonstration will be happening tomorrow, which I will be attending, along with my wife, Elizabeth Elbourne, and my eldest daughter Emma.

“Reading the Anglo-Canadian press, it strikes me that you have been getting a very fragmented and biased picture of what is going on. Given the gulf that has already emerged between Quebec and the rest of Canada in the wake of the 2011 election, it is important that the issues under discussion here at least be represented clearly. You may decide at the end of the day that we are crazy, but at least you should reach that decision on the basis of the facts, rather than of the distortions that have been served up by the G&M and other outlets.

“First, the matter of the tuition hikes, which touched off this mess. The rest of the country seems to have reached the conclusion that the students are spoiled, selfish brats, who would still be paying the lowest tuition fees even if the whole of the proposed increase went through.

“The first thing to say is that this is an odd conception of selfishness. Students have been sticking with the strikes even knowing that they may suffer deleterious consequences, both financial and academic. They have been marching every night despite the threat of beatings, tear-gas, rubber bullets, and arrests. It is, of course, easier for the right-wing media to dismiss them if they can be portrayed as selfish kids to whom no -one has ever said “no”. But there is clearly an issue of principle here.

“OK, then. But maybe the principle is the wrong one. Free tuition may just be a pie-in-the sky idea that mature people give up on when they put away childish things. And besides, why should other people pay for the students’ “free” tuition? There is no such thing as “free” education. Someone, somewhere, has to pay. And the students, the criticism continues, are simply refusing to pay their “fair share”.

“Why is that criticism simplistic? Because the students’ claim has never been that they should not pay for education. The question is whether they should do so up front, before they have income, or later, as taxpayers in a progressive taxation scheme. Another question has to do with the degree to which Universities should be funded by everyone, or primarily by those who attend them. So the issue of how to fund Universities justly is complicated. We have to figure out at what point in people’s lives they should be paying for their education, and we also have to figure out how much of the bill should be footed by those who do not attend, but who benefit from a University-educated work force of doctors, lawyers, etc. The students’ answer to this question may not be the best, but then it does not strike me that the government’s is all that thought out either.

“And at least the students have been trying to make ARGUMENTS and to engage the government and the rest of society in debate, whereas the government’s attitude, other than to invoke the in-this-context-meaningless “everyone pays their faire share” argument like a mantra, has been to say “Shut up, and obey”.

“What strikes the balance in the students’ favour in the Quebec context is that the ideal of no up-front financial hurdles to University access is enshrined in some of the most foundational documents of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, in particular the Parent Commission Report, which wrested control of schools from the Church and created the modern Quebec education system, a cornerstone of the kind of society that many Quebeckers see themselves as aspiring to. Now, it could be that that ideal is no longer viable, or that we may no longer want to subscribe to it. But moving away from it, as Charest’s measures have done, at least requires a debate, analogous to the debate that would have to be had if the Feds proposed to scrap the Canada Health Act. It is clearly not just an administrative measure. It is political through and through. Indeed it strikes at fundamental questions about the kind of society we want to live in. If this isn’t the sort of thing that requires democratic debate, I don’t know what is.

“The government has met the very reasonable request that this issue, and broader issues of University governance, be at least addressed in some suitably open and democratic manner with silence, then derision, then injunctions, and now, with the most odious “law” that I have seen voted by the Quebec National Assembly in my adult memory. It places the right of all Quebec citizens to assemble, but also to talk and discuss about these issues, under severe limitations. It includes that most odious of categories: crimes of omission, as in, you can get fined for omitting to attempt to prevent someone from taking part in an act judged illegal by the law. In principle, the simple wearing of the by-now iconic red square can be subject to a fine. The government has also made the student leaders absurdly and ruinously responsible for any action that is ostensibly carried out under the banners of their organizations. The students groups can be fined $125000 whenever someone claiming to be “part” of the movement throws a rock through a window. And so on. It is truly a thing to behold.

“The government is clearly aware that this “law” would not withstand a millisecond of Charter scrutiny. It actually expires in July 2013, well before challenges could actually wind their way through the Courts. The intention is thus clearly just to bring down the hammer on this particular movement by using methods that the government knows to be contrary to basic liberal-democratic rule-of-law principles. The cynicism is jaw-dropping. It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.

“So that is why tomorrow I will be taking a walk in downtown Montreal with (hopefully!) hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens. Again, you are all free to disagree, but at least don’t let it be because of the completely distorted picture of what is going on here that you have been getting from media outlets, including some from which we might have expected more.”

— Daniel Weinstock An Open Letter to English-Canadians, who might be feeling that Quebeckers have taken leave of their senses.

