Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Copyright Reform

Serving the Public…?

with 7 comments

technical ineptitude

Minister Moore's Twitter Picture

Reading the response Russell McOrmond received from MP James Moore I am appalled.   Canada’s current Heritage Minister, James Moore, has represented himself as a technologically astute legislator.   This is important because the Heritage Ministry holds sway over both the CRTC and matters of copyright and the Internet.   Unfortunately, no one has explained to him that the ability to “tweet” on Twitter is not the same thing as possessing technical expertise.

Dubbed “the Ipod Minister,” Moore was one of the ‘forces’ behind last year’s Copyright Consultation and this year’s Digital Economy Consultation.   Still, Minister Moore’s technical savvy seems limited to purchasing and promoting Apple products; this letter incident highlights Moore’s woeful lack of technical expertise, which ought to make him a poor choice to occupy a position of power over Canada’s digital economy or copyright reform.

Canadians deserve to have legislators who at least understand the issues.

politics

But there is a wider concern.   Every time we have an election the main stream media takes the populace to task for lack of participation.   Only a fraction of eligible voters turn out for any given election at any level of government.   Yet no one ever seems to mention the many ways Canadians are disenfranchised before we even consider going to the polling station.

writing letters to our Government

Most of us put real effort into the letters we write to our MPs.   Many federal issues go beyond the scope of our individual MP, and depending on the issue it may be necessary to correspond with all the members on a committee, or the Minister in charge of the issue or even the Prime Minister.   Sometimes it might even be best to send a message to every Member of Parliament.

To facilitate this constituent—-representative contact Canada Post delivers mail from citizens for any or all of the above mentioned correspondence to our representatives in Ottawa free of charge.   Naturally Canada Post employees don’t perform this service out of the goodness of their hearts, this democratic service is paid for by the government.   Presumably because they want to hear from their constituents.   So they can serve us better.

I understand why we need to write letters to our representatives in government.   If we don’t tell them our views about about issues important to us, our concerns will not be considered, and laws may well be passed that are contrary to our interests.   Laws contrary to the public good.

So why don’t the responses we get back from our elected representatives actually answer any of our concerns or questions?

form letters

I’ve sent a few in the past year or so, and the responses take a very very long time in coming.   Do they think that if they take months to reply we will have forgotten what we wrote?   I guess they don’t realize most of us keep copies of the letters we send.   At a time when most of our letters are written on computers and copying is easy.

Yet the supposed “response” they give us doesn’t indicate anyone has actually read anything we’ve written beyond our name and address.   Invariably a form letter, the responses they send seem more like press releases.   Many people seem to accept this as the way our government conducts its business.

Perrin Beatty circa 1970's

But I don’t.

Before I was even old enough to vote I wrote a couple letters to my representative at the time, Conservative MP Perrin Beatty.   I got a written response to one letter and a personal phone call from the man himself for the other.   That is the way it is supposed to work.

This year, when I wrote a letter to my current (Conservative) MP to protest the government’s premature prorogation, the envelope I received was addressed to me but the letter inside was not.   It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

When we send our elected representatives to Ottawa they get access to administrative staff paid for out of the public coffers.   People to deal with scheduling, email, letters from constituents.   Every letter we send to anyone in out parliament should be read and answered properly.

Perhaps they think sending a response like this gives the appearance of responding.

It doesn’t.

who pays for this?

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"
As a citizen, it makes me angry that we taxpayers foot the bill for these unresponsive “responses”.

Every response that isn’t a real response is a waste of money.

But the much higher price we pay is in the certain knowledge that our elected representatives can’t be bothered to listen to us let alone reply.

This is a clear message to Canadians that our voices as citizens are not merely not being heard, they are being ignored.   It is certainly a disincentive to citizen participation in the democratic process.   And I think this is very possibly one of the most blatant causes of the legendary Canadian “voter apathy”.   Why bother: they don’t listen. The first step in disenfranchising citizens.

