Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.”
— Daniel Weinstock
When I went to college in Ontario in the ’80’s, anyone could access higher education. Ontario provided loans and grants to qualified students. If you (or your family) were wealthy, it might be all loans; if you and your family were of low income, it might be entirely grants. The difference is that grants don’t have to be paid back, ever.
This seemed reasonable. Among other things, that system ensured that people best suited to being doctors don’t end up driving cab. My friend Malcolm says “50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.” That is even worse when the pool of potential doctors is reduced as it has been. How many Canadians right now are putting up with bad doctors because they dare not complain and risk going doctorless?
Back in the ’80’s, I went on a demonstration at Queens Park to protest the round of education cuts Ontario was starting, just as I was just finishing. But the government didn’t listen, and over time went on to entirely abolish grants in the years since. Ironically, Ontario is just now reintroducing grants.
There are countries in the world that make higher education entirely free to citizens. I think that’s not only civilized, but smart policy. It’s good for any society, because it means that citizens can be fully engaged. It means that society is making best use of resources, because the most important resource is our citizens. You can probably tell that’s what I think that’s what we should be doing. [Yes, I know, they always say there is no money; but that is hogwash. They can find the money if they want to, since they can always find it for stupid things.]
I do, however, believe in democracy. And even if Canada doesn’t go that route, it is something that should be decided by Canadians, not dictated by government. So what is happening in Quebec is very disturbing.
I’ve heard that most Quebecers disagree with the strike, but of course, that is information obtained by polls, and polls can be gamed. And the mainstream media has descended into entertainment, so “the news” needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I myself look to the Internet for my news. The following open letter I share with you here was referenced by @ryanweal in a conversation on Identi.ca
An open letter to my English-Canadian friends. Please circulate in your networks as you see fit.
“You may have heard that there has been some turmoil in Quebec in recent weeks. There have been demonstrations in the streets of Montreal every night for almost a month now, and a massive demonstration will be happening tomorrow, which I will be attending, along with my wife, Elizabeth Elbourne, and my eldest daughter Emma.
“Reading the Anglo-Canadian press, it strikes me that you have been getting a very fragmented and biased picture of what is going on. Given the gulf that has already emerged between Quebec and the rest of Canada in the wake of the 2011 election, it is important that the issues under discussion here at least be represented clearly. You may decide at the end of the day that we are crazy, but at least you should reach that decision on the basis of the facts, rather than of the distortions that have been served up by the G&M and other outlets.
“First, the matter of the tuition hikes, which touched off this mess. The rest of the country seems to have reached the conclusion that the students are spoiled, selfish brats, who would still be paying the lowest tuition fees even if the whole of the proposed increase went through.
“The first thing to say is that this is an odd conception of selfishness. Students have been sticking with the strikes even knowing that they may suffer deleterious consequences, both financial and academic. They have been marching every night despite the threat of beatings, tear-gas, rubber bullets, and arrests. It is, of course, easier for the right-wing media to dismiss them if they can be portrayed as selfish kids to whom no -one has ever said “no”. But there is clearly an issue of principle here.
“OK, then. But maybe the principle is the wrong one. Free tuition may just be a pie-in-the sky idea that mature people give up on when they put away childish things. And besides, why should other people pay for the students’ “free” tuition? There is no such thing as “free” education. Someone, somewhere, has to pay. And the students, the criticism continues, are simply refusing to pay their “fair share”.
“Why is that criticism simplistic? Because the students’ claim has never been that they should not pay for education. The question is whether they should do so up front, before they have income, or later, as taxpayers in a progressive taxation scheme. Another question has to do with the degree to which Universities should be funded by everyone, or primarily by those who attend them. So the issue of how to fund Universities justly is complicated. We have to figure out at what point in people’s lives they should be paying for their education, and we also have to figure out how much of the bill should be footed by those who do not attend, but who benefit from a University-educated work force of doctors, lawyers, etc. The students’ answer to this question may not be the best, but then it does not strike me that the government’s is all that thought out either.
“And at least the students have been trying to make ARGUMENTS and to engage the government and the rest of society in debate, whereas the government’s attitude, other than to invoke the in-this-context-meaningless “everyone pays their faire share” argument like a mantra, has been to say “Shut up, and obey”.
“What strikes the balance in the students’ favour in the Quebec context is that the ideal of no up-front financial hurdles to University access is enshrined in some of the most foundational documents of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, in particular the Parent Commission Report, which wrested control of schools from the Church and created the modern Quebec education system, a cornerstone of the kind of society that many Quebeckers see themselves as aspiring to. Now, it could be that that ideal is no longer viable, or that we may no longer want to subscribe to it. But moving away from it, as Charest’s measures have done, at least requires a debate, analogous to the debate that would have to be had if the Feds proposed to scrap the Canada Health Act. It is clearly not just an administrative measure. It is political through and through. Indeed it strikes at fundamental questions about the kind of society we want to live in. If this isn’t the sort of thing that requires democratic debate, I don’t know what is.
