Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Geist

No More NAFTA ~ ACTA ~ Stop the TPP

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Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Do you remember NAFTA?

Canadians exercised our democratic right to fire Brian Mulroney and his entire political party (save 2) for inflicting NAFTA on Canada. We said NO to NAFTA.

In decimating the Progressive Conservative Party, we replaced Mulroney with a new Liberal Prime Minister.  PM Jean Chrétien took office with a decisive majority, because he had:

“…campaigned on a promise to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA; however, Chrétien subsequently negotiated two supplemental agreements with the new US president.”

Wikipedia: NAFTA

No one doubted that the majority of Canadians emphatically said NO.  We did what we are supposed to: we changed the government to make our point.  Yet it didn’t help.  NAFTA is alive and well in Canada.

[And people wonder why so many Canadians don't vote.]

Casseroles Protest

It’s no wonder governments seek to negotiate trade agreements in secret; citizens might vote them out if we knew what they were doing. Even our protests might slow them down.

In spite of onerous non-disclosure agreements, information about the dreadful secret trade agreement ACTA (the so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”) kept leaking out. I blogged extensively about ACTA in my interweb freedom blog. Enough was known about it to frighten Europeans into taking to the streets. The result was that ACTA was rejected emphatically after European citizens took to the streets to tell their governments “NO!”

The ACTA agreement crumbled, or so the world thought . . .

The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States.[6] In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries which are member states of the European Union signed as well.[7] One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.

Wikipedia: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

Casseroles demonstration

Although many people believe the world rejected ACTA, Canada has not. Some of the worst of the laws that erode civil rights that are being forged by Canada’s “majority government” are in service of the ACTA trade agreement. ACTA is alive and well in Canada.

And now the The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership is coming.

Governments and special interests  pursue these treaties in secret because the terms are detrimental to citizen interests. They then use the existence of such “trade treaties” to justify draconian changes they then make to our domestic laws. We are told they “have to do it” because of the treaty commitment. Funny how the Harper Government doesn’t “have to” live up to Canada’s Kyoto commitment.

Make A Difference

The Inter-Continental Day of Action, 31 January 2013 is gearing up across Canada, the United States and Mexico to protest the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), the latest in the dizzying proliferation of “trade agreements” that sacrifice the public good in the interests of servicing the objectives of corporations.

Find your local event, or start your own!

Canadians Demonstrating

Canadians are getting better at demonstrating because we have to.

Why the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a Bad Idea

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cows in an Ontario field

The Harper Government is giving Canada CETA, (the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) which they tell us is “the most ambitious [Free Trade Agreement] Canada has ever attempted, encompassing every sector of the economy from automobiles to financial services, intellectual property to government procurement” as reported by the CBC in Stephen Harper signs EU trade deal in Brussels. Although the details are sketchy, there is a slick website designed to sell CETA to Canadians. Canadian reporters were “briefed” with what the government wants them to know about the deal before today’s press conference.

It isn’t just reporters being kept in the dark.  As Michael Geist points out, Canadians don’t know what the actual terms of CETA are. Instead of releasing the full text of the agreement, our government has only issued summaries, essentially a press release. The deal has been in the works since 2008, and enough dribs and drabs of information have been leaked to raise quite a few red flags. This is the opposite of government transparency; instead of consultation, Canadians are being told in glowing terms what our government does in our name after it is already done.

Democracy?  I think not.

We are being told CETA paves the way for a large increase in Canadian meat exports to the EU, but it will come with a cost to the Canadian cheese industry which faces a dramatic increase in EU cheese imports.  Now we know which Canadian cows had the more powerful lobby group.

But a free market?  Hardly.  But CETA is so much more than that.

THE COPYRIGHT QUESTION

Last year there was a great deal of concern that CETA was being used as a backdoor mechanism to revive ACTA.

But now the Harper Government says CETA is in line with Canada’s current Copyright Law. We are told we won’t need to implement the onerous copyright provisions once contemplated in order to make Canada ACTA compliant in earlier CETA drafts.  These provisions were supposed to have been removed because of strong ACTA opposition in the EU.  

Apparently the EU listens to its citizens.  Democracy, eh? 