This is not acceptable in a democratic nation.

Canada’s ‘public servants” may be able to say the word “democracy” but some of them don’t seem to understand what it means.

Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA

with 20 comments

Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA
(or DCMA)

Title amendment at June 1st, 2010
Michael Geist says that they are planning to call the new “copyright” law
the
Digital Copyright Modernization Act or Canadian DCMA  
I guess that ways they can say it isn’t a “Canadian DMCA” with a straight face…. llr



Yesterday morning I was just taking a quick peek at Twitter before getting back to revisions when I saw a tweet from The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Electronic Frontier Foundation logoRT@BoingBoing Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks http://bit.ly/c8Re4h

That did not sound promising. In fact it sounded downright scary. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is widely known to be a deeply flawed draconian copyright law. And that isn’t just a Canadian perception, that’s an opinion shared by many people around the world. It is reasonable to assume that a good part of the citizen resistance to A.C.T.A. is a direct result of seeing the DMCA in action.

You might wonder why I am so concerned. After all, this is just the announcement of a bill that won’t even be available for First Reading before June. This bill is so new it doesn’t have a number yet. But previous drafts of so called Canadian “copyright reforms” have been bad. And the fact that representatives of this government are involved in the fast tracked secret A.C.T.A. negotiations does not instill confidence.

being heard

It seems that increasingly our elected representatives choose to ignore Canadians. After all, more than eight thousand concerned Canadians made submissions to the copyright consultation. What we said appears not to have been heard by our government.

As a mother, I have a powerful stake in the future. As a creator and a consumer, copyright is also very important to me. But I am only a private citizen. One person. So it takes a lot to make my voice heard.

When my government demonstrates its willingness to ignore not just my voice, but the voices of thousands of my fellow citizens, then I need to do my best to encourage even more citizens to speak up. That means starting now, before the new bill is released to public scrutiny because there must be time to inform many more Canadians of the issue.

In 2007, the architect of the DMCA and the WIPO Internet Treaties admitted:

“…our attempts at copyright control have not been successful…”

—Chairman Bruce Lehman, International Intellectual Property Institute March 24, 2007
boingboing: DMCA’s author says the DMCA is a failure, blames record industry

Like most Canadians, back then I was so busy with my life that I wasn’t paying much attention. I was leaving politics and lawmaking to the professionals. After all, that’s what they’re paid for, right?

American Flag hangs down

It seems that the politicians want Canada to ratify the WIPO treaties. But that can’t happen until we have enacted domestic laws to back them up. This is why first the Liberals, and now the Conservatives, are trying to put through copyright reform.

The thing of it is, according to Howard Knopf Canada has strong copyright Laws, maybe too strong. In many ways stronger than American Copyright Law.

Now, in 2010, the EFF has made this assessment of the DMCA:

  • The DMCA Chills Free Expression and Scientific Research.
    Experience with section 1201 demonstrates that it is being used to stifle free speech and scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten’s team of researchers, and prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled the legitimate activities of journalists, publishers, scientists, students, programmers, and members of the public.
  • The DMCA Jeopardizes Fair Use.
    By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, the DMCA grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights. Already, the movie industry’s use of encryption on DVDs has curtailed consumers’ ability to make legitimate, personal-use copies of movies they have purchased.
  • The DMCA Impedes Competition and Innovation.
    Rather than focusing on pirates, some have wielded the DMCA to hinder legitimate competitors. For example, the DMCA has been used to block aftermarket competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, and computer maintenance services. Similarly, Apple has used the DMCA to tie its iPhone and iPod devices to Apple’s own software and services.
  • The DMCA Interferes with Computer Intrusion Laws.
    Further, the DMCA has been misused as a general-purpose prohibition on computer network access, a task for which it was not designed and to which it is ill-suited. For example, a disgruntled employer used the DMCA against a former contractor for simply connecting to the company’s computer system through a virtual private network (“VPN”).”