“An addendum: one of the more egregious aspects of the law, which penalized omissions to deter, has been removed from the final version. That is better, which is not to say that it is any good, because vast tracts of discourse are still at least potentially under the microscope. Many have responded by saying that law-enforcers and judges will be prudent in applying these broad-reaching provisions. Perhaps. In Madisonian spirit, I say that it is best to economize on virtue, that is to make laws and institutions that do not depend on relevant actors rescinding from doing what the law actually allows them to do.”

Further reading: Resisting Bill 78 in 15 points: Concordia Full-Time Faculty Member

Winnipeg Free Press: Protesters defy new Quebec law; Event marks 100th day of student-led strikes

Personally, I’m proud of the students and their supporters for standing up for their beliefs ~ and what’s right.  I hope these young citizens remain involved and continue to work for electoral reform in the future, and maybe we can have a more democratic Canada.

Jean Charest’s government ought to be ashamed of themselves.
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This is a Poll … A WHAT? … A Poll!

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Our government is in the midst of making a law called Bill C-11, the “Copyright Modernization Act”, which will have serious consequences to all of us. But I’m wondering: how many of us actually understand what it is all about?

All the Canadians who responded to the government’s copyright consultation have some idea of the importance of the issue. The people who read Michael Geist, Russell McOrmond’s Digital Copyright Canada, ZeroPaid, p2pnet, itworld, Tech Dirt or Boing Boing will know something about it. If you make a living from one of Canada’s many copyright collectives or from the mainstream CRIA, RIAA or MPAA — you’ll probably know the company line and will have some understanding of what its all about. There are even some creators — the people who create the work that is “protected” by copyright — who understand the issues.

But I’m wondering if most Canadians are tired of hearing about copyright law it, or because they have no idea what it’s really about. This matters because the changes to Canada’s copyright law will effect the lives of every Canadian, not just those involved in the copyright industry.

You may recall reading how much I hate polls. But the polls I hate are those used as marketing rather than for information gathering. I want to gather information for that last few posts I will be writing before the government passes Bill C-11. And a poll seems the best way to proceed. I’m putting polls anywhere I can to find out if my assumption that most Canadians have been left out of the loop is correct. So I hope you’ll help me out here by answer my three little questions. And by the weekend I’ll write an article incorporating the results.

And now you can listen to Jesse Brown’s Audio Podcast #127: Digital Locks have Nothing to do with Copyright

Yesterday’s Search Terms …. #SOPA

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I am not an expert on SOPA, PIPA, or American Censorship of the Internet; but I do know quite enough about the issue to be extremely concerned.  This blog got an awful lot of traffic yesterday, and it seems that there were a lot of unanswered questions about how this all will affect Canadians.

The following are many of the search queries — what people type into the “search” bar in their browsers — that brought people to this blog yesterday:

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American Flag

SOPA and Protect IP (PIPA) will most certainly affect Canada.  These bills assume American governance over all of the Internet used by Canadians.   Under these laws, an American allegation will result, not just in blocking Americans access to Canadian sites accused of infringement, but in Canadian website takedowns.  This is simply unacceptable.  Last time I looked, Canada was a sovereign nation.

If I haven’t answered your questions, please let me know in comments or email (click my avatar image; my email address is posted in my profile), and I’ll address any unanswered questions next week.

In the meantime, for information about the legal ramifications of SOPA/PIPA on Canada, Michael Geist wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the legalities for Canadians in Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest

You can find information about SOPA from http://americancensorship.org/

… and, of course, Wikipedia has clearly stepped up to the plate on this.

Yesterday, while the US portion of Tumblr was dark, I posted a fair number of screen caps of blacked out sites, as well as reblogging Tumblr SOPA protests on my Tumblr blog.

SOPA and PIPA are bad laws that will very definitely impact on Canadians and our Internet.

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Will “American Censorship” Impact on Canada?

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["American Censorship" refers to the two Internet Blacklist Bills currently enroute to becoming law. The PROTECT IP bill is currently before the American Senate, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is in their House of Representatives. ]

Easy answer: Of course it will.

Website Blocking

The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.

Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users
It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.

Chaos for the Internet

Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

American Censorship Day

Q: What is the DNS system?
A: The DNS or Domain Name System is the hierarchy that controls the Internet URL naming conventions. If you want to set up your own website, the current common use is to register a domain name, to make it easy for users to find your website online. In the beginning, domain name registration was free, nowadays there is an annual charge. You can get a domain through a company like godaddy or choose a privacy respecting registrar like the one I use, Register 4 Less which can be found at https://secure.register4less.com/

This means that you can easily find Google at https://www.google.com/ or Josh Woodward’s music at http://www.joshwoodward.com/ or my brother Larry’s humour blog at http://www.larryrusswurm.com/
One of the most important functions of the Domain Name registration is to ensure that there is only one of each name.

