WikiLeaks Cable dictates Canadian Copyright Law C-32

Canadian DMCA
Many Canadians had strong suspicions about the similarity between the Liberal Bill C-60 and the Conservative Bill C-61.

The overwhelming response from the vast majority of Copyright Consultation respondents indicated Canadians were opposed to TPM/DRM (Technical Protection Measures/Digital Rights Management) or “digitial locks”. Digital locks prevent users from using the media and devices the way they want to.

In spite of that, when Bill C-32 was tabled, TPM or “digital locks” was the most over-riding element, and made circumventing digital locks illegal. Even of we are legally entitled to access the content, under C-32 we would be breaking the law to bypass the digital lock.

This is the part that most upset me, as a writer, because this could remove my right as an author to distribute my creative work as I see fit. TPM/DRM places control of digital distribution in the hands of corporations. This law would have allowed manufacturers to use TPM to prevent consumers from accessing free material we are legally entitled to access on our laptops, dvds, cell phones and ipads etc.

If Bill C-32 had passed as is, Canada would most certainly have seen digital locks added to all digital devices, allowing corporate control of our culture.

WikiLeaks Cables Released

WikiLeaks logo

At last, WikiLeaks has released a batch of cablegate cables revealing the truth behind the conditions of so-called Canadian “copyright reform” saga.

A cable originating in the office of the U.S. Secretary of State is a blueprint for the copyright legislation the Canadian Government was expected to pass:

Prohibition of manufacturing and trafficking in technological
protection measure (TPM) circumvention devices as an offense
separate from copyright infringement;

Prohibition of circumvention of TPMs that control access to
works (quote access controls unquote);

Deterrent penalties against unauthorized circumvention —
both civil and criminal;

If there are any exceptions to TPM or rights management
information (RMI) liability, the exceptions should be clearly
enumerated and narrow in scope;

A system of protections and obligations for ISPs that
shelters them from certain liability, reduces and prevents
copyright infringement on the Internet and provides
incentives for ISPs to work cooperatively with copyright
owners.

09STATE92113, TALKING POINTS ON COPYRIGHT LEGISLATION FOR USE WITH GOC

Well, would you look at that. The most contentious issues — the issues objected to by Canadians — all come from the United States. And all the while, our government insisted that Bill C-32 was a “made-in-Canada” solution.

So, what would be Canada’s reward for making copyright law beneficial to the US at the expense of the Canadian public interest?

— (If needed) As Ambassador Kirk indicated in April, USTR is
prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess
Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list if Canada enacts
adequate legislation.

09STATE92113, TALKING POINTS ON COPYRIGHT LEGISLATION FOR USE WITH GOC
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selling out Canada

The “prize” Canada might receive for suborning Canadian Sovereignty in favor of American demands is that if we enact “adequate” legislation – legislation that suits American needs over our own – the “USTR is prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list.”

Or, in other words, all Canada has to do is make the laws the United States tells us to make, and then the USTR might stop lying about Canada, by placing Canada on the spurious USTR Watch List.

(And where was the “watchdog press”?)

Other cables recently released by WikiLeaks have clearly shown that Canada was only placed on the USTR Watch List in order to bully us into passing copyright law favorable to US special interests.

Ironically, Canada’s specious inclusion on the USTR Watch List has been a huge contributing factor in exposing the USTR Watch List for the fraud it is. Since the American record of copyright infringement is worse than ours, the United States should be listed there before Canada. The WatchList has been used against other countries around the world in just this way.

Clearly, Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA.

As we approach the 41st Canadian Election, Canadians should reflect on the fact that

both Conservative and LiberalGovernments have proven

their willingness to make copyright law harmful to Canadian interests

to appease our American neighbors.

Oh! Canada, indeed.

Please vote on Monday in the Federal Election.

Don’t vote strategically if there is a candidate you believe in.  If we don’t start voting for what we want, we will never get it.

The only Canadian political parties opposed to electoral reform are the Conservative and Liberal parties. Canada has other choices.  Visit the Elections Canada site to see what choices are available in your riding.