— Electronic Frontier Foundation, Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA

Canada has been under heavy pressure from the United States to follow their legislative lead and create our own DMCA.

First, the Liberal Party of Canada gave it a try with Bill C-60. Fortunately for Canada, the Liberal Party had a minority government at the time and a non-confidence vote killed their Bill C-60. I have no doubt that this law would have passed had there been a Liberal majority.

Next, the Conservative Party of Canada put forth their own Bill C-61 in an attempt to create a Canadian DMCA. Canada was again lucky to have a minority government. There was an even greater outcry from the citizenry. Embarrassing articles in ars technica: “Canadian DMCA” brings “balanced” copyright to Canada and boingboing: Canadian DMCA is worse than the American one seem to have been prevalent. I have no doubt that this law would have passed had there been a Conservative majority.

Luckily for us, Bill C-61 was scrapped by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first premature prorogation. The Conservatives promised to re-introduce Bill C-61 if they were re-elected. But although they were re-elected, it was without the majority they expected.

but we can’t bank on being lucky

With a minority government, the Conservative government took the reasonable path of addressing one of the chief complaints about the previous attempts — lack of meaningful public consultation. The Ministry of Industry mounted a Canada wide Copyright Consultation. They held “Town Hall” meetings across the country. Unfortunately complaints of “stacking” the speakers, incidents of interested parties being prevented from disseminating literature, or citizens being denied access to the “town hall” venues of these “public” meetings were leveled throughout this part of the process.

But this is the 21st Century. They don’t call this the Information Age for nothing. And to their credit, Industry Canada’s web site hosted an online consultation that would accept submissions from any and all Canadians who cared to speak up. As a citizen, I thought this a good use of technology. This is a prime example of just how democracy can be fine tuned to accurately reflect the will of the people in the 21st Century.

Isn’t the point of a democracy the creation of laws that reflect society’s mores?
How better than to assess the wants and needs of Canadian society than by soliciting the input of concerned Canadians?

More than 8,000 Canadians made written copyright consultation submissions answering the handful of questions posed by the Ministry. Michael Geist provided a nice breakdown and this rebuttal of Robert Owen’s analysis is a good too.
[Mixed up links corrected above]

The Canadian government asked for citizen input and they got it. Instead of the few hundred submissions that I gather are a more common response, they received thousands of submissions. Many Canadians assumed that our government might actually consider what we told them. After all, they asked us what we thought.

Was the copyright consultation all smoke and mirrors?

no DMCA Canadian Flag

boingboingboingboing: Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks

Michael Geist

Michael Geist: PMO Issues The Order: Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks

p2pnet: It’s official – the United States of Canada

Zero Paid

Zero Paid: Canadian DMCA To Be Tabled Within Weeks

Forums » O Canada! » Canadian » Canadian Broadband
» PMO Issues The Order: Canadian DMCA Within Six Weeks!!


Millsworks: Canadian DMCA In 6 Weeks

ideas revolution: Canadian DMCA Bill Within Six Weeks?

Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights: Dear Canada, your voices don’t really matter. Canadian DMCA in 6 weeks. Regards, Stephen Harper

Apparently the phrase “Canadian DMCA” got so much play yesterday that it actually became a Twitter trending topic. Hmmmm, sure sounds as though Canadians actually care about this issue.

the boingboing comment that got to me was


CG • #9 said:
“…they didn’t listen to the consultation; why would they listen this time?”

– boingboing: Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks”

If we look at it that way, and throw up our hands in disgust, THEY WILL HAVE WON.

How is the government looking at this? This is a protest by a “special interest group”. A mere handful of Canadians… less than 9,000… made submissions. Come on, out of 33 million? That’s only a tiny fraction. Do the math.

Prime Minister Harper doesn’t think it is enough opposition to make a difference. After all, it is ONLY some lowly radical tech people who are against it. And maybe a few of the musicians who have begun establishing recording careers without having to give record companies their copyright. [Did you know that 30% of the Canadian recording industry has gone independent? Is THAT the real reason the music biz wants to stop p2p?]