Q: How does Internet Black Listing work?
A: It doesn’t actually turn off the website, it simply removes the site’s domain name. In cases of egregious law breaking, such as child pornography or even copyright infringement, this does nothing to prevent the breaking of these laws. The blocked website still exists, and will continue to be accessed by law breakers via numerical static IP addresses.

The ineffectiveness of black listing has actually been demonstrated when the American government sought to censor WikiLeaks. Removing the domain name from the registry does not remove the IP address.

But what it will do is make it easier to block competition and innovation while making it more difficult for users to find the websites they want.

Q: How will Website Blocking affect Canada?
A: The Internet is all over the world.

If Websites are only blocked within the United States, American customers will find it difficult, impossible or perhaps illegal to access these blocked websites. If A Canadian website is accused of infringement, whether real or imagined, this blocking will mean the loss of American customers.

If blocking is done by DNS domain name removal, this will affect websites the world over.

Q: How will the Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users affect Canada?
A: Richard O’Dwyer, a British University Student is currently facing extradition to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement under existing laws.

Need I say more?

Q: What do they mean when they warn about “Chaos for the Internet?”
A: Different laws exist in different countries.

The Internet is comprised of networked connections all over the world.

USA

American Flag hangs downCurrent American law provides for “safe harbors” which protect sites like Facebook, Flickr, and G+ as well as independent blogs and comments from legal liability in the event a third party posts illegal material.

Without this, the Internet will cease to be an interactive medium, because no one, whether independent bloggers or Internet giants like Wikipedia will have the luxury of allowing third party posting.  A malicious edit in Wikipedia could spell the end of the fifth largest website in the world.  YouTube can’t afford to screen every video for potential IP violation.  Most Independent bloggers don’t have legal departments.

Canadian innovation

The Maple Leaf part of a Canadian FlagCanadian law is different than American law. Although Canadians are some of the most active people online, we seem to be users rather than pioneers. Recently Michael Geist appeared before Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry and explained the legal barriers that existing Canadian law has thrown up before innovative Canadian startups that might have become a YouTube, a Google, a Facebook or a Skype.

Canadian free speech

Recently the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land, established that Canadian Law should “Avoid restricting the free flow of expression.”

Yet it seems that elements of the proposed Protect IP and SOPA laws seek to make hyperlinking potentially a criminal act. Search engines would be compelled to remove links from search results.

existing Canadian copyright law

IP lawyer Howard Knopf shows that Canadian Copyright law is currently far stronger - and more restrictive to creativity – than American Copyright Law is currently.   In Canada we have slightly shorter copyright terms than they have in the United States. I don’t believe Bill C-11 will increase this term if it passes.

Under existing law, Wikipedia is considering removing this photograph of Ontario’s Elmira District Secondary School ~ the school I attended ~ even though it is legal to use this image in Canada, if it is not legal under existing American Law.

This tinted photo of the original school building ~ Canadian history uploaded to Wikipedia by Dconlon268 ~ hung in Elmira District Secondary School when I was a student there more than 30 years ago.

This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired for one of the following reasons:

1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or

it was not subject to Crown copyright, and

2. it is a photograph that was created before January 1, 1949, or

3. the creator died more than 49 years ago.

The media description page should identify which reason applies.

This file is only in the public domain in the United States if it entered the public domain in Canada prior to 1996. This image can only be kept if it is also in the public domain in the US. If it is in the public domain in both Canada and the United States it may be transferred to the Wikimedia Commons.

Note: If this image is in the public domain in the US, modify the end of the copyright tag from “}}” to “|commons}}”. This will replace the preceding US copyright notification with a nomination for this image to be moved to the Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia

Canada is a sovereign nation

Canadian DMCA

It is bad enough that the American government has brought pressure to bear against our government in an effort to compel passage of a Canadian DMCA with Bill C-11 the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act.”

If these American Censorship Laws pass, like ACTA, they will be used to impose American Law on Canada and the rest of the world.

This will affect Canadians, and everyone else.

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Image Credits:
Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License

EDSS Old School” Canadian Public domain image, posted to Wikipedia by Dconlon268

The Canadian DMCA logo freed into the public domain CCO 1.0 by laurelrusswurm

Happy Victoria Day!

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The weather isn’t as dreadful as predicted (yet) for southern Ontario; probably saving it up for the predicted thunderstorm to douse tonight’s traditional Columbia Lake fireworks display. But at least the holiday weekend falls near Queen Victoria’s actual birthday, which is the 24th of May.

I’ve always liked Queen Victoria. Probably because I thought her statue in the park was pretty cool.

Left: looking way up the statue,  top right Statue in its roadside setting, cannon in foreground, bottom right, lion at statue's base

Of course, having your own cannon, not to mention a lion standing on guard for thee adds to the mystique.