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Robert Redford, the Newsmedia and the WikiLeaks’ Cablegate

2009 portrait of the actorI fell in love with Robert Redford in The Sting when he was young and I was younger. Redford is one of the cinema’s greatest undervalued comedians; his timing is flawless as showcased in early work like “Barefoot In The Park” or later “Legal Eagles”. He even brought humour to his portrayal of “the Sundance Kid,” for whom his film festival is named.

But Redford has put in some brilliant performances in political films over the years.

He turned in a brilliant performance in a cautionary tale called “The Candidate,” which demonstrates clearly how degraded democracies can become.

But there are two movies I was reminded of when I read about today’s WikiLeaks story.

At the end of the movie “Three Days of the Condor,” the inadvertent hero Redford plays achieves freedom the only possible way:

by releasing the classified information to the media.

Because we know that even though he is a whistle blower, once the world knows he will be safe.
And we know the news media will ensure that the story gets out.

We know that.

WikiLeaks "hourglass leaking earth" logo
Robert Redford also played Bob Woodward in “All The President’s Men,” the film version of the true story of the “Watergate” scandal that brought down the Nixon administration.

There are countless stories of the bravery of reporters who risked, and in many cases lost– their lives in pursuit of a story that was important to them and the public. And it still happens.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that the world has changed a lot in the last few decades. In many cases, the News Media is not doing the job we believe it is. Citizens around the globe have NOT been told about the dangers of ACTA or the importance of Net Neutrality to free speech and democracy.

Part of it is, I am sure, that technological advances, in particular the Internet, has caused great upheavals in the Media business. As ownership has been increasingly centralized, downsizing, “dumbing down” and decimation of staff has left many newsrooms in very reduced and weakened states. The agendas of the corporate masters more often determines what is reported and how.

So we are very fortunate to have WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks was gifted with a heap of really important information. In order to ensure dissemination, they passed them around to five major news outlets located in 5 different countries. Each were aware the others had the story, so they ALL had no CHOICE but to publish, with or without corporate or government approval.

In this way, WikiLeaks guaranteed that the story broke and spread.

UK: The Guardian US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis

SPAIN: El Pais The greater infiltration of history reveals the secrets of American foreign policy (Google translation to English)

USA: New York Times: Cables Obtained by WikiLeaks Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels

FRANCE: LeMonde WikiLeaks: Behind the Scenes of American diplomacy (Google translation to English)

der Spiegel: Greatest Data Leak in US Military History

Now that it is out, there is no stopping it.

Al Jazeera: Secret US embassy cables revealed

Perth Now: Australia on WikiLeaks ‘cablegate’

boingboing: Wikileaks secret US Embassy cable site live

Mobile Tribune: 1128-“When the Head is Rotten, It Affects the Whole Body” WikiLeaks Cable Quote from Saudi King Abdullah

ANTIWAR.com: State Dept: FDP Makes Germany a ‘Difficult Partner’ in Terror War -Cable Says FDP Too Interested in Personal Privacy to Be Responsible Partner

This will go on for months. Maybe years.

@glynmoody

US ambassador to the UK complains about the loss of *privacy* of those writing the cables – http://bit.ly/eHlQWC #wikileaks

Guardian: US diplomats spied on UN leadership

There is a huge amount of information, and it will take time to digest, but at least it has gotten out. That’s a good thing.

Der Spiegel also has an interactive map.

@DougSaunders

Have you noticed that you can hit the “play” button on the Spiegel map and it shows the cable-bubbles appearing year after year?

— Doug Saunders, European Bureau Chief, The Globe and Mail

The map shows Canadian cables for:

  • Vancouver 44
  • Calgary 14
  • Ottawa 1948
  • Montreal 82
  • Quebec 52
  • Halifax 136

Of course, no Canadian news outlet was selected as a recipient of any of these WikiLeaks cables.

