Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Brown

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

thoughtcrime … in Canada ?

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goat tethered on a hill

Byron Sonne’s trial is proceeding. Yesterday the Crown rested its case. As a citizen of this fair nation, I have some concerns.

Criminal prosecution is quite expensive, yet the Crown spent a fair bit of effort trying to explain Byron’s use of the word “goat” in his various online nick names. In much the same way truck drivers assumed CB radio “handles,” computer users have been adopting nicknames as their personal brands even before the Internet became publicly accessible in the 1990s.

It seems that Byron has quite a collection of pictures of goats on his computer. (It isn’t at all hard to find a picture of a goat on the Internet⇒) The police witness told the court that the acronym “G.O.A.T.” stands for “Greatest Of All Time” made popular by hockey star Wayne Gretsky. The Crown seems to want this on the record as a indication of Byron Sonne’s ego. Even though this explanation is a guess. No credible evidence was presented to explain why Byron’s personal brand is “goat.” The only one who can factually explain the selection of the nick name would be Byron Sonne himself.

Did I miss the part where the Crown presented evidence that Byron was even a hockey fan? (Although the police witness seems to be.)   The Crown suggests this explanation will characterize Byron as an egotistical hacker.  Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I really don’t understand what the point of this is.   If, by some amazing coincidence, the police guess about why Byron chose the word goat was correct, what exactly would it be evidence of?

More disturbing is what appears to be the “guilt by association” vibe promoted by the Crown. Receiving emails or a digital newsletter from people who are later arrested isn’t a criminal offence. Or, if it is, it should not be.

June 2010 poster: Toronto Resist G8/20

Reading, attending meetings and/or talking about political participation, even if such participation is or leads to protest or dissent should not be a criminal offence. Or, if it is, it shouldn’t be. George Orwell called government repression of ideas “thoughtcrime.” Is that what this is?

As far as I know, TCMN (Toronto Community Mobilization Network) is a congregation of a variety of activist groups that came together due to shared concerns about the G20.   Personally, I don’t even live in Toronto, but what I read made me concerned about the G20 even before it happened.

As well as not liking the TCMN, or convicted activists, apparently the Crown also doesn’t like anarchists organizations like SOAR (Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance). As far as I know, it isn’t illegal to be an anarchist.

Just as it isn’t illegal to be a liberal. Or a conservative. Or even a hacker.

Because freedom of association is protected by the Charter.

Reading and thinking aren’t illegal in Canada. There’s even a whole genre called “true crime” but reading about crime doesn’t make you a criminal. Thinking radical thoughts isn’t a crime.

Committing criminal acts is.

Even so, criminal acts are defined by laws. If our lawmakers were to designate walking on the grass a felony, then walking on the grass would become a criminal act. This is one reason why dissent is so important for a free society; citizens need to be able to complain if government passes laws that are contrary to what society holds as acceptable. As well, the practical application of the laws that define and confine us are interpreted and tested out through court cases like this one.

So it’s worrisome to know that Byron’s Charter rights were ignored.

But it is more troubling to me that Canadian law enforcement invested so much in building a case seemingly based on association and innuendo.

Just as it is a concern that law enforcement has such a tenuous grasp of technical issues important to this case.

Judge Spies had never heard of Linux before, yet Crown attempts to dazzle and/or confuse with reams of detail aren’t working; the Judge may not use Twitter, or understand the difference between a .jpg or a .png, but she doesn’t have to — they’re both photographs.

Judge: Let me see if I’ve got this all right. Mr. Sonne is on the mailing list for the TCMN. He gets an email about a presentation where Hiscocks and Henderson were going to speak about “black block or diversity of tactics”. We have no evidence that Mr. Sonne attended or that he associated with these women. Those emails are in, whatever they mean. Now you want me to accept their guilty pleas and use that to infer about the nature of the talk?
Unofficial Byron Sonne Trial Notes

Charter rights are supposed to protect citizens; they should not be so easily cast aside. It is reassuring that although Judge Spies isn’t tech savvy, she appears to see the big picture. Still, the smell of politics is strong in this one, and I don’t know how this will play out, and so I worry about the future. For my family, my community, my country.


Image Credits

Tethered Goat” by ceridwen released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Glossary

The Crown
refers to the Crown Attorney (the title of the government’s lawyer prosecuting the case under Canadian law) and/or the focus of the prosecution in the Canadian legal system.
[“Prosecutor” or “District Attorney” would be the American equivalent]

The Charter
is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is supposed to protect the human rights of Canadian citizens from government or justice system abuses.