Looking up at Queen Victoria

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The poem I learned as a child went something like this:

“The twenty-fourth of May is the Queen’s birthday,
and if we don’t get a holiday we’ll all run away!”

I have to say that I was quite shocked that they don’t actually have this holiday in the UK. Guess its the case of the the colonies getting a bit carried away.

Drive safely.

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Free Trade: does CETA have it right?

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 Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

The Globe and Mail article “At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade” set off some warning bells for me. I have not looked into CETA nearly as closely as I have Bill C-32, but I’ve been hearing disturbing rumblings over the last months… or years, now.

Aside from the fact that previous Free Trade Agreements gave away a lot without perceptible returns, the funny thing is, a great many Canadians were disappointed with the actual lack of actual freedom in previous Free Trade Agreements. It’s very hard to see Canada’s “free trade” with the US has been beneficial when the customs duties supposedly removed still seem to exist under other names, and Canadians need passports to cross the border (not to mention having to choose between health risk or sexual assault if we choose to fly there).

Canadian Flag

Interestingly, while Canada stood mute on ACTA, the European Union very firmly put the breaks on ACTA by calling for transparency.

Who’s zooming who?

It is important for Canadian negotiators to negotiate for Canadian best interests. The following is my comment on that article:

Before Canada signs another so-called “free trade” agreement, we need both transparency and public consultation. Trade agreements made secretly are rarely in our best interest.

A disturbing trend over the last few years has been misleading “titles” of a legislation and trade agreements, with corresponding double think interwoven in the sound byte summaries that tend to run counter to the substance which are used to lull the citizens of this great land into allowing our interest to be sacrificed.

Like, for instance, ACTA. The so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.” As it turned out, ACTA was really an attempt to get Hollywood’s wishlist for Global copyright laws– preferential to the USA– imposed on on the rest of the world. Yet there was not a word about copyright in the title. Serious efforts were made to at suppressing the content of the agreement, even to the point of preventing duly elected members of the supposed democratic governments from being privy to the content being negotiated.

Another egregious example would be “Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act” which seeks to legislate away the freedom inherent in modern technology so it can be locked down to fill the corporate media industry business model of the last century. Whatever Bill C32 is, it is certainly not “modernized.”

I have serious reservations when Canada’s chief negotiator starts talking about the EU’s concerns with Intellectual Property, including copyrights, patents and pharmaceuticals, the warning flags go up for me. It’s even worse when he says things like:

“Our copyright laws haven’t been updated for some time.”

WikiLeaks logo

That’s one of the bits of classic propaganda stemming from south of the border as part of the American Copyright Lobby’s efforts to influence Canadian domestic copyright law (Bill C-32). That’s almost as troubling as people supposedly representing Canadian Interests citing the American 301 as ‘evidence’ of Canadian ‘IP Piracy,’ when the facts clearly show the United States (with it’s more draconian DMCA copyright law) has far more incidence of piracy than Canada does.

The fact that our copyright law hasn’t been updated in a while is not justification for change, particularly change imposed to satisfy foreign special interest groups. Canada has suffered serious inequities in the other supposed “Free Trade” agreements. The fact that the CETA chief negotiator believes that is a good reason to change our already over strong copyright law, and cites erroneous propaganda about it, undermines his credibility to negotiate in Canada’s best interest.

Before Canada signs any CETA agreement, I want to see what the WikiLeaks cables have to say on this topic. Maybe then I’ll be able to believe the people supposedly negotiating on our behalf are being honest with us.”

— Laurel L. Russwurm, comment on Globe and Mail article:
At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade

To answer the title question? I’d have to say “No.”

Something so secret is very unlikely to be good for us. If it was, they’d be trumpeting it from the rooftops.

And no way should trade negotiators be writing Canada’s domestic copyright laws.

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

January 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Copyright Law, Culture, Law, Politics

Tagged with

Loose Ties make WikiLeaks Strong

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I can’t get over the fact that Tom Flanagan didn’t understand suggesting assassination was inappropriate.

Tom Flanagan thought assassinating Julian Assange was reasonable.

Canadians are becoming angry at the arrogance of our elected officials and their unelected advisors.

Canadian Flag

Democracies around the world are facing calls for electoral reform. Coincidence?

Like Wikipedia, democracy can be altered in a heartbeat.

If we don’t protect our democracies, we’ll lose them.

The other night I stayed up far too late because I wanted to know that WikiLeaks was alright. Because I think WikiLeaks is important,

WikiLeaks shines a light on important issues– issues that the powerful and the self important want to keep dark.

Which is why powerful forces are arrayed against WikiLeaks.

Julian Assange is facing charges that I think even the most naïve schoolchild would realize are trumped up, along with both cyber and economic attacks, topped off with death threats. Wonder if that’s enough jeopardy for Malcolm Gladwell, who made the argument that real activism requires jeopardy in his New Yorker “Small Change” article, which prompted my rebuttal Tie Theory.