@kady

I mean, at least if there was a Canadian media partner, there would be someone to bully/entreat over upcoming Cdn coverage. #wl

–Kady O’Malley, CBC reporter

Canadian Coverage

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CBC: WikiLeaks reveals undiplomatic U.S. critiques

Canada’s government funded public broadcaster, the CBC, uses an American “Licensing” scheme which doesn’t allow even purely non-profit fair dealing reuse of their publications by Canadian citizens. So why would WikiLeaks even CONSIDER releasing this story to CBC?

Clearly, just like in “Three Days of the Condor,” WikiLeaks wants to spread the story as far and wide and as fast as possible. So that it can’t be stopped.

Globe & Mail: Released WikiLeaks documents shed light on diplomatic dispatches

The Globe likes to call itself “Canada’s National Newspaper,” but like that other television broadcaster, the Globe is owned by Bell Canada Enterprises. I assume that this corporate connection would be the reason why the Globe has been first so quiet and about the  fact  Canadian Internet rates are shortly to go through the roof due to Usage Based Billing.  It is only recently that it’s been possible to find UBB on their website at all.  Now  that they are, the bias is thick enough to cut with a knife.

As a blogger I prefer not to link to Globe articles because in the past they’ve broken links by placing articled behind a paywall.

So I can’t imagine the Globe standing up to government pressure to suppress the WikiLeaks story.

Having a Canadian Government in the process of pushing through Bill C-32 in the face of Universal opposition to appease the American Government, it’s easy to imagine our government buckling at the first sign of American disapproval.

So WikiLeaks released the Cables to 5 dispersed news outlets as a strategy to ensure that the story will break.  Because that is the reason for the very existance of WikiLeaks: to get the story out.  Even if it means the end of WikiLeaks.

Which is, of course, why WikiLeaks is so incredibly dangerous to governments who want to act without oversight or scrutiny.  And why Wikileaks is the destination of choice for whistleblowers with politically sensitive leaks go.  Because WikiLeaks is in it to get the story out.  Period.

Last Hurrah?

Even so, WikiLeaks has been down every time I’ve attempted to visit their site today.

I saw an unsubstantiated report that they were suffering a DDoS attack. And it isn’t hard to imagine where such an attack may have originated.

Of course, their servers may simply have gone down under the onslaught of un-official media outlets (like me).

Of course there have been tales of military personnel wishing for the demise of WikiLeaks. If they didn’t like WikiLeaks before this…

This story is out. It can’t be put back in the bottle. And that’s good.

If WikiLeaks is targeted, or taken down, what I worry about is the next story.

we are ALL in this together

Fortunately, I’m not alone in my concerns.

When Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative gets referendum approval, they are aiming to be good to go by 2012.

ICELAND TO BECOME INTERNATIONAL TRANSPARENCY HAVEN

“I am proud to advise the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative’s proposal to create a global safe haven for investigative journalism. I believe this proposal is a strong way of encouraging integrity and responsive government around the world, including in Iceland. In my work investigating corruption I have seen how important it is to have have robust mechanisms to get information out to the public. Iceland, with its fresh perspectives and courageous, independent people seems to be the perfect place to initiate such an effort towards global transparency and justice.”
—Eva Joly MEP – Icelandic Modern Media Initiative

That will be good for us all. Lets keep our fingers crossed that WikiLeaks can last that long.

Just In: WikiLeaks is Live!

Now you can peruse the Secret US Embassy Cables yourself.

Get ’em while they’re hot.

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Image Credits:
Robert Redford photo by Public Citizen published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Thanks @nomalab, @satipera and Glyn Moody and Jérémie Zimmermann

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

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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.

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Second Reading for Bill C-32

Canadian DMCA

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail assures us that,

Although all three opposition parties have criticized aspects of the bill, they are expected to pass it in principle so that it can move to the legislative committee that would discuss amendments.   At this stage, however, amendments could only address existing language; new issues could not be added.”

–Globe and Mail: Ottawa pushes ahead with copyright bill amid opposition

The most incredible thing is that NOBODY supports Bill C-32. Passing legislation “in principle” that is strongly opposed in all quarters seems foolish indeed.