“The government has met the very reasonable request that this issue, and broader issues of University governance, be at least addressed in some suitably open and democratic manner with silence, then derision, then injunctions, and now, with the most odious “law” that I have seen voted by the Quebec National Assembly in my adult memory. It places the right of all Quebec citizens to assemble, but also to talk and discuss about these issues, under severe limitations. It includes that most odious of categories: crimes of omission, as in, you can get fined for omitting to attempt to prevent someone from taking part in an act judged illegal by the law. In principle, the simple wearing of the by-now iconic red square can be subject to a fine. The government has also made the student leaders absurdly and ruinously responsible for any action that is ostensibly carried out under the banners of their organizations. The students groups can be fined $125000 whenever someone claiming to be “part” of the movement throws a rock through a window. And so on. It is truly a thing to behold.
“The government is clearly aware that this “law” would not withstand a millisecond of Charter scrutiny. It actually expires in July 2013, well before challenges could actually wind their way through the Courts. The intention is thus clearly just to bring down the hammer on this particular movement by using methods that the government knows to be contrary to basic liberal-democratic rule-of-law principles. The cynicism is jaw-dropping. It is beneath contempt for the government to play fast and loose with our civil rights and liberties in order to deal with the results of its own abject failure to govern.
“So that is why tomorrow I will be taking a walk in downtown Montreal with (hopefully!) hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens. Again, you are all free to disagree, but at least don’t let it be because of the completely distorted picture of what is going on here that you have been getting from media outlets, including some from which we might have expected more.”
“An addendum: one of the more egregious aspects of the law, which penalized omissions to deter, has been removed from the final version. That is better, which is not to say that it is any good, because vast tracts of discourse are still at least potentially under the microscope. Many have responded by saying that law-enforcers and judges will be prudent in applying these broad-reaching provisions. Perhaps. In Madisonian spirit, I say that it is best to economize on virtue, that is to make laws and institutions that do not depend on relevant actors rescinding from doing what the law actually allows them to do.”
Further reading: Resisting Bill 78 in 15 points: Concordia Full-Time Faculty Member
Personally, I’m proud of the students and their supporters for standing up for their beliefs ~ and what’s right. I hope these young citizens remain involved and continue to work for electoral reform in the future, and maybe we can have a more democratic Canada.
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
I am not an expert on SOPA, PIPA, or American Censorship of the Internet; but I do know quite enough about the issue to be extremely concerned. This blog got an awful lot of traffic yesterday, and it seems that there were a lot of unanswered questions about how this all will affect Canadians.
The following are many of the search queries — what people type into the “search” bar in their browsers — that brought people to this blog yesterday:
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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.
[“American Censorship” refers to the two Internet Blacklist Bills currently enroute to becoming law. The PROTECT IP bill is currently before the American Senate, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is in their House of Representatives. ]
Easy answer: Of course it will.
The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.
Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users
It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.
Chaos for the Internet
Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.
Q: What is the DNS system?
A: The DNS or Domain Name System is the hierarchy that controls the Internet URL naming conventions. If you want to set up your own website, the current common use is to register a domain name, to make it easy for users to find your website online. In the beginning, domain name registration was free, nowadays there is an annual charge. You can get a domain through a company like godaddy or choose a privacy respecting registrar like the one I use, Register 4 Less which can be found at https://secure.register4less.com/
This means that you can easily find Google at https://www.google.com/ or Josh Woodward’s music at http://www.joshwoodward.com/ or my brother Larry’s humour blog at http://www.larryrusswurm.com/
One of the most important functions of the Domain Name registration is to ensure that there is only one of each name.
Q: How does Internet Black Listing work?
A: It doesn’t actually turn off the website, it simply removes the site’s domain name. In cases of egregious law breaking, such as child pornography or even copyright infringement, this does nothing to prevent the breaking of these laws. The blocked website still exists, and will continue to be accessed by law breakers via numerical static IP addresses.
But what it will do is make it easier to block competition and innovation while making it more difficult for users to find the websites they want.
Q: How will Website Blocking affect Canada?
A: The Internet is all over the world.
If Websites are only blocked within the United States, American customers will find it difficult, impossible or perhaps illegal to access these blocked websites. If A Canadian website is accused of infringement, whether real or imagined, this blocking will mean the loss of American customers.
If blocking is done by DNS domain name removal, this will affect websites the world over.
Q: How will the Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users affect Canada?
A: Richard O’Dwyer, a British University Student is currently facing extradition to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement under existing laws.