WikiLeaks is kind of a hybrid activist/news media. It is a truly international organization. Its only country is the Internet. That was the other fault Gladwell had with Internet activism: he thinks that activism requires people to be closely tied. WikiLeaks depends on being a “loose tie” network. You don’t get much looser than total strangers. Total strangers opt to host or mirror WikiLeaks on their computers. Because the more copies there are, the more spread out the network is, the looser the ties, the more difficult it is to shut it down.

In my post yesterday I called on the Pirate Party of Canada to be a Canadian host of WikiLeaks. I don’t know if they’ll do it or not, all I know is what I’ll do.

I am Hosting #cablegate

[Disclaimer: No, I don't actually know how to set up something like this myself; I had help. :) ]

You can peruse the cables at will on my Cablegate page,
or if you prefer to download or torrent You can do that here.

The thing is, I’m not alone. Here’s another list of WikiLeaks mirrors.

It isn’t much for one person to have to do, but there are rather a lot of us.

People connected through loose ties. We aren’t tied together by geography, ethnicity, family or religion, Malcolm, but only loosely connected by intangibles.

Ideas like:

#democracy,
#accountability,
#human rights,
#privacy…

That’s how “loose tie” networks work. And it’s also why loose tie networks can be superior.


WikiLeaks: Keep Us Strong


We all do what we can

You can just read the WikiLeaks Cablegate cables online. A new batch is released daily.

threethirty rt @WikiLeakMirror: Cables available at http colon slash slash bit dot ly slash ht6HqE semicolon includes LATEST cables bracket 12/4 bracket. Support free speech wikileaks #cablegate

Or, you can add your computer power to help, by seeding the WikiLeaks material that you have yourself downloaded via torrents.

rom1v  http colon slash slash 88 dot 80 dot 16 dot 63 slash torrent slash cablegate slash cablegate dash 201012041409 dot 7z dot torrent #wikileaks #backup #cablegate #statelogs

Or, last but not least, you can jump into the WikiLeaks network with both feet. Because the more spread out the network is, the more difficult it is to wipe out. This option is a bit more risky, particularly as it is lawmakers who want this stopped. Consider it carefully; remember you may wake up one morning to discover they have made this illegal.

jwildeboer  Are you brave enough? http colon slash slash 213.251.145.96 slash mass-mirror dot html #wikileaks #cablegate

Further Reading: Reporters Without Borders: WikiLeaks Hounded

Book Policy Review

with 2 comments

Canadoan flag overlaid with the text title: Canada's Book Policy Review

Between July 20 and September 18, 2010 the Canadian Government accepted submissions for yet another consultation — a book policy review.   Right now Canadians can comment on the submissions until October 31st, then it will be on to “Phase 3: Roundtable discussions will be held in the coming months.”

I get most of my news online but the first I heard of it was in Michael Geist‘s blog last night.   Since this is a Department of Heritage consultation, I assume the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages probably “tweeted” about this on Twitter, but I can’t say for sure since @mpjamesmoore has blocked me (and other Canadian citizens) from following his Twitter tweets.

I don’t know how this public consultation was promoted or even if it was.   Maybe after the Copyright Consultation where most submissions gave opinions the government didn’t want to hear and the Digital Economy Consultation’s Long Form Census debacle, the Honourable James Moore prefers low profile “public consultations.”

Since I am working to Self Publish my debut novel “Inconstant Moon” as well as outlining my next (which I intend to write during NaNoWriMo) I don’t have time to even read all the consultation submissions right now.   For that matter, I don’t have time to write this.   But it was important so I’ve read some of them.

The Submissions

“Canadians are avid readers.   Recent research shows that Canadians spend at least six hours per week reading books for leisure and interest, while 85% of Canadians link reading to improved quality of life.”

Investing in the Future of Canadian Books: Review of the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution – PART I: INTRODUCTION

Because of the very low profile, there was very little response, unlike, say, the Copyright Consultation.   In spite of the fact that Canada is clearly a nation of readers, only a single “reader” made a a submission.   Running the numbers there were submissions from:

  • 20 Publishers and/or Distributors
  • 10 Industry Associations (I’ve included the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois here since it is a submission made by a union of writers)
  • 9 “Others”, organizations and individuals who may or may not fit in some of the listed categories
  • 3 retailers including Amazon, Chapters/Indigo and Association des libraires du Québec
  • 1 reader
  • 1 writer
  • —————————-
    44 Submissions Total

I was surprised not to see any submissions from Independent retailers, either.   Amazon.ca made some excellent points.