Linux
(sometimes called GNU/Linux) is a free software computer operating system (OS), a software program (similar to Windows or MacOS) that allows a computer to function. Although there are basic differences in the way Linux systems operate, many technical people use Linux systems because they are free to customize them.

Hacker
There are two opposing definitions for the word “hacker.” The pejorative definition embraced by the mainstream media is as someone who subverts computer security. Yet for many in the computer security and programming subculture the word hacker is the highest accolade bestowed on verhttps://github.com/colah/ByronTrialNotes/blob/master/daily-notes/day27.mdy clever and often playful innovators and problem solvers. Among such programmers the word “cracker” is used to describe criminals who engage in criminal computer security breaches.

Twitter
an online network that allows two way sharing of information and/or conversation with friends and/or total strangers, best viewed on the Twitter site, not in a proprietary spreadsheet.


Must Listen:
Jesse Brown interviews security expert Dr. Kate Milberry on today’s Search Engine Audio Podcast #130:
The Legacy of the G-20: #Toronto’s #G20 Hangover

Post Script: Today the Crown cross examined the Defence witness. The evidence phase is over and court will resume Thursday at 10:30, 361 University Avenue, Toronto. Today’s Trial Notes are online.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Free Byron

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Yellow Square bearing the words Free Byron in black text

Today was the first day of Byron Sonne’s trial.

Byron was arrested on June 22nd, 2010, before the Toronto G20. 

On June 29th, Jesse Brown did a SearchEngine interview that would have made me question the story if I’d heard it. 

But I don’t live in Toronto, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned about Byron Sonne.

Denise Balkissoon, the writer who wrote the Toronto Life cover story blogged about the publication ban: “EXPLAINER: What we can and can’t say about the Byron Sonne Trial

Today’s Globe and Mail reported on the first day G20 trial begins for man charged with possessing explosives. The way the headline reads reveals the Globe’s corporate bias (if there was any doubt).

What struck me the most about the Globe article was the reporter’s statement:

 

Supporters have organized a “Free Byron” movement.”

— Colin Perkel, G20 trial begins for man charged with possessing explosives

In many ways, Byron’s arrest before the Toronto G20 summit even began served to separate his story from all the other stories of G20 protest. The Toronto G20 protests might be considered a “movement,” but I don’t think that the support for Byron Sonne can be thought of in that light.

Byron Sonne’s friends and community have tried to support him the best they can. That’s what friends do if they believe in you, and it’s why humans belong to communities. Byron Sonne’s friends know him as a person, and they believe in him. It says a lot about Byron and his friends that they have stuck by him all through this. Because standing up for someone facing the kind of charges levelled against Byron Sonne takes guts. After all, people are often judged on who their friends are.

His friends and supporters set up a webpage to allow interested people to follow what happens to Byron. They have distributed stickers and buttons and asked interested people to post “Free Byron” badges on their blogs. I haven’t seen anything I could characterize as a “movement,” just people supporting a friend and member of their community.

Sure, there are people like me who care what happens to Byron. When I saw a “Free Bryron” button and asked what it was for, I ended up becoming a Free Byron supporter. I am not Byron’s friend, having never actually met him, although we’ve exchanged a couple of letters, and I watched a few days of one of his hearings.

I’m not a lawyer, nor am I in possession of all the facts. Still, I don’t believe Bryon Sonne is a terrorist, or anything like it. I think Byron is a good person who tried to stand up for what he believed was right.

I think Byron believed the protections in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would protect him. So far they haven’t much, and that scares me. That’s the main reason why I support Byron Sonne.

But I’m not part of “a movement,” just a citizen who hopes Canada is the country that I think it is, and that justice will prevail.

Byron Sonne has lost his wife, his home, his business, his reputation, his privacy and his liberty.

And I wonder what he has done to deserve this.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

November 7, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Byron Sonne is “still quite a ways away from being free”

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Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

Is Canada a free country?

Or is Canada a banana republic?

Today was Byron Sonne’s 331st day in custody. On Monday bail was finally granted, yet Byron had to remain locked up until today, when there was to be a final Bail Hearing where the Crown Attorney would get an opportunity to contest the grounds of Byron’s release.