Need I say more?
Q: What do they mean when they warn about “Chaos for the Internet?”
A: Different laws exist in different countries.
The Internet is comprised of networked connections all over the world.
Current American law provides for “safe harbors” which protect sites like Facebook, Flickr, and G+ as well as independent blogs and comments from legal liability in the event a third party posts illegal material.
Without this, the Internet will cease to be an interactive medium, because no one, whether independent bloggers or Internet giants like Wikipedia will have the luxury of allowing third party posting. A malicious edit in Wikipedia could spell the end of the fifth largest website in the world. YouTube can’t afford to screen every video for potential IP violation. Most Independent bloggers don’t have legal departments.
Canadian law is different than American law. Although Canadians are some of the most active people online, we seem to be users rather than pioneers. Recently Michael Geist appeared before Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry and explained the legal barriers that existing Canadian law has thrown up before innovative Canadian startups that might have become a YouTube, a Google, a Facebook or a Skype.
Canadian free speech
Recently the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land, established that Canadian Law should “Avoid restricting the free flow of expression.”
Yet it seems that elements of the proposed Protect IP and SOPA laws seek to make hyperlinking potentially a criminal act. Search engines would be compelled to remove links from search results.
existing Canadian copyright law
IP lawyer Howard Knopf shows that Canadian Copyright law is currently far stronger - and more restrictive to creativity – than American Copyright Law is currently. In Canada we have slightly shorter copyright terms than they have in the United States. I don’t believe Bill C-11 will increase this term if it passes.
Under existing law, Wikipedia is considering removing this photograph of Ontario’s Elmira District Secondary School ~ the school I attended ~ even though it is legal to use this image in Canada, if it is not legal under existing American Law.
This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired for one of the following reasons:
1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or
it was not subject to Crown copyright, and
2. it is a photograph that was created before January 1, 1949, or
3. the creator died more than 49 years ago.
The media description page should identify which reason applies.
This file is only in the public domain in the United States if it entered the public domain in Canada prior to 1996. This image can only be kept if it is also in the public domain in the US. If it is in the public domain in both Canada and the United States it may be transferred to the Wikimedia Commons.
Note: If this image is in the public domain in the US, modify the end of the copyright tag from “}}” to “|commons}}”. This will replace the preceding US copyright notification with a nomination for this image to be moved to the Wikimedia Commons.
Canada is a sovereign nation
It is bad enough that the American government has brought pressure to bear against our government in an effort to compel passage of a Canadian DMCA with Bill C-11 the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act.”
This will affect Canadians, and everyone else.
Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License
“EDSS Old School” Canadian Public domain image, posted to Wikipedia by Dconlon268
The Canadian DMCA logo freed into the public domain CCO 1.0 by laurelrusswurm
The weather isn’t as dreadful as predicted (yet) for southern Ontario; probably saving it up for the predicted thunderstorm to douse tonight’s traditional Columbia Lake fireworks display. But at least the holiday weekend falls near Queen Victoria’s actual birthday, which is the 24th of May.
I’ve always liked Queen Victoria. Probably because I thought her statue in the park was pretty cool.
Of course, having your own cannon, not to mention a lion standing on guard for thee adds to the mystique.
The poem I learned as a child went something like this:
“The twenty-fourth of May is the Queen’s birthday,
and if we don’t get a holiday we’ll all run away!”
I have to say that I was quite shocked that they don’t actually have this holiday in the UK. Guess its the case of the the colonies getting a bit carried away.
The Globe and Mail article “At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade” set off some warning bells for me. I have not looked into CETA nearly as closely as I have Bill C-32, but I’ve been hearing disturbing rumblings over the last months… or years, now.
Aside from the fact that previous Free Trade Agreements gave away a lot without perceptible returns, the funny thing is, a great many Canadians were disappointed with the actual lack of actual freedom in previous Free Trade Agreements. It’s very hard to see Canada’s “free trade” with the US has been beneficial when the customs duties supposedly removed still seem to exist under other names, and Canadians need passports to cross the border (not to mention having to choose between health risk or sexual assault if we choose to fly there).
Interestingly, while Canada stood mute on ACTA, the European Union very firmly put the breaks on ACTA by calling for transparency.
Who’s zooming who?
It is important for Canadian negotiators to negotiate for Canadian best interests. The following is my comment on that article:
Before Canada signs another so-called “free trade” agreement, we need both transparency and public consultation. Trade agreements made secretly are rarely in our best interest.
A disturbing trend over the last few years has been misleading “titles” of a legislation and trade agreements, with corresponding double think interwoven in the sound byte summaries that tend to run counter to the substance which are used to lull the citizens of this great land into allowing our interest to be sacrificed.