Consultation Question 7. Are there any new or emerging issues in the book industry, including those mentioned in the discussion paper, that are not sufficiently addressed by the current policy? If so, how should a modernized policy respond to these?
amazon.ca logo
Amazon.ca answer:
We agree with views expressed in the Discussion Paper that great change in the industry has come from the increased role of digital technology.   As evidenced by our own operations, the emergence of digital technology has introduced significant new creative developments and improvements in the distribution and sale of books.

In particular, new and emerging digital technologies have enabled different models of book publishing and distribution, such as print-on-demand and electronic books. The print-on-demand publishing model allows publishers to reduce costs by printing only in response to demand, to keep low-volume titles in print and available virtually forever, with very little cost, and to publish a broader variety of titles with less financial risk.

Additionally, when combined with a self-publishing platform, print-on-demand enables the wide distribution of relatively unknown authors who may otherwise entirely lack distribution.   The introduction and growth of digital content through such devices as Amazon’s own Kindle e-reader has created new opportunities for authors, publishers and distributors.   In light of our experience, we believe revisions to the Policy must take into account the significant role such technology plays today and will play in the future of the Canadian book industry.

Digital technology has effectively eroded many of the problems that the current policy seeks to address.   With the advances in technology, the choices available to Canadian authors, publishers and consumers are no longer local or national but global.   As stated by the Competition Policy Review Panel in its Report, “a country’s competitiveness depends on governments welcoming, rather than seeking to control, the new freedom of choices brought by the Internet as an agent of change.”   We believe that the Government should ensure that its policies remain responsive to changes in this industry.   The growing presence of the Internet, the significance of electronic books and the new channels for publishing and distributing books are important changes that emerged after the Policy was last revised in 1992.   We believe it is therefore necessary to update the Policy to account for these changes and remove the restrictions in the current Policy that seek to limit foreign investment in a digital age.

Submission from: Amazon.com.ca, Inc.

print on demand

“Before the law was brought in to restrict retailers to sourcing books from Canadian sources, orders could be sourced from Ingram Distributing in the US within 3 days where an order in Canada takes multiple weeks in most cases.”
Submission from: bookworm

The single Canadian writer to manage a submission was Wayne Kehl who addresses the P.O.D. issue and a few others in a submission I wholly agree with.   Wayne Kelh makes a lot of sense.   He also provides a bit of information that is actually pretty staggering:

The book-world has moved to Print on Demand publishing and even Canadian publishers have most of their books published in that format by Lightning Source Printing in the United States.”

Submission from: Wayne Kehl

If I had Made A Submission….

I would have done so as a consumer, a writer, and a self-publisher.

I might have mentioned some important facts gleaned from the Investing in the Future of Canadian Books position paper, Review of the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution PART III: BOOK POLICY FRAMEWORK, such as “Currently, Canadian-owned publishers represent 96% of publishers operating in the domestic market” or that “Large multinational publishing houses represent 3.75% of the publishers operating in Canada, and generate 44% of industry revenues.”

But right now, my focus would clearly be on:

self publishing

Since I am working to self publish my debut novel “Inconstant Moon” (while outlining my next which I intend to write during NaNoWriMo) I don’t have time to even read all the consultation submissions right now.   For that matter, I don’t have time to write this.

Aside from the fact that I’ve always been a reader, this issue holds particular interest for me as a writer  as I’m about to self publish my debut novel, Inconstant Moon.   Just now I’m at the point of making final corrections to the proof, and when it’s ready, I will be uploading it to CreateSpace.   At that point I’ll be able to sell it as a Print On Demand (P.O.D.) book through Amazon.com.

reading the proof copy

It is rather irritating that although I am a Canadian writer, I will not be able to sell my novel through Amazon.ca as a P.O.D. book.   As I understand it, Canadian Government policy dictates that before I can sell my Canadian novel through Amazon.ca I would first have to provide inventory.   To my way of thinking that defeats the point of P.O.D.

This policy probably exists to “protect the Canadian Publishing Industry”, in this case specifically the printer/distributors.   It doesn’t do much to encourage Canadians to self publish.   Every Canadian grown option for self publishing P.O.D. requires a substantial cash outlay up front.   This policy may also help Canadian publishers by suppressing the ability of writers choosing to self publish independently.   This type of policy may have been effective in pre-Internet times, but today it negates the benefits to publishing that P.O.D. provides.

P.O.D. and digital distribution of literature are two new ways of publishing that the Canadian government must support if our book industry is to “remain current, effective, and responsive to a changing world.”

These are issues of grave importance to all Canadian authors and consumers, yet we have been seriously underrepresented in this public consultation.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

p.s. Of utmost importance to Canadian publishing is the Copyright reform: Bill C-32

The most pressing issue in the Canadian book world is the tabled Bill C-32.   Again, as a self publisher reliant on digital promotion and distribution methods, changes to Canadian copyright law like Bill C-32 pose an incredible danger to all types of digital production and distribution by making DRM circumvention illegal, when in fact it would be more reasonable for the government to make external DRM warning labels mandatory for any media or device encumbered with it.   Making DRM “sacrosanct” in copyright law would undoubtedly lead to universal application of DRM on all devices and media sold in the Canadian Market.