What has happened to Byron Sonne has exposed injustice in our so called justice system. The reason democratic nations enact laws to protect the rights of citizens is to counter balance the government’s power to crush citizens.

For a nation to be a free country, citizens must be free to both question and criticize.

Without guaranteed civil rights, any citizen can be deprived of liberty. You can wind up in a Gulag. You don’t even have to be protesting anything.

on the 2010 Toronto G20:

“The result was a massive breach of human rights on a scale never before seen in modern Canadian society. “

—André Marin, Promoting Good Governance and Human Rights: The Ontario Ombudsman’s Investigation of Events Surrounding the G20 Summit in Toronto

Among those rounded up in the G20 mass arrests were a many people who were shopping, working, going somewhere else, but uninvolved in the protests. Yet they were rounded up and deprived of the civil rights Canadians expect just the same. Simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Byron has today been released under extremely stringent bail restrictions. The conditions are draconian, and somewhat bizarre. According to the Toronto Star:

“He must also have no contact with anyone accused with G20 conspiracy crimes or anyone associated with a number of anarchist groups or the Toronto Community Mobilization Network. There are no allegations that Sonne has ever associated with those people or groups.”

– Brendan Kennedy, Toronto Star: G20 accused Sonne out on bail; strict limits on Web use, leaving home

That last bit sounds like a smear… the very terms of the release are deliberately inflammatory. By prohibiting Byron Sonne contact with people and organizations there is no evidence he has ever any contact with, an association is implied. This is rather like prohibiting Byron Sonne from contact with Adolph Hitler. Except, if you read the Globe and Mail’s heavily biased account it says there is some evidence of Byron “downloading literature of both the far right (Mein Kampf) and the far left (Das Kapital).” Which seems to forge a stronger evidentiary link to Adolph Hitler, or Karl Marx. Who scares you the most?

It simply seems to be an attempt to make Byron Sonne look bad.

The group named by the Star that Byron must not associate with is the Toronto Community Mobilization Network which appears to be a collection of activists advocating for the civil rights for groups ranging from the disabled to indigenous peoples.  This seems at minimum to run contrary to Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Something that has disturbed me from the outset is that the denial of bail appears to be punitive. Is this a case of Canada’s Crown prosecution ensuring that an innocent man will pay the price of incarceration before trial since the trial is likely to exonerate him? In fact, our federal government has published statistics indicating an increase of the use if the remand process which could well indicate that the process is being deployed as punishment rather than waiting for a judicial finding of guilt, particularly when it is unlikely to happen at all.

You can read the rest of the extremely severe bail conditions in the Toronto Star.

I’m fairly new to social media, but something I have noticed is that some tweets about Byron use the #g20report hashtag. I initially assumed that some organization or group might be keeping track of the facts for the hoped for G20 inquiry.

Then I discovered Byron’s own Twitter feed and discovered that Byron himself seems to have invented that hashtag, using it to indicate the tweets he made documenting the G20 security.

This adds a huge amount of credence to the idea Byron Sonne was working as a citizen journalist.

It is also quite interesting that the @torontogoat is still online. We can read through it and see what Byron tweeted in his own words. Read it through and see what you think.

The Best Source

For information about Byron Sonne case is the FreeByron website, created and maintained by his friends and supporters.

recent articles

Jesse Brown: Byron Sonne gets bail. Finally.

Brendan Kennedy: G20 ‘geek’ Byron Sonne granted bail

Megan O’Toole: Man charged with possessing explosives before G20 granted bail

Toronto Mobilize: Court Support Needed for Byron Sonne

Tim McSorley: Byron Sonne granted bail; Crown to challenge conditions of his release

Denise Balkissoon: How Byron Sonne’s obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything

David Harvey: Byron Sonne, Canada’s Political Prisoner

I got my title for this post from a tweet I found  under the #freeByron hashtag

@dr_kiwano (Kris Coward) says #FreeByron got bail, but is still quite a ways away from being free

Byron Sonne leaves courthouse
For those with Flash accessibility issues, I am also hosting the OGG version here.

Ding Dong Bill C-32 is Dead

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Canadian DMCA

I am happy that the writ was dropped before Bill C-32 was passed.

Is that a bad thing?

Of course it mans we have another federal election.