Since they have not released the text of the CETA agreement, the reality is that we won’t know what CETA will do to Canadian Copyright Law until after the deal is ratified and made public.

COUNTERFEIT LAW

CETA is expected to increase border powers to seize counterfeit goods that allegedly infringe trademark, copyright or patent law without a court order.

This is the physical good equivalent to DMCA take downs, which treat copyright infringement allegations as though they are evidence.  This streamlines the process, dispensing with that inconvenient idea of innocence until guilt is proven.  After the web page or website has been taken down, (and your business is disrupted, and its reputation damaged) the accused must demonstrate innocence to get their website restored. But at least people can get it back.

Will the same be true at the border? Or will the seized goods be destroyed ~ as counterfeits routinely are ~ before it can be shown they have not infringed anything?

BRANDS

The sparkling wine pioneered in Champagne, France came to be known throughout the world as “champagne.” But the vintners in the Champagne region felt hard done by when sparkling wines made elsewhere were called “champagne,” so in recent years the LCBO has labelled it “sparking wine” at the LCBO unless it actually comes from France.  Hundreds of European items enjoy this kind of “brand protection” and CETA will extend it further.

They call this “Geographical Indications,” and what it means governments are dictating what language we humans are allowed use.

INTERNET SURVEILLANCE

Electronic commerce (page 27)
“Canadians shop and plan holidays online, and buy and download software and entertainment content, including movies, television and music. Advertisers are making increased use of “smart advertising” on the Web to track our shopping habits and promote specific deals likely to interest us.”

Do Canadian citizens really need to be subjected to even more internet surveillance?

TELECOM

Improved competition ensures greater choice for consumers  (Page 24)

“CETA will ensure that all players in the telecommunications market have fair access to networks and services, and ensure that regulators act impartially, objectively and in a transparent manner. Service providers and investors will benefit from increased transparency and predictability of the regulatory environment and secure, competitive marketplaces.”

Many Canadians know the CRTC has not protected our interests, effectively putting us at the mercy of the telecommunication companies for Internet, Broadcast television or Cell phone systems.  We already pay some of the highest prices in the world for insufficient to mediocre service.   Sounds like CETA will only make this worse.

PATENT LAW

CETA will allow large pharmaceutical companies to extend patent terms and keep generic medicines off the market for longer.  But instead of reinvesting increased revenues in advances, Michael Geist points out that the research and development in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry has decreased as patent “protection” increases.

Critics say this “could drive up costs for provincial drug plans and consumers by about $1 billion.”

FREE TRADE

Canadian Flag

The Harper Government is talking about compensating the industries for the losses CETA will cause as though this is a reasonable solution.

This means the same taxpayers who have not been consulted will foot the bill for CETA’s corporate welfare.

Canadians have seen the damage so-called free trade agreements can do.  Free Trade has made Canada the sixth most sued country in the world.

But CETA doesn’t just give away our natural resources, it threatens our health care.   Why do our governments keep doing these things?  It isn’t about free markets, or democracy, this is another winner takes all tale.  Once agaisn the most powerful lobby group wins, and leave the citizens to pay the piper.

Canadians need Proportional Representation if we’re ever to have democracy.

“If signed, CETA could unfairly restrict how local governments spend money and ban “buy local” policies, add up to $3 billion to the price of drugs, create pressure to increase privatization of local water systems, transit and energy, and much more.”

— The Council For Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

The only question Canadians need ask is, who will CETA benefit?

Not us, certainly.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Further Reading:

Proposed CETA deal will put small cheesemakers out of business—DFC

Harper’s CETA Priority Is to Protect Big Corporations, Not Human Rights

Canada-EU Free Trade Deal: European Drug Demands Would Cost Canadians Up To $2B A Year

Excessive corporate rights in Canada-EU trade deal are unacceptable to broad section of European, Canadian and Quebec society

Michael Geist: Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part One: Now Release the Text

Canada – EU Trade Agreement Reached “In Principle”, Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions

CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Three: Meaningless Claims on Telecom & E-commerce
CETA Reached “In Principle”, Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada

Canada-EU trade deal: Sell-out or celebration? Public needs a veto on massive corporate rights treaty

The Council of Canadians: Canada-EU (CETA)

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

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:

  • will sopa affect canada
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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.

flag in winter

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Bill C-32 and the Environment

with 3 comments

AT

One of the brilliant online activists I “subscribe to” on Identi.ca and “follow” on twitter is Techrights founder Dr. Roy Schestowitz.