Bill C-32 will NOT “update” Canada’s copyright law, it will actually work to regress it, by legislating control of the recording, movie and publishing industries back into total domination by corporations.

The “creative community” is not best served by any copyright collectives and unions that advocate legislation which returns artists to the indentured servitude of the last century.

“1¢ per download → Artist 68¢ per download → Record Company

“Is it any wonder musicians are choosing to go Independent? ”

Artists and Record Companies

The Internet makes it possible for artists to distribute their own creative works without having to sign away their souls (and copyright) to distributors (aka record companies) who continue to exploit them unfairly.

Flora records The Hummingbirds album

The copying levy actually works against the truly Independent recording artists (who comprised 30% of the Canadian Recording Industry at last count) who do not in fact share in the proceeds, but rather have to pay the levy themselves on the CDs they sell containing their own original material.

Last year the Canadian Government hosted a Canadian Copyright Consultation which resulted in an unprecedented amount of response from Canadians. The overwhelming majority of this direct citizen input emphatically opposed any kind of “Canadian DMCA.” Yet Bill C-32 completely ignored what Canadians want, instead this so-called “Copyright Modernization Act,” enshrines “digital locks” against the best interests of both citizens and creators.

In a democracy, laws should be made to reflect society’s mores, not dictate them.

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Additional articles I’ve written about Bill C-32:

Authoratative Resources:

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Tie Theory

Gladwell at a table, Los Angeles, January 2009

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a New Yorker article called Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted, ostensibly about the superiority of “strong ties” versus “weak ties” in social activism. His premise is that “social media” — that is to say, Twitter and Facebook — are not able to effect real social change.

Telling us that social activism requires closely connected people, Gladwell devotes much of the article explaining how the students who began the Greensboro sit-in in 1960 were friends and roommates. They had strong ties. Then he introduces the “second crucial distinction between traditional activism and its online variant”, a centrally controlled hierarchical organizational system.

Twitter and Facebook aren’t hierarchies but loose networks of acquaintances and strangers, which result in weak ties, according to Gladwell. He contends these networks are “effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires” which implies devaluation of this participation.

Gladwell dismisses an example of a digital “weak-tie” campaign that got people to sign up for a bone marrow registry.   Not because it wasn’t successful.   It was.   But because it somehow doesn’t meet with Gladwell’s criteria for social activism.   It lowered the barrier and made it too easy for people to participate.   I’m not quite sure what is wrong with lowering the barriers to participation.   Isn’t citizen engagement is a good thing?

Gladwell maintains that networks are not as effective or efficient as hierarchies because,

“How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?”

Centralization can be more efficient because there is single decision maker.   It works the same in government, with an omnipotent ruler as the head of state decisions are easy.   It’s always easier to forcibly impose “discipline” than it is to build consensus.

friendship = “strong ties”

As Gladwell points out, real world friendship can make for some very strong ties.   The two examples cited show clearly what can result from the strong ties of friendship.   On one hand, you can have something as important as the Civil Rights Movement; on the other, strong ties of friendship can result in a frivolous campaign to punish the person who stole your friend’s cell phone and wouldn’t give it back.

Both examples demonstrate successful campaigns.   One used the strong tie hierarchy of the Civil Rights Movement, the other the weak tie network of social media.

So, what has been proven, exactly?

Probably the low point of the article was Gladwell’s repetition of the oft used Facebook meme:

The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend…”

Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker: Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

Clearly, Gladwell doesn’t use Facebook.   Yesterday on the New Yorker live chat he admitted he’s not a Twitter user either, but that “I think someone created a twitter account in my name, and tweeted things a while back.”

Urban legends aside, the real point seems to be that Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter.   He doesn’t see the point.

Malcolm Gladwell:
I have nothing against Twitter. And I’d use it if I had more time. . . Here’s the deeper issue for someone like me or, for that matter, anyone contemplating using tools like Twitter. What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want a broad audience? Or a deep audience? In other words, would you rather do the best possible job engaging with a small but focused audience. Or would you rather spend your marginal hour reaching a large audience on a superficial level? There are lot of situations where the latter is a reasonable choice–like if I’m selling something, or announcing an event, or sharing a small but crucial bit of information. But I’m interested in exploring ideas in depth with the (small) group of people willing to geek-out with me. That makes strategy A a better choice.