Like, for instance, ACTA. The so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.” As it turned out, ACTA was really an attempt to get Hollywood’s wishlist for Global copyright laws– preferential to the USA– imposed on on the rest of the world. Yet there was not a word about copyright in the title. Serious efforts were made to at suppressing the content of the agreement, even to the point of preventing duly elected members of the supposed democratic governments from being privy to the content being negotiated.
Another egregious example would be “Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act” which seeks to legislate away the freedom inherent in modern technology so it can be locked down to fill the corporate media industry business model of the last century. Whatever Bill C32 is, it is certainly not “modernized.”
I have serious reservations when Canada’s chief negotiator starts talking about the EU’s concerns with Intellectual Property, including copyrights, patents and pharmaceuticals, the warning flags go up for me. It’s even worse when he says things like:
“Our copyright laws haven’t been updated for some time.”
That’s one of the bits of classic propaganda stemming from south of the border as part of the American Copyright Lobby’s efforts to influence Canadian domestic copyright law (Bill C-32). That’s almost as troubling as people supposedly representing Canadian Interests citing the American 301 as ‘evidence’ of Canadian ‘IP Piracy,’ when the facts clearly show the United States (with it’s more draconian DMCA copyright law) has far more incidence of piracy than Canada does.
The fact that our copyright law hasn’t been updated in a while is not justification for change, particularly change imposed to satisfy foreign special interest groups. Canada has suffered serious inequities in the other supposed “Free Trade” agreements. The fact that the CETA chief negotiator believes that is a good reason to change our already over strong copyright law, and cites erroneous propaganda about it, undermines his credibility to negotiate in Canada’s best interest.
Before Canada signs any CETA agreement, I want to see what the WikiLeaks cables have to say on this topic. Maybe then I’ll be able to believe the people supposedly negotiating on our behalf are being honest with us.”
— Laurel L. Russwurm, comment on Globe and Mail article:
At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade“
To answer the title question? I’d have to say “No.”
Something so secret is very unlikely to be good for us. If it was, they’d be trumpeting it from the rooftops.
And no way should trade negotiators be writing Canada’s domestic copyright laws.
I can’t get over the fact that Tom Flanagan didn’t understand suggesting assassination was inappropriate.
Tom Flanagan thought assassinating Julian Assange was reasonable.
Canadians are becoming angry at the arrogance of our elected officials and their unelected advisors.
Democracies around the world are facing calls for electoral reform. Coincidence?
Like Wikipedia, democracy can be altered in a heartbeat.
If we don’t protect our democracies, we’ll lose them.
The other night I stayed up far too late because I wanted to know that WikiLeaks was alright. Because I think WikiLeaks is important,
WikiLeaks shines a light on important issues– issues that the powerful and the self important want to keep dark.
Which is why powerful forces are arrayed against WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange is facing charges that I think even the most naïve schoolchild would realize are trumped up, along with both cyber and economic attacks, topped off with death threats. Wonder if that’s enough jeopardy for Malcolm Gladwell, who made the argument that real activism requires jeopardy in his New Yorker “Small Change” article, which prompted my rebuttal Tie Theory.
WikiLeaks is kind of a hybrid activist/news media. It is a truly international organization. Its only country is the Internet. That was the other fault Gladwell had with Internet activism: he thinks that activism requires people to be closely tied. WikiLeaks depends on being a “loose tie” network. You don’t get much looser than total strangers. Total strangers opt to host or mirror WikiLeaks on their computers. Because the more copies there are, the more spread out the network is, the looser the ties, the more difficult it is to shut it down.
In my post yesterday I called on the Pirate Party of Canada to be a Canadian host of WikiLeaks. I don’t know if they’ll do it or not, all I know is what I’ll do.
I am Hosting #cablegate
[Disclaimer: No, I don’t actually know how to set up something like this myself; I had help. :) ]
You can peruse the cables at will on my Cablegate page,
or if you prefer to download or torrent You can do that here.
The thing is, I’m not alone. Here’s another list of WikiLeaks mirrors.
It isn’t much for one person to have to do, but there are rather a lot of us.
People connected through loose ties. We aren’t tied together by geography, ethnicity, family or religion, Malcolm, but only loosely connected by intangibles.
That’s how “loose tie” networks work. And it’s also why loose tie networks can be superior.
We all do what we can
You can just read the WikiLeaks Cablegate cables online. A new batch is released daily.
Or, you can add your computer power to help, by seeding the WikiLeaks material that you have yourself downloaded via torrents.
Or, last but not least, you can jump into the WikiLeaks network with both feet. Because the more spread out the network is, the more difficult it is to wipe out. This option is a bit more risky, particularly as it is lawmakers who want this stopped. Consider it carefully; remember you may wake up one morning to discover they have made this illegal.