Roy passed along the link to this excellent The Story of Stuff video:
The Story of Electronics:
Why ‘Designed for the Dump’ is toxic for people and the planet

The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard image features Annie Leonard photo holding ipod is integrated with black and white line drawing of Stuff

Because an increasing number of people use GNU/Linux operating systems, or simply resist using the proprietary Flash software, I’ve made a tinyogg conversion which I’ve hosted on my website here: The Story of Electronics – OGG conversion

You can read more of what Ms. Leonard has to say in her
The Huffington Post piece, or read what Geek Dad had to say in Wired about Annie Leonard’s latest film.

Find out more about Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff Project including steps that we can take to get involved on her website.

I think that this film is brilliant in its simplicity; it explains exactly what is wrong with what Annie Leonard calls the Electronics industry’s “Designed for the Dump” strategy.
They try to make this sound palatable by calling it “planned obsolescence”.

Deliberately manufacturing short lived physical materiel is not environmentally sustainable.

Bill C-32 legislates stuff to the Dump

Canadian DMCA

This Canadian DMCA will be WORSE than the American DMCA

Bill C-32, the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act,” has finished Second Reading and is in committee.

In spite of near universal opposition to this legislation which continues many bad elements first seen in its predecessors, Bill C-60 and C-61, the draft Bill C-32 ignores the majority of citizen input provided through the 2009 Copyright Consultation.

Michael Geist told Jesse Brown Bill C-32 will probably pass this time in the November 9th TVO Search Engine podcast.

But as bad as the American DMCA is, Bill C-32, the Canadian version will be much worse.

The DMCA does not make any aspect of their Fair Use regime subservient to technical measures, making the DMCA closer to the intent of the 1996 WIPO treaties to tie TPMs to infringing activities than C-32.

Russell McOrmond, Bill C-32 Frequently Asked Questions

My biggest problem with Bill C-32 as written is that it makes it illegal to circumvent “digital locks,” which are often called DRM (Digital Rights Management) or TPM (Technical Protection Measures), this latter being the language favored by Bill C-32. These “digital locks” are placed on our media and devices by manufacturers to control how we consumers can use the digital media and devices.

Q: How does “The Story of Electronics” tie in to the draft Canadian Bill C-32?

A: Making repair and recycling illegal will legislate Electronics to the Dump

By making circumvention of digital locks illegal for any purpose, electronics and media that still work, or that could be made to work, will now be legally consigned to the dump. Format shifting, recycling and repair of electronics with digital locks will be illegal.

Digital Locks prevent format shifting.

Unlike videotape, DVDs will play in any DVD player. At least until manufacturers add region encoding (digital locks/DRM/TPM).   When a Florida company shipped me a European DVD instead of the region 1 DVD that I would have been able to play on a Canadian DVD player, for me the DVD was garbage. I couldn’t play it the first time.

The company was aware that it was an error and shipped me a new copy of the DVD that was Region 1, so I wasn’t out of pocket. (They did not want the DVD back.) But the environment was.

When people move geographical locations if they move to a different “DVD region,” suddenly all their old technology and media can no longer be used because of digital locks. The ONLY reason that this is so is because of the digital locks applied by the manufacturer. Their idea is, as always, to sell more stuff. Wringing extra money from the consumer.

Consumers want to format shift, again for personal use, so that they can access their legally purchased content on their different devices.

When media and the devices we play it on become obsolete they proliferate in our dumps.

Digital Locks prevent us from repairing problems caused by DRM/TPM

Nobody seems to talk about the fact that the addition of digital locks/DRM/TPM quite often makes our media and devices not work. Ever had trouble playing your home burned home movie DVD in your DVD player. Or your grandmother’s DVD player? How about burning home movie DVDs at all.

Chances are that your digital stuff doesn’t work/is broken BECAUSE of digital locks. DRM. TPM,

If Bill C-32 passes as is, it will be illegal to fix it.

line drawing of a fat screen TV or monitor in a blue box

reusing, recycling

I foolishly bought an HP bubble printer without realizing the ink cartridges have DRM. It doesn’t matter how much ink is actually left in the cartridge, my cartridges are empty when the digital locks say they are. Which means, among other things, that I can’t save money and the environment by refilling them.