This kind of control could very easily be used to prevent the Independent production of digital work.   But that’s another issue for another day.


[I intend for this to be my last Oh! Canada post until December, as I plan to devote all of November to NaNoWriMo. Fingers crossed. :D ---Laurel L. Russwurm]

 

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Must Read

with one comment

[I'm working Hard to get my debut novel launched (this month!) and writing the first draft to my next in NaNoWriMo, so I hope to reduce my blogging. I will, however, try to keep an ear to the ground and keep you posted, particularly as Bill C-32 still appears to be on the table in spite of universal opposition from citizens (except for the corporate special interest groups it who it was drafted to appease.) ---Laurel L. Russwurm]

red maple leaf graphicLast week the University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist, an internationally regarded authority on Internet and technology law, was the recipient of a Public Knowledge IP3 Award.

Professor Geist’s blog is probably the primary source of information regarding Canadian copyright issues. He also has a Twitter Feed for breaking news.

Because Copyright issues that will be covered by Bill C-32 are so incredibly important both for Canada’s economic and cultural future, Michael Geist has edited a new book dedicated to the subject, with chapters written by Canada’s top legal lights in the copyright field.

This week, Canadian legal publisher Irwin Law released a new book entitled From “Radical Extremism” to “Balanced Copyright”: Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda, edited by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist. The entire book can be downloaded, chapter by chapter. “The latest chapter in the Canadian copyright saga unfolded in June 2010 as Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage James Moore tabled Bill C-32, copyright reform legislation billed as providing both balance and a much-needed modernization of the law.

Library Boy “New Canadian Copyright Law Book Available Free for Download”

cover art

If you want to purchase a physical copy or download it LEGALLY for free (it’s published under a Creative Commons License), you will find

From “Radical Extremism” to “Balanced Copyright”:
Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda

at the Irvin Law Books Website.

Canadian DMCA

Either way, this book is a must read.

If Bill C-32, also known as the “Canadian DMCA,” were to become law as written, the direct result would be that Michael Geist and Irwin Law would have been prevented from releasing this book as a free digital download under a creative commons license.

Because if it becomes illegal to circumvent digital locks (DRM/TPM) for non-infringing uses, every digital device from the Internet to eBook readers will be locked down, overriding the rights of creators to release their work for digital distribution as they see fit.

Geist speaking on Fair Copyright at the University of 2008

If that happens, copyright will no longer serve its supposed function as a tool for creators.

Tell your MP that you do not support Bill C-32.

Michael Geist also has a dedicated copyright public service blog Speak out on Copyright, as well as establishing a FaceBook Fair Copyright page.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves



Image Credit:
Michael Geist, University of Calgary, 2008 – photo by D’Arcy Norman

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

October 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

ACTA W5

with 5 comments

When I was a kid there was an excellent Canadian news magazine television series called W5 which taught me (and probably other Canadian watching) about the five spokes of journalistic inquiry.

Since the mainstream news media has declined to cover ACTA in any meaningful way, I thought I’d say a few words here.

WHO

Participating in ACTA

mouse ears on the world: text says ACTA ATTACKS INTERNET

  • Australia
  • Canada,
  • the European Union
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • United States

American Flag hangs down

ACTA came with heavy duty Non-Disclosure penalties. Which is why most if not all of the elected representatives of the participating governments were kept in the dark about what was even on the table. This includes elected representatives of the American Government. If they were made privvy to the negotiations, they were legally restrained from talking about it. Not very democratic, eh?

Of the few Americans who were at all aware of ACTA, most believed that Congressional oversight would protect them, and if conditions were untenable to American citizens it would have been possible to stop ACTA at that point. The problem was, however, that ACTA was proceeding under an executive order, so only the president’s signature would be necessary for ratification.

WHAT

ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The problem is, that is only part of it. The scope of ACTA is actually much wider.

ACTA was supposed to be negotiated in secret.
Presumably to keep out the riff raff (i.e. citizens, consumer interest groups)

Although deliberately not mentioned in the title, it seems clear that the primary purpose of ACTA was always to deal with copyright enforcement. The intent was to do an end run around WIPO, the successor to Berne, which was previously the International means of achieving copyright treaties. The WIPO process was transparent, so that everyone knew what was being negotiated. ACTA was secret, so that no one would know.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) selected the countries they believed it would be possible to pressure into signing an agreement beneficial to certain American Corporate Interests.

WHERE

The negotiation “rounds” took place around the world.

