thoughtcrime … in Canada ?

goat tethered on a hill

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

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

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

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

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

June 2010 poster: Toronto Resist G8/20

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

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

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

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

Because freedom of association is protected by the Charter.

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

Committing criminal acts is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Image Credits

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

Glossary

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Bill C-32 and the Environment

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

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[[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