The problem is that the Government is correct. Most Canadians don’t understand what is happening or what this will mean.

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Perhaps our government is counting on us getting angry at being ignored, and then frustrated beyond endurance, until we come to the point we have to give up and get on with our real lives, leaving them free to do whatever they want.

In this instance pandering to the American Government– who are in turn pandering to their own giant media corporations. Make no mistake– the American DMCA does not serve American citizens, it serves American corporations. You know the ones I mean. Corporations like Disney, who want copyright to never end. Corporations like the big music companies who used to control the entire recording industry of the entire world. In Canada, that’s the CRIA, the “Big Four” American branch plants that used to control 100% of the Canadian recording Industry.

Since the advent of the Internet, and p2p filesharing, Canadian musicians are going independent. Leaving the four CRIA record companies in control of only 70% of the Canadian recording industry.

That is probably the real reason Canada makes it onto the USTR watch list every year. That USTR list is one of the main reasons why Canada is perceived to be a haven of piracy when in fact there is far less infringement here than most places. Certainly less than the United States. On April 14th of this year, Michael Geist reported American government findings: U.S. Government Study: Counterfeiting and Piracy Data Unreliable, and on April 30th USTR’s Bully Report Unfairly Blames Canada Again. Yet the Canadian government didn’t even make an issue of this or make a submission to the USTR.

So the United States keeps putting Canada on their “watch list”. Our friendly neighbor to the south is accusing us — in the absence of credible facts — of being a pirate nation.

First they call us names, and malign our international reputation, but then they promise to stop if we give them what they want. Isn’t there a word for that?

All they want is our sovereignty.

This is why it so important to NOT GIVE UP.

Canadians can’t afford to give up in frustration. And there are things to do. If enough of us do them, we may be heard.
pile of Canadaina newspapers

  • 1. First: TELL everybody that you know. The mainstream news media isn’t talking about it, so we need to.
  • 2. EXPLAIN the issues to everybody who will listen. If you can’t explain it, (after all, how many of us are IP lawyers?) send them to any of the links above, send them to Michael Geist, Howard Knopf, BoingBoing, p2pnet, zeropaid, wikipedia… wherever, whatever it takes.
  • 3. Write letters to politicians.
  • Michael Geist recommends sending an actual paper mail letter via snail mail postal mail.   Right or wrong, politicians attach far more weight to paper letters than email. After all, anyone could say they were anyone on an email. (Like that doesn’t hold true for a paper letter.) But email is EASY. It takes so little effort for us to send that maybe it doesn’t mean we’re really serious. We haven’t showed our commitment to the issue by writing on actual paper and giving Canada Post something to do. Last year when I emailed politicians about an issue, some of them weren’t tech savvy enough to turn off the email confirmations. Of those, about half confirmed that my email was deleted without being read. So look at it this way, if you send them a paper letter, someone in the office has to at least open it before throwing it out.

    If you don’t know who your representative is in your riding, this is a link to the MP postal code look-up. Find your MP and the first letter should go to your own MP, but don’t stop there. Send letters to:

    Conservative Party of Canada logo

    Prime Minister
    The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Minister of Industry
    The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
    House of Commonscopyright symbol over a red maple leaf
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Minister of Heritage
    The Hon. James Moore, P.C., B.A.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Liberal Leader
    Michael Ignatieff, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    BLOC Leader
    Gilles Duceppe
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6
    [*M. Duceppe would prefer communication in French, but I've heard that he's classy enough to respond to mono-lingual English speakers in English
    (in other words, English would be better than a bad Google translation]

    NDP Party of Canada

    NDP Leader
    The Hon. Jack Layton, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    NDP Technology Critic
    Charlie Angus
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    Green Party LogoUnelected leader of the Green Party
    Elizabeth May
    http://greenparty.ca/contact
    [The green party of canada only makes phone and web contact information available on their site. I guess that's a reasonable stance for an environmental party.
    (Maybe I just couldn't find it since I'm tired, being up way past my bedtime to finish this.) You could call during business hours, but my guess is that emailing would be fine here.]