—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker Ask the Author Live: Malcolm Gladwell on Twitter

What caused the escalation from not wanting or needing a set of tools to attacking the validity of the tools?

Malcolm Gladwell makes it clear he is opposed to Facebook and Twitter.   There are all kinds of things wrong with these two “social media” platforms.

Yet to my great disappointment, Gladwell doesn’t seem to know what they are.

apples and oranges

For the argument to have had legitimacy, it should have compared tools with tools, or systems with systems. It would have been reasonable to compare social media with mass media, say.   Instead, Civil Rights Movement Activists are compared with Twitter and Facebook.   Gladwell isn’t proving a theory, he’s telling us what he believes an activist should be and we’re supposed to take it on faith.

All it takes to counter “tie theory” is a different incident from the Civil Rights Movement.

No central hiearchy told Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat on the bus.   Even though there were others on the bus who shared her plight, lived in the same geographic location, rode the same bus, suffered the same oppression— all presumably the stuff of “strong ties”— those people chose not to stand with her that day.   She made her decision to resist as an individual.   Strong ties or not, the others moved to the back of the bus.

Activism doesn’t have to the result of some grand design strategized by a central committee.   Quite often it just happens when people have reached their tipping point.

From the Live Chat:

[Comment From William Carleton: ]
Mr. Gladwell, the COO of Facebook and a Twitter exec both spoke at a marketing conference this week. In a way, they seem to be making your case for you, without much sense of irony. The description of the session led by the FB exec talks of “activisim” as a brand promotion tool. Do you think part of why social media reinforces the status quo may be because the stewards of the most succesful platforms seem to be selling them short?

Malcolm Gladwell:
That’s hilarious. If the civil rights movment were taking place today, do you think that some corporate entity would see it as a brand opportunity as well? Would Dr. King have done Nike ads? But yes, I’m not sure Facebook does much for real activism when they treat it as just another app.”

graphic reproduction of page one of Freedom's Journal
The printing press was a tool for social activism

activism IS just another app to a corporation

Neither Facebook or Twitter are activists; they are corporations. They are not forces for good or evil.
They exist to make a profit.   These are businesses that provide a platform and offer apps.   Corporations
don’t care about the environment, but they will
go “green” if it means an increase in profitability.

A long time ago, a man named Gutenberg invented a tool called a printing press.   Over the years, this invention has been used to print bibles, history books, political manifestos, novels, newspapers, wedding invitations and even magazines like the New Yorker.   A tool is only as good as the use to which it’s put.

So why is Malcolm Gladwell attacking “social media”?   Although asked to define “social media” it in yesterday’s chat, he declined.   In the article he says,

It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.

Malcolm Gladwell, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

According to Gladwell, social media tools are not only a waste of time which could be better spent making a real difference, but they bolster the status quo.   He doesn’t offer any support for this premise either, though.

During the article he raises the stakes so that we aren’t just talking about ‘activism, we’re talking about ‘high-risk activism.’   The implication being that social activism without a component of personal jeopardy is not important.   Which is kind of like saying journalism without jeopardy is valueless.

Like Gladwell, I too grew up with stories of the civil rights movement.   A lot was accomplished.   Great odds were overcome.   And of course it makes for high drama.   Which is great on a movie screen but for the people living it, not so much.   In fact, I’m guessing that most activists would prefer not to give up their lives or their freedom or their livelihoods to meet their goals.   Think how much more Mr. King might have accomplished had he lived.

White lowercase letter F on a blue field is the FaceBook logo

Many of the more than 200,000 Canadians who had felt increasingly disenfranchised by unresponsive government have been organizing under the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group on Facebook.

Because it IS “easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns.”   And that’s a good thing.