WHEN

Begun by the Bush administration in 2007, continuing until now, ACTA has been pushed equally hard by the Obama administration, and in the current president invoked national security as a means of keeping the terms secret.

ACTA was put on a fast track in an effort to shoehorn it’s passage in time for it to become a “done deal” before the American federal elections in November.

One of the chief sources of information and organization in the fight against ACTA has beenLa Quadrature Du Net whose latest word on the subject is: ACTA is No Done Deal.

WHY

cheese and crackers on a tray

The USTR wants the entire world to conform to their agenda, which is dictated by American corporate interests.

Issues the United States would not give in on included recognizing and paying royalties for American use of European geographical trademarked names for types of cheese (like “Parmesan”) or alcoholic beverages (“Cognac” or “Champagne”)

The copyright terms of ACTA appear to have been largely dictated by the MPAA and RIAA, and in many ways seek to impose DMCA like copyright conditions on the rest of the world. Yet the DMCA has not actually been good for American citizens or culture, in fact causing many unintended chilling effects. Over the course of the DMCA’s existence, it has undergone repeated constitutional challenges which has resulted in changes that lessen it’s grip.

In the mean time, there has been an unprecedented amount of American lobbying efforts directed at influencing the copyright law of other countries, I think to alter their domestic copyright law in order to make signing ACTA work. The Digital Economy Act was rushed though the U.K. Parliament without the usual level of democratic scrutiny or debate under the “wash-up” process.

Canada has been subject to USTR pressure and lobbying efforts for nearly a decade. Repeated spurious inclusion on the USTR’s piracy watch list has provided a patina of legitimacy to completely unfounded rumours of Canadian copyright infringement, when in fact a growing body of evidence indicates Canada’s incidence of copyright piracy is far lower than American. As well, this false allegation has been used over and over again to fuel misinformation and propaganda in lobbying attempts to force Canada to rewrite our copyright law to American specifications.

Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the fact that first the Liberal Party of Canada and then the Conservative Party of Canada have tabled draft legislation that mirrors American copyright law. Some have said these three are close enough to the American DMCA to be themselves considered infringing on it’s copyright.

Yet that isn’t really a charge that could stick, because unlike Canada, the United States does not have “Crown Copyright.” Any Intellectual Property generated by the American Government goes directly into the public domain under the assumption that having alreasdy been paid for, it should not be paid for again. In this way everything from NASA photos to American legislation are not protected by copyright.

This is just one of the ways American copyright law is “weaker” than Canadian existing copyright law.

the real “why”

Commercial counterfeiting, also called “bootlegging” most probably does cut into MPAA/RIAA profits. And like me, most people opposing ACTA and laws like the UK DEA or Canada’s Bill C-32 don’t have a problem with cracking down on commercial bootlegging.

My problem is they are trying to change the laws of ownership to make sharing illegal.

The people pushing for these laws have indicated they think personal back-ups and format shifting should be illegal. I’ve also heard it said that consumers shouldn’t be allowed to lend their digital books or CDs or DVDs to others; the Industries want every person who gets access to these works of “Intellectual Property” to pay for the access. In the extreme this means that both parent and child will require a license in order for the parent to read their child a story.

Some would say that this is the extreme, and that it hasn’t yet happened under the DMCA.

But ACTA has NOT passed.

Once laws like this are universal those things will start becoming accepted. ludicrous or not. The fact that a young Chicago woman spent two nights in jail for videotaping her sister’s birthday party under the existing DMCA is proof enough for me.

From an industry standpoint, that would be the icing on the cake, but is not the real goal.

Stopping “piracy” is another red herring.

While Industry studies may show vast losses of income due to peer to peer (p2p) filesharing, independent studies have shown that p2p actually increases industry profits because it increases exposure. The same way that radio airplay increases exposure and sold records, and now CDs.

The real goal of draconian copyright measures being contemplated or implemented is to stop independent access to distribution.

The combination of vast decrease in the costs to production of digital media with the ease of Internet distribution is the true menace to the media giants represented by the MPAA and the RIAA.
NO Canadian DMCA

In Canada almost a year ago, This Magazine reported that 30% of the Canadian Recording Industry is now Independent. Independent Canadian Artists no longer have to barter away their copyright in order to record or distribute their music. This is the real threat to the Incumbents. Ultimately the goal of the copyright law they want to pass is to stop this Independent erosion of their control of these Industries.

This trend is not confined to music. Internet video productions are beginning to become more common, and excellent feature films like Sita Sings the Blues and Die Beauty are being made by independent creators and distributed legally via p2p online.

It’s the LEGAL p2p traffic that they really need to stop.

Because the best way for Independent Artists to distribute their digital wares is through the Internet.
Which is why ACTA is bad.
This is why p2p is actually good for culture, and Net Neutrality must be protected.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

October 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm

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