Copyright Reform Apathy

Not so long ago, Jesse Brown did a Search Engine podcast called So Bored of Copyright. He wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill C-32 was likely to be pushed through no matter how atrocious simply because everyone is tired of arguing about copyright. The thinking, shared by many other Canadian activists was that our elected representatives just want it to be over. I understand how difficult it is to fight the same fight over and over again. But still, there was a disturbing willingness to settle for bad law just because everyone is tired of it.

copyright symbol over a red maple leaf

That’s wrong.

Copyright law will impact on every Canadian. Our existing copyright law may not be perfect, but it isn’t as though we are a lawless nation of pirates, no mater what the USTR says to get a trade advantage. So I’m happy Bill C-32 is off the table, even if it does mean we’re having another Federal election. And I’m sure it will be back, but the longer it takes, there is less chance that we’ll end up with a copyright law benefitting special interest groups to the detriment of Canadian Culture.

Some people are tired of elections.

We’re having them too frequently, apparently.

Yet there are places in the world where there are no elections. Or where the election results are preordained.

Other people are unhappy because elections are expensive.

If we have a minority government, it stands to reason that we will have more elections. It is much harder to run a minority government because the government can’t operate in a vacuum.  They have to build a consensus. And sometimes even listen to what the citizens want.  And if they want to do something that the people think ill advised, we have some possibility of preventing it.

a pile of canadian money

Then some people think majority government is a good thing.   Talk about an expensive proposition.

Say what you want, our run of minority governments has meant very little in the way of patronage spending.   While majority governments are always awash in patronage.   That’s got to be worse.

Even with a minority our federal government managed to find a billion dollars for the G20.

Acryllic on Illustration board painting by Aviation Artist Lance Russwurm

The AVRO Arrow ~ painting by Lance Russwurm

Can you imagine? How many fighter jets would we have bought if there was a majority government? Wait a minute… fighter jets? Excuse me? If we want fighter jets, why don’t we build our own, shall we? You know, like the AVRO Arrow?

Citizens can’t afford NOT to have elections. We need as many as it takes.

I’ve heard some people are saying they will vote for the Conservative Party of Canada just to give them a majority, just to be done with this election business.

the NoProrogue rally in Guelph

You know what?

If you want to vote for a political party you don’t support, that is your democratic right.

You can use your vote to improve this great nation of ours, or you can waste your vote. You get to decide.

You can vote for the candidate you believe will do the best job for you, or you can vote the way someone else tells you to vote. It is entirely up to you.

You can vote strategically and vote for someone you don’t want to elect. It seems to me that strategic voting is always about voting for someone else;s candidate, never your own. That seems to me just as big a waste. But still, it is your right to choose.

You can spoil your ballot, which won’t count. Or not cast a vote at all.

Andrew Telegdi

A great many of us are frustrated because we’ve been ignored for so long. Many of us have given up because the people we vote for are never elected. In the Conservative stronghold where I live, Liberal candidate Andrew Telegdi lost his seat in the last Federal election by 17 votes. And one of the most powerful members of the incumbent government “tweeted”:

Minister of Industry Tony Clement

On Twitter, Tony Clement said:
@TonyclementCPC I use my 28 vote margin in 2006 all the time as an example of “every vote counts!”

The thing to remember is that when we abstain from voting, our voice, however small, is completely unheard. Abstaining from voting doesn’t “teach them a lesson,” it gives them our power. It makes it easier for fewer people to determine our government. All voter apathy does is to make electoral inequity worse.

You have the right not vote. But every vote not cast means that fewer votes hold greater sway. I am well aware Canadian votes count for more or less depending on geographical location. That’s bad enough. If you, like me, live in a place where your vote only counts for a fraction, blowing it off makes it worse. What government does affects all of us.

Debate and Democracy

GPC leader Elizabeth May with nearly a million constituents, not a seat in the House

This election will impact on us all too. Although we are desperately in need of electoral reform, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. So although it is your right to vote or not, I hope you decide to vote, and more, to vote the way you believe is best.

I’ve been trying to get the final proof of my novel done, so I’m spread a bit thin. Still, there’s been a flap about the proposed televised Federal Leadership Debate. The decision (by who?) has been made to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The story they are trying to sell is that her exclusion stems from the fact no Green party member has yet been elected. Naturally this speaks to the issue of Electoral reform, since nearly a million Canadian citizens cast Green votes in the last election without electing one.