Ironically a high school student created a Facebook activist group that helped save a forest in Gladwell’s home town.

Without actually using digital media, it is easy to be ignorant of the fact that conversations are possible in 140 character bursts. Links to longer works or reference material can be transmitted if more depth is required.

Malcolm Gladwell should understand the importance of these communication media, as he says himself,

“Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency.

Malcolm Gladwell Small Change

Yet he brushes it off as being important to business, not activism.   It seems that Malcolm Gladwell thinks we have all the information we need.   I think he’s wrong.   The older I get, the more there is to learn.

Particularly as we are smack dab in the midst of a digital revolution. It was fascinating to watch history being made as the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was debated in the House of Lords while being filled in on the background by UK citizens on an IRC channel.   Twitter and Facebook aren’t the whole story, there are blogs, and podcasts, and even other microblogging services like the non-proprietary Identi.ca.   There are a great many activists to be found on Twitter, and some of the ones I know are:

The blue Twitter bird mascot

@doctorow     @ninapaley     @JesseBrown     @Openattitude     @schestowitz     @PaoloBrini     @p2pnet     @jkoblovsky     @techdirt     @ZeroPaid     @Org9     @zotzbro     @mgeist     @GloriousAndFree     @zittrain     @Crosbie     @lessig     @jerezim     @_the_mad_hatter     @russellmcormond     @copyrightgirl     @crime_minister     @s_nunn     @mgifford     @EFF     @publicknowledge     @creativecommons     @juditrius     @StopActaNow     @OpenRightsGroup     @CETAWatch

Canada is very fortunate to have online activists.   This is especially important at a time when the main stream news media has failed to adequately inform citizens on a number of important topics.   Bloggers and online activists who broadcast and share information online have been picking up the slack.   We are also fortunate to live at a time when the barriers to assembly and partipation have been lowered by advances in digital technology.

In the absence of digital advocacy, Canadians could have been suffering under a Canadian DMCA as far back as 2005.   Bill C-32, the current incarnation of harmful copyright law we are facing, carries serious ramifications for Canada’s digital economy, as well as issues of cultural freedom, responsive government and even sovereignty.

Malcolm Gladwell may not find these issues as important as the Civil Rights Movement was, but they are of vital importance to Canada in the here and now.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves



Image Credit: Malcolm Gladwell photo by bunnicula (cc by-nd)

Also: special thanks to John S, for his blog post Whose Ties Are You Calling Weak” for focusing my attention on the issue.

Today is Software Freedom Day

Graphic sun rises over a green hill

What is Software Freedom Day About?

In a time when our lives are increasingly dependent on technologies,
it is important we take the time to consider the impact of technology on our lives,
and the importance of ensuring technology isn’t used to limit us,
but rather to take us further along a path of
opportunity, innovation and freedom for all people.”

“Proprietary software keeps the source code locked away from public scrutiny
which means that there is no way to know exactly what the software actually does,
and no way to trust it to safeguard your human rights.

“Software Freedom Day is a global celebration and education of why transparent and sustainable technologies are now more important than ever.”
from Freedom by Pia Waugh

Software freedom, Trademark, Patent and Copyright reform all overlap. My mind has boggled over the years as individual letters of the alphabet have been Trade Marked:

The madness has been escalating as corporations and organizations seek to take ownership of things that they have no real right to. Years ago I remember thinking how absurd it was that Toys “Я” Us laid claim to the letter “R”. Apparently they made a case for their creative use of their backward letter “R” to represent the word “are”. It seems incredible that any court would foolishly allow any corporation exclusive rights to a letter of the alphabet in current use, let alone as a symbol for a common word in our language.

Whether or not that was the intent, Toys “Я” Us has ever after aimed their legal juggernaut at any company daring to use the letter “R” — pointing in any direction– as a word ever since. “Right” doesn’t come into it. Without deep pockets and a crack legal team, no one can stand up to an onslaught by Toys “Я” Us.

The Eleventh Minute, the Eleventh Hour, the Eleventh Day

Mathematical equations have been patented (that’s what software is: equations) and copyright law is preventing performers from putting their own music on the Internet.