    The Unelected Leader of the Pirate Party of Canadapirate party of canada
    Jake Daynes
    Pirate Party of Canada
    43 Samson Blvd #165
    Laval QC H7X 3R8
    [Since the Pirate Party exists to promote copyright reform, it's reasonable to assume they oppose any DMCA like legislation, but it wouldn't hurt to discuss the issues with them. One reason I plug them is because they legally distribute music from some great Canadian bands free online through their p2p Pirate Tracker. Great for Canadian heritage, eh? Last I heard the PPOC was expecting the official party status notification which will make them eligible to field candidates for the next Federal Election.]

    Canadian Flag through tree

    It certainly wouldn’t hurt to ferret out any smaller political parties that may exist in your riding. Wikipedia of course has a list of canadian political parties which would be an excellent starting point. The more people we have talking about copyright, the better

  • 4. Submit letters to the Editor to your local newspaper, or one of the national ones, or magazines like MacLeans. Comment online (where appropriate). Talk to your local radio station– great interview topic, make for a good phone in show… Or find a local Indie band. Chances are they will know exactly how important this fight is. Maybe they’ll play a free concert in the park to raise awareness.
  • 5. Blog if you’ve got a blog. If you don’t, it’s really easy to start one. (most blogs are much shorter than this. Really.) If you really don’t want to start a blog, but you’ve got something to say, contact me (or another blogger of your choice) about doing a guest blog post.
  • 6. Use Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook, IRC channel chat rooms– or any other internet information sharing thing you are part of– to spread the word. (Michael Geist has a Fair Copyright for Canada group on Facebook, and the Facebook CAPP group is still out there.
  • 7. There is also Fairvote Canada a grass roots non-partisan electoral reform movement which is growing local chapters across the country. On Wednesday May 12th the Waterloo, Chapter is hosting a debate Debate: Strategic Voting – What’s a voter to do?.

It has taken so long to get this article done that it’s Thursday… and I’m just about to post this monstrosity but I thought I’d include a link to Michael Geist’s latest on the subject Covering the Return of the Canadian DMCA as he’s included many links to articles I haven’t had time to look at yet both online and (ahem) in the mainstream news media.

(If there’s enough buzz, the mainstream HAS to follow.)

Get involved. There are many ways to participate. It’s for our future.



Update May 9th, 2010
It wouldn’t hurt to add two more to the list of letter recipients:

Liberal Industry critic
Marc Garneau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Liberal Heritage critic
Pablo Rodriguez
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

These late additions are courtesy of Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. This group has a nice form letter on offer so you can Send A Letter To Ottawa To Stop The Canadian DMCA. You can customize the letter in their online form, and when you submit it, they will electronically submit your letter to an array of politicians (a less extensive list than mine, which is a kitchen sink approach) and then the CCER also undertakes to forward a hard copy to these same politicians.

Certainly it is less work to allow someone else to do the mailing for you, but that’s always a bit dangerous. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself online–a simple internet security safeguard– is to not give out any more personal info than you absolutely have to online. There are times when we haven’t a choice. When dealing with my bank, I HAVE to identify myself to them if I want to be able to access my cash. But then, I only access my bank through their secure (read encrypted) web page.

I wouldn’t use a form myself, partly because I’m a writer, and partly because, like email, politicians assign less weight to a form letter. On the other hand, a form letter is much better than no response at all. Of course, I might cut and past their form letter into Open Office to use as a road map for writing my own.