The thing is, we might have bought that argument had Elizabeth May not participated in just such a debate in a previous election. Excluding her now is not only grossly unfair, but a sign of just how well she did last time.

Unlike our American Neighbors, Canada is a multi-party country. So long as our nation subscribes to party politics, I’m inclined to think that any leadership debate ought to include the leaders of every registered political party. The point of an election is that the slate is wiped clean. No one has been elected yet for the 41st Parliament. So all the candidates – and leaders – ought to be treated as equals. I’m sure that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would be happy to tell you what a difference an election can make.

It is in our own best interests to stand up for our democracy. The leader of Canada’s fledgling Pirate Party hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:

pirate party of canada

@mikkelpaulson

A vote for anyone other than your first choice undermines democracy. We should vote for,
not vote against

I don’t know about you, but as inefficient as our system is, and as badly as we need electoral reform, I’m rather partial to democracy.

And elections are a really good time to get out there and find out what the candidates think.

Or at least what they say.

Vote.

Canadian Political Party Logos

Registered Federal Canadian Parties include neorhino, Christian Heritage, Communist Party of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador First, Libertarian, Work Less Party, People’s Political Power Party, Green Party, First Peoples National Party, Bloc Quebecois, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Marxist Leninist Communist Party, and the NDP



Image Credits

AVRO Arrow, painting by Lance Russwurm

Andrew Telegdi photo by Chris Slothouber

Tony Clement, Twitter account image (fair dealing)

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

All other images created by laurelrusswurm and released CC by-sa

Bill C-32: Mr. Ricci is wrong about Fair Dealing

with 5 comments

red maple leaf graphic

The Globe and Mail published a Bill C-32 Opinion piece by Governor General Award Winning fiction writer Nico Ricci, This updated copyright bill guts Canadian culture.

The very title of this opinion piece is both inflammatory and misleading. Although Mr. Ricci mayt be qualified to comment on the state of culture, the article is actually exclusively devoted to one small piece of Bill C-32, the expansion of the fair dealing section of Bill C-32 to include educational uses.

Although Mr. Ricci implies it’s the equivalent of making educational material free of charge it’s not. Canada’s Minister of Industry is well aware of this, tweeting:

Tony Clement: What fiction! Fair dealing is never an unfettered rt to copy! RT @bsookman This updated copyright bill guts Cdn culture http://bit.ly/cZRJoX

But even more important, although some students coming out of higher education may retain their textbooks rather then selling them on, educational text books have never formed the basis for societal culture in any universe I’ve ever heard of.

What Mr. Ricci calls this “vulnerable cultural sector,” has been working hard to impoverish our children’s education for years. Educational publishers have routinely charged vast amounts of mark-up on text books for decades and the lion’s share of this has certainly not gone to the writers.

The excessive prices demanded is a great part of why so many textbooks in all levels of Canada’s public education system are so terribly out dated. In some areas of study it may not be an issue, but in others it does an incredible disservice to our children. My child’s high school computer programming text was older than he was… and written in a time of pre-Internet history before most of today’s technology existed.

The justification for the exorbitant cost of textbooks was always that such small print runs were required. Even so, the publishers made out, the copyright collectives made out, but, sadly, the writers are the only ones who were actually unable to make a living from the books they wrote. Of course, some writers could get paid employment by going to work for the copyright collectives or publishers.

But at least with textbook purchases, our children may at some point get some value from re-reading the material in later years, or perhaps selling the used copies to later students. The absurdity of paying absurd amounts of money for photocopies has always struck me as foolish. These aren’t books with an intrinsic value, they’re disposable.

Jesse Brown: I don't care who Access Copyright gets to write their propaganda:it's lies, not opinion,& the Globe shouldn't print it. http://bit.ly/aexE5e

If students were buying entire textbooks for a single chapter, why didn’t publishers offer them as individual chapter offerings? Slim text volumes at a fraction of the price? But no, the necessary chapters were overpriced to subsidize the unnecessary chapters. The “innovation” that was arrived at in the latter part of the twentieth century were contractual deals whereby publishers and copyright collectives received compensatory payment for photocopies from libraries and educational institutions. These copies made with student labor on educational institution equipment triggered compensation for the textbooks that were not sold.