But I expect that refilling printer toner cartridges that have TPM will be illegal under Bill C-32 too.

No one is talking about this. Are they copyright issues? They should not be. But it once circumventing digital locks becomes illegal across the board I would expect they would be covered by Bill C-32.

Then there are all the OTHER uses of digital technology. Digital elements exist in refrigerators and cars, not just music and movies. If there aren’t TPMs on these things now, there will be once Bill C-32 becomes law. Because if circumventing digital locks is illegal, manufacturers would be foolish not to put digital locks on anything they can.

Which would be an even worse environmental catastrophe. Governments should not be legislating anti-interoperability.   For the good of the environment.

Canada’s technology will not just be

“Designed For The Dump”

but

“Legislated To The Dump”

by Bill C-32

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[[Note to Malcolm Gladwell: yes Malcolm, there are online activists, and you know what? They do good work!]



The Story of Stuff Project’s “The Story of Electronics” is licensed under a Creative Commons BY NC ND license

Bill C-32 can be found online,
as can Digital Copyright Canada’s: Bill C-32 Frequently Asked Questions

Book Policy Review

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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.

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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]

 

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ACTA and democracy

with 3 comments

graphic shows Mouse Ears adorning the globe over tagline ACTA attacks Internet

[note: if you don't know what the fuss is about, a lovely short film explains concisely here.]

The ZeroPaid article ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs makes the excellent point that ACTA negotiations are ongoing, continuing on their fast track with the intent of being concluded by the end of October prior to the American US election.

“There has been no democratic scrutiny of the text, Parliament has been shut out of this process,” laments the UK’s Open Rights Group (ORG). “This draft agreement lacks legitimacy before it is even agreed.”

— Zeropaid ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs

isn’t the same true in Canada? Parliament hasn’t seen it, I don’t know if any ordinary MPs have. I recall MP Charlie Angus pressing Industry Minister Tony Clement to make ACTA public, but it hasn’t been, probably because of the stringent non-disclosure requirements. In fact, none of the elected governments of the ‘democratic’ countries involved in ACTA negotiations have been made privy to ACTA. This means that our elected representatives don’t have any idea what is actually being negotiated.

That in itself ought to have been a red flag. In fact, Canada’s ACTA negotiators were working for ACTA even when our Government was prorogued early in the year.

Of course there’s nothing stopping politicians and citizens from reading Michael Geist’s blog (as our Minister of Industry himself advised. To that end, yesterday Michael Geist launched a new public service ACTAwatch blog. Still, that is no substitute for democratic scrutiny.

drooping

The main European ACTA site, La Quadrature du Net, along with the openACTA: Stop ACTA Now site from Mexico have been working tirelessly to keep citizens informed. We have been fortunate that in spite of powerful disincentives, there has been a steady stream of leaks from within the ACTA negotiations, so the secret treaty is not as secret as they would have liked.

As ZeroPaid points out, The European Parliament adopted Written Declaration 12, yet still ACTA marches on.

Particularly disturbing in all of the “copyright law” being peddled these days is the eagerness to throw out previously existing legal safeguards that have evolved over decades or centuries of democratic law. Like this:

ACTA in Art 2.7 (Ex-Officio Action) would also establish a ‘IP border police’,” adds the ORG. “It goes beyond the provision in existing international agreements such as TRIPs which provides that prima facie evidence is required to seize goods (Art 58). It also limits the time the border authority can seize goods for to ten days (Art 55). ACTA has none of these safeguards.”

I’d like to think that Canada’s ACTA involvement was done to exert a calming effect and to make sure what comes out the other end would be sane and balanced. Sadly, the fact that our government is continuing to push Bill C-32 in the face of near universal citizen opposition has disabused me of the notion.

The WIPO process wasn’t perfect, but at least it was transparent. Secret trade treaties have no business in democratic nations. I always thought that a key element of lawmaking in a democracy was to ensure any new law would reflect accepted societal norms.

We are still a democratic nation.
Aren’t we?

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