RMS GNU/Linux-libre: your portable libre operating system small enough to fit on a flash drive (aka thumb drive, pen drive, memory stick) or a live CD. Not recommended for new users unless they are very tech savvy.

You can find out more about Software Freedom on StopUBB:Celebrate Software Freedom Day

i was just asked “How has using free software changed your outlook”.

Having to discard perfectly good software that works well and satisfies the need simply because the corporation either:

  1. went out of business
  2. decided to stop supporting it

is a bad thing. Forcing consumers to buy new software is expensive in both monetary cost as well as the necessary time spent to learn the new stuff. Another consideration that almost ever considered is the cost to the environment. Discarding tech equipment before it should be thrown out is becoming an environmental nightmare made worse by the hazardous elements contained in many components.

I can hand crank my gramophone and play music pressed on 78’s without electricity. It’s a piece of equipment that is likely more than 50 years old but it still works and plays analog media that is much older still. Yet electronics don’t have that kind of staying power. How many computer components are in our landfills?

Other things that encourage both my use and support of free software are the heavy handed application of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Technical Protection Measures (TPM). These are methods employed in hardware and software to force your tech stuff to be subservient to the manufacturer. In many if not most cases DRM/TPM result in degrading the hardware or software, sometimes making it difficult to use, sometimes just crippling it so that things that should work don’t, and sometimes breaking it so that it doesn’t work at all. It used to be inadvertent “bugs” were the biggest problem in running software. Today it’s deliberate DRM. I suppose you could put DRM on free software but people would know what it was and correct it out. As far as I’m concerned, DRM is as much malware as spyware or viruses. If it is going to be allowed at all, it needs to be clearly labelled. The fact that it is not and consumers only know about it after they’ve purchased it is a huge government #fail

The biggest thing free software has done to change my outlook is that it has changed my way of thinking. Because the principals behind free software can be applied in many more things. For me, it’s made me rethink the idea of copyright, and then rethink it again. It has in fact encouraged me to join what Cory Doctorow calls the copyfight. As a writer, I’m embracing the concept of self publishing, and I will be releasing my debut novel under a Creative Commons License.

Balloons atop a Software Freedom Day badge

Because Canada has been under a great deal of pressure to “update” or strengthen” our copyright laws, three succeeding governments have tabled Copyright legislation. Fortunately for Canada, all three attempts have been by minority governments. “Fortunately” because the legislation would not serve Canadians, rather these draft bills could have been written by the largely foreign Media Copyright lobby. Minority governments are the only time Canadian citizens have any chance of being able to stop bad laws. The first two dreadful attempts at copyright reform went up in smoke as elections were called.

Currently we are faced with Bill C-32, which was introduced following the 2009 Canadian Copyright Consultation. More than 8,000 Canadian submissions emphatically said “no” to a Canadian DMCA, in particular “digital locks” or DRM/TPM. Yet the current government has tabled Bill C-32 in which DRM/TPM are set above all other considerations, in fact making it illegal to circumvent DRM/TPM for non-copyright infringing purposes.

I’ll be compiling a blog post of copyright links in my personal blog as my own personal initiative for creative freedom today.

It’s safe to say using Free Software has changed my outlook rather a lot. 😀

Happy Software Freedom Day!

For more information:
The website:                     The concept:
Software Freedom Day              SFD: An open letter
The philosophy:
here be dragons: It’s the ability to learn tools, not the tools themselves

artists and record companies

our story so far…

Flora records The Hummingbirds album

If you’re new to music industry news, you should be aware that the Canadian “Big Four” which makes up the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) is pretty much the same as the American “Big Four” or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The Canadian corporations are all branch plants of the American mother companies.

Before the rise of the Internet these corporations pretty much controlled most music recording and distribution. The Internet has changed things quite a bit. In Canada one very big change has been that 30% of the Canadian recordings are Independent of the CRIA big Four.