But then I think the “Public Lending Right” is horribly unfair too. Books people read in libraries aren’t lost sales, they’re advertising. It used to be that writers were happy to have their works disseminated in public libraries. It was the authorial equivalent of air play for recording artists. But even charging libraries quantities of extra cash per book has not improved the standard of living for authors either. Funny, that.

My purely anecdotal take on today’s public library systems is that there are fewer books in them. Part of it is that physically they are removing shelves of physical books in favor of public work stations and digital media. But I’m wondering how much of that is due to money being paid out for the “Public Lending Right” rather than spent on the purchase of actual books to lend.

Perhaps because my public library can’t afford to stock it, I’ve never read any of Mr. Ricci’s award winning fiction. Like any careful consumer during a recession, I never buy books I’ve not already read, and then not unless I think it’s a good book. The only time I’ll buy a book by an author I’ve not read, is if it looks interesting and costs only a buck or two in a remainder bin.

reading, inventing, discoursing

technology has reduced costs of physical production of books

As writer involved in self publishing my first novel, I recently discovered that it is more economical to purchase Print On Demand (POD) bound proof copies with glossy colour covers for my beta readers than to print them myself at home on my laser printer. Things have indeed changed.

And in today’s digital world, there is no reason why text books can’t be tailor made to the class. It can be easily be accomplished in these days when digital copying has brought the distribution costs down to almost nothing, as shown in another Globe and Mail article: Toronto startup cracks the electronic textbook

Our children and their education have traditionally been the big losers here. Neither publishers or copyright collectives seem to have student interests at heart. They’re in it for the money.

Personally, as both parent and writer, I have some very serious reservations about Bill C-32 but expansion of fair dealing for education is not one of them. It saddens me to see creators who are not well versed in either the legal or technical aspects of copyright law being set up as straw men. I guess what I wonder most is why a fiction writer is weighing in on this aspect of Bill C-32 rather than a writer of textbooks.

Inconstant Moon cracked open
More a more informed opinion of the fair dealing aspect of Bill C-32, read what David Fewer has to say.

For More on the the politics of Bill C-32 can be found in Russell McOrmond’s Hyperbole from traditional educational publishers: postcards/etc., and The general mood of the House of Commons debate on C-32 thus far.

Interesting additional reading can also be found in Wayne Borean’s Through the Looking Glass: The TPM Provisions in Bill C-32 Are Not In Compliance With The WIPO Internet Treaties

But the real post script comes from Mr. Ricci himself in his response to the comments his article garnered:

What the response amply demonstrates, however, both in its range and in its vehemence, is that there is a need for much more public debate on this very complex issue before Bill C-32 is allowed to pass into law.”

Nino Ricci, Runcible House, 11:35 AM on November 6, 2010, comments on Globe and Mail Article: This updated copyright bill guts Canadian culture

He is right about that. Canada may be ready for a new copyright law, but a bad one rushed through in haste would be infinitely worse than what we have now. This is an issue that will impact on all Canadians. We certainly don’t want a Canadian DMCA.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Astroturf: promoting Bill C-32

with 4 comments

AstroTurf: Since 1965 -  logo
Astroturf is a kind of simulated grass that was invented to cover sports playing fields. Particularly in the spring rainy season. Astroturf’s synthetic grass surface is desirable because it is better to play football on than mud.

Lately I’ve learned that “astroturf” has also come to mean a simulated grassroots movement.

grass

In today’s world, grassroots movements have become increasingly important because the Internet allows communities to spontaneously unite far more quickly and effectively than ever before. Now that the news media is online many online articles provide ordinary people an opportunity to comment on the news. Quite often you’ll find trolls or shills talking against the natural flow.

Some trolls are just in it for the fun of wreaking havoc… in exactly the same way some children behave badly because bad attention is better than no attention. But an increasing number of Trolls seem to be shills.

When a corporation or a government (or both) is doing something that they know will be bad for people, they try to deflect or derail public outcry by contracting shills. These paid lobbyists masquerade as disinterested parties in order to promote their master’s agenda through the simulation of community support.

On CBC Usage Based Billing article comments I’ve often noticed people claiming to be ordinary consumers arguing Canadian Internet costs should be doubled. Reasonable assumption: not just a troll, but a shill.

dandilion in the grass

The Internet gives citizens a voice.

In this day and age the Internet has brought down the physical barriers to both organizing and advocacy.

Today we can blog about bad stuff.

Or create a website to push for change.