This is not to malign the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights. They are just trying to make it as easy as possible for concerned citizens to put their two cents worth in, because the CCER understands the importance of speaking out. But ANY time you fill in a form like this and send your unencrypted personal information over the Internet it can easily go astray or be harvested by spammers. Especially in Canada where the CRTC has given Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection on Canadian Internet traffic. DPI makes it possible for Bell to see anything unencrypted that we put online. Bell Canada assured the CRTC that it would not abuse this process, but there is no oversight or any meaningful complaint procedure in place should your personal information be compromised in any way.

I’ll opt for caution.


P.S. The bill is scheduled to be tabled (introduced into the legislature, I think that means first reading but I may be wrong) this afternoon.

For breaking news check Michael Geist’s blog. Curerently this is the latest:

“We Don’t Care What You Do, As Long as the U.S. Is Satisfied”

Democracy #fail

with 4 comments

In my experience, every time anyone suggests “Strategic Voting” a closer look shows that the real reason someone is telling me to vote strategically is because I will be voting in their candidate, not mine.

graphic logo depicting parliament suspended by a noose from a gibbet

I haven’t had time to look into this exhaustively   (after all I’m supposed to be revising my first draft not blogging)   but this morning I just heard about something that sounded like strategic voting being suggested in the UK — where the ill advised Digital Economy bill was rushed through the legislative procedure without anything resembling proper scrutiny — on the eve of an election.   Since there’s a Fair Vote Canada debate on the topic of Strategic Voting scheduled this month I thought I’d take a quick peek at Hang ‘em

It looks like the UK’s “Hung Parliament” idea is a bit different than Canadian strategic voting.   The idea of this seems to be prevention a majority government.

Once installed, majority governments have a nasty tendency to rule dictatorially.

Because they can.

The reasons for promoting a “Hung Parliament” seem much the same as mine for opposing majority government here in Canada.   We need to achieve something a lot closer to democracy, and so long as Canada has alternating ruling parties we are unlikely to get the electoral reform we so desperately need.

This is definitely something to look into further, and watch very carefully, since all the pundits seem to be fortelling a 2010 Canadian Federal Election.   This is a crucial issue, particularly at a time when the entire world is undergoing such revolutionary changes courtesy of the Internet.   Clearly a great majority of the UK Members of Parliament who rushed to implement their Digital Economy Bill did not understand it.

Minority governments, elections and prorogations have thus far saved Canada from being been victimized by bad copyright reforms.   Last year’s Canada wide copyright consultation process seemed very positive.   Yet there have been indications that the magnificent outpouring that the copycon prompted from informed citizens may well have been a sham, and there are very real fears that this government intends to ignore this democratic input.   The fact that Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore’s recent behaviour has prompted Michael Geist to dub him the iPadlock minister seems to indicate that bad laws similar to the DEBill may well be coming down on Canada.

Canadian politicians, like politicians the world over, are being mercilessly pressured by foreign interests.   American tools like the USTR Watch List exist simply to try to intimidate other countries into legislating against their own sovereign interest and in favor of American corporate interests.   Adding secret copyright treaties like Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (A.C.T.A.) to the mix only makes it worse.

Not so Secret A.C.T.A. Treaty negotiations

Oh, yes, they did make one draft public, but only because of continuous advocacy by concerned people like:

along with organizations like

These three organizations are all American based, which seems a clear indication that one of the worst things about this American driven Intellectual Property or Copyright Reform is that it’s a case of the American government effectively working against American citizens in favor of American corporate interests.

The point is, that most of the people promoting and passing the legislation don’t understand the issues.   It is bad enough to be saddled with bad laws because the government thinks they are good. It is inexcusable to be saddled with bad laws because of government ignorance.   If it’s worth making the laws, its worth understanding them. But the bottom line is that all of this concern for IP is an excuse to attempt to impose government control over the Internet.   Rushing to push through laws to control the internet — without understanding the Internet– is simply madness.

This type of lawmaking is clearly a failure of democracy. Many citizens are unhappy with the democratic erosion that seems to be increasing exponentially. Democracy is important to us.

I think this “Hang ‘Em” idea may have potential.

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