This is a serious threat to these industries. In the United States the massive media conglomerates including the RIAA and the film Industry equivalent, the Motion Picture Association of America MPAA have successfully lobbied the American Government to make laws beneficial to their business interests in the form of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, as well as prosecuting the secret trade negotiations called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

Canadian DMCA

How does this affect Canada?

The Canadian government has introduced new copyright legislation called Bill C-32 The Copyright Modernization Act into our federal legislature. The same way that the Canadian CRIA branch plants mirror the American mother companies, the American DMCA is mirrored in the proposed Bill C-32.

The so-called copyright reforms are beneficial to the corporations but not to consumers. In order to justify this the corporations attempt to occupy the high moral ground by using the argument that the labels are pushing this copyright legislation in order to benefit the artists. They claim that piracy — a word that is used to lump together activities from personal format shifting to commercial bootlegging– takes money away from the artists.

There is a wide spectrum of recording artists. At the one extreme there are the entry level acts, in the middle you have struggling artists and at the far end you’ll find the tiny percentage of stars.

Stars may have the opportunity to renegotiate their contract, or even to dictate terms. None of the other artists are able to do this because the record companies have traditionally held a disproportionate amount of power by virtue of controlling recording and distribution channels.

Eminem is a star. How does Universal Music treat him?

Giant screens project Eminem's image above the distant stage

Last week the music industry was shaken by court decision on a lawsuit. Universal Music, one of the big four record companies. has been ordered to distribute more of the money collected in royalties to the rap star Eminem.
The Star: Court ruling in Eminem case may raise pay for digital downloads
This article reveals some really interesting things.

Universal argued that Eminem should be paid a standard 18 per cent royalty rate for those sales, as he is for physical copies

are you kidding me?
18% for digital downloads?

FBT contended that providing a song to iTunes was actually a third-party licensing situation, similar to film and TV deals, which calls for a 50 per cent royalty rate.

The thing about digital distribution is that it costs next to nothing.

Once the initial costs are paid — recording, promotion — the actual distribution costs is free. The income is pure profit.

Universal said it will petition for a rehearing.

Universal is unwilling to give creator Eminem 50% of the profits.

This record company is going to go back to court and fight this.
I have to wonder how the mid range recording artists make out. Or the little guys.

Though the suit centered on details in Eminem’s contract, the basic principles involved could be relevant for other acts, especially those with deals made before the advent of digital downloading. Stiffelman and other experts said most newer artists have contracts that specify compensation for downloads.

Do these newer artists get 50% of the profit from downloads?

Or 18%?

or less?

I don’t know, but if 18% is the most a star like Eminem was able to negotiate, 18% is probably the high end.

The Motown Alumni Association, whose membership includes Martha Reeves and the Four Tops, had filed an amicus brief on FBT’s behalf.

“All the Motown artists who now receive a penny (per download) may be in a position to negotiate a new royalty because of this decision,” Martin said.

Motown artists have been enjoying a royalty of one penny a download.

1¢ per download → Artist     68¢ per download → Record Company

The Artist wrote and performed the songs.
The Record Company fronted the money for studio time, promotion and distribution (most probably all recouped from the artist portion of royalty over time).

After recording is done, digital distribution costs next to nothing.

Which is why personal copying and online music and movie sharing is so nearly universal. It costs next to nothing.
Yet a record company like Universal would rather fight their own artists tooth and nail than share the proceeds of sales with the artists in anything like an equitable fashion.

And of course I also wonder what the record company contributes that justifies a cut as high as 50% on a download.

Is it any wonder musicians are choosing to go Independent?

maple leaf leaning right

All the so called copyright “reforms” — the DMCA, the DEAct, ACTA and our very own Canadian DMCA, Bill C-32 — exist to legislate anti progress. They want to protect the imbalance of power recording companies had over creators in the latter part of the 20th century.

They want to change the laws to take away the freedom of choice that technological progress has brought creators.

Canada needs copyright law that will help creators, not corporations.


[Thanks to Jason Koblovsky for the heads up]

Image credit:
Eminem in Concert photo by Andy Sternberg under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License