When laws detrimental to us are tabled, in today’s world citizens can TWEET our displeasure.

And organize on a Facebook page.

One of the reasons real grassroots movements can be so powerful is that they are made up of people who believe in something. They may not have much money but they have commitment and passion.

Powerful corporate interests try to drown us out the way they have always drowned us out: with money.

They have to pay for astroturf. Being a shill must be a growth Industry with the armies of shills repeating misinformation. They try to convince us that an agenda which benefits them at our expense is a good thing. Left unchallenged repeated misinformation can very easily come to be accepted as fact.

Call it spin, doublespeak or propaganda. What it boils down to is a con.

Campaigns of misinformation exist because they work. Calling something by the wrong name enough times starts by confusing the issue, but it really doesn’t take long before people start believing it. Especially if they have a limited knowledge of the subject. This is why it is critically important to challenge misinformation.

Because except for the misinformed, the only supporters of an agenda contrary to the public good are those who will profit from it.

blades of grass

political astroturf?

In January I saw a photo picturing three Regina protesters carrying pro Harper placards in support of Prime Minister Harper’s premature prorogation which provided a counterpoint to Regina’s hundreds out protesting the prorogation. Were these three a Conservative Party attempt at astroturfing?

The same way powerful interests purchase advertising they purchase astroturf. The biggest difference is that advertisements are more honest– they are clearly advertisements.

“Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt (“outreach”, “awareness”, etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by an individual promoting a personal agenda, or highly organized professional groups with money from large corporations, unions, non-profits, or activist organizations. Very often, the efforts are conducted by political consultants who also specialize in opposition research. Beneficiaries are not “grass root” campaigners but distant organizations that orchestrate such campaigns.”

Wikipedia on astroturfing

misinformation

The Office of the United States Trade Representative‘s infamous USTR Watch List is a prime example of misinformation mongering. The USTR has been making a point to include Canada on their watch list as a “haven for piracy” for years—- as long as the MPAA/RIAA has been lobbying Canada to pass copyright law beneficial to them.

The USTR watch list is supposedly a list of countries that don’t play by the rules. Canada’s inclusion on this list has been debunked by a whole host of authoritative voices speaking against it — including Michael Geist, Howard Knopf, as well as the American advocacy groups Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge. It seems the United States itself is much more of a “Pirate Haven” than Canada is (with some evidence suggesting that the DMCA may be a contributing factor to American IP piracy).

Yet because of the USTR’s watch list there have been a continuous stream of articles quoting the misinformation that Canada is a “pirate haven”.

United States Pirate Party logo... stylized Stars and Stripes overlaid on Pirate Party logo

Of course, Canada does have the Pirate Party of Canada. Like all the other Pirate Parties, the PPoC seeks balanced copyright legislation. They are a registered Canadian Political party who will no doubt field candidates for the next federal election. At this point Pirate Parties have sprung up in virtually every country in the world because “copyright” is being used as an excuse to assail freedom in every part of the world. And the United States has TWO: The American Pirate Party and the United States Pirate Party.]

the line in the grass

Probably the most famous astroturf group in the world today is “Balanced Copyright For Canada” who seem to be merrily astroturfing in support of Bill C-32, the supposed Copyright “Modernization” Bill. And you can bet they are seeding their website with as many mischaracterizations of Canada as a “pirate haven” as they can find. Of course, this is exactly the point of the USTR watch list. The USTR’s agenda is the supremacy of the United States in the world market.

The Balanced Copyright for Canada website is shrouded in mystery. Jesse Brown has been investigating trading tweets with CopyrightCanada since Monday. Apparently 130 members were initially listed on the site as members but that list seems to have vanished after Jesse tweeted that “everyone seems to work for a major music label”. So Balanced Copyright for Canada may well be made up of CRIA members along with employees economically influenced to join.

Jesse Brown's Twitter avatarJesse Brown seems to be pretty certain that the CRIA is behind the Balanced Copyright for Canada group. That would make sense since the CRIA is certainly one of the strongest proponents of Bill C-32. More than anyone The part of the Canadian music industry represented by the CRIA (which is to say the four music industry giants which happen to be the Canadian offshoots of the American RIAA) have been most affected by technology improvements. The CRIA used to control 99% of the Canadian recording industry but today their share of the market has dropped to a mere 70%. Although the CRIA proclaims piracy is why their profits have reduced they seem to ignore the fact that they’ve lost 30% of the market to Independents. A growing number of Canadian recording artists prefer to record their music independently and retain control of their own copyright. Perhaps it’s time for the CRIA to truly modernize their own business model instead of squandering their resources trying to legislate Canada back into the twentieth century.

istockphoto_8506505-happy-young-men-and-women-standing-together

Go to istockphoto for Royalty Free images

[I have to put “modernization” in quotations because Bill C-32 is antithesis of “modernizing”… but then the routine assignment of misleading names to legislation is another trend I could do without.]

boingboing logo

US record labels starts fake “citizen’s group” to support Canada’s DMCA article prompted boingboing reader Mark‘s comment that the photo used on the front page is a commercial image licensed from istock photo: Happy young men and women standing together – at least I hope they licensed it legally. If you look at the tiny “approval” Thumbnail to the right you can see that the image is not distorted, while the image used on the Balanced Copyright for Canada is distorted, most notably in the women at either end, which may well be copy protection.

You have to wonder if Balanced Copyright for Canada is a real grassroots group made up of artists, independents & folks involved in the recording industry as they claim, why did they have to buy an image?
I have yet to meet any kind of artist or creator who was limited to a single discipline. Surely if this is actually a coalition of creatives they would have somebody who could have taken a real picture?

A real grassroots movement would be unlikely to seeking out a commercial photo or justifying the expense when they could easily snap a shot of actual members. Astroturfers tend to be long on funds and short on committed members, so naturally they would have the necessary funds to purchase a commercial photo.

pirate party of canada

Shall I mention the irony of a group fighting for copyright (and royalties) opting for a one time cash flat rate that is conveniently royalty free?

This secretive http://balancedcopyrightforcanada.ca/ was forced to settle for the very long domain name since the Pirate Party of Canada had already registered the sleeker http://balancedcopyright.ca/ domain, which was apparently also sought by the Government of Canada earlier in the month.

soccer ball

More than eight thousand Canadians who made submissions to the 2009 Canadian Copyright Consultation, most of which opposed to a reprise of Bill C-61. Michael Geist’s breakdown shows “6641 Submissions were against anti-circumvention or in favour of limiting DRM/Digital locks”, yet Bill C-32 has actually made the digital lock provisions even more onerous than those in their previous Bill C-61.

Canadian DMCA

The Canadian Government elected not to make a submission to the USTR in protest of Canada’s specious inclusion on the USTR 301 watch list, nor have they emitted a peep to defend Canada’s right as a sovereign nation to draft our own laws.

Instead, the Canadian Government has tabled Bill C-32. Incredibly,

“The Tories held a press conference on the bill at the Montreal office of a U.S. video-game software developer Wednesday, a move intended to drive home the message that cracking down on copyright infringement protects investment in Canada.”

Globe and Mail, Tory bill cracks down on copyright pirates

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Would you hold a press conference announcing “made in Canada” copyright legislation in the business office of a corporation from a foreign nation?

What kind of message would that send about our country’s sovereignty?

The thing that bothers me the most about THAT is the fact that it hasn’t raised an eyebrow.

Whose law is it anyway?

Hello?   Before Canada starts passing American legislation, perhaps we ought to have a referendum to decide if we wish Canada to become an American protectorate.

In Reality check: Anti-consumer copyright bill: written for the US, undermined by Ministers’ own behaviour the NDP showed the PMO’s position to be:

“We don’t care what you do, as long as the U.S. is satisfied.”

soccer balls interspersed with the feet of a few soccer players on a practice field

Heritage Minister James Moore dismissed the concerns of Mme. Lavallée, the Honourable Member from Saint- Bruno—Saint-Hubert when she questioned him about C-32′s failure to serve consumers with assurances that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce supported C-32. Moore’s apparent lack of comprehension that the Chamber of Commerce is a business lobby group rather than a consumer one sparked a letter refuting Moore’s claims that Canadian consumers support Bill C-32 reported in the CBC story Consumer groups blast Moore over copyright.

Citizens don’t want this law.

A great many creators don’t want it.   In fact, the only real support that Bill C-32 has seems to stem from the CRIA and the American USTR, RIAA and MPAA.

Why is the Canadian Government pursuing this so strongly?

Perhaps it’s time our Government started thinking about what legislating Canadian Copyright Law to appease foreign Interests will do to Canadian Heritage.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

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