ACTA keeps chugging along

President  Felipe Calderón posed in front of a book lined backdrop
"We welcome all views, including criticism, except insults. They will be automaticly blocked. Greetings to the trolls" --President Calderón

Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore blocks citizens from following the Twitter feed he uses in his capacity as a federal Cabinet Minister.

So far there are 60+ citizens who have been blocked. There are probably a great many more because Twitter users are not notified when they have been blocked.

If there is a possibility you have been blocked, the easiest way to find out is to go directly to @mpjamesmoore‘s Twitter page. If you’ve been following but now the green checkmark is gone, try pushing the “follow” button, If you have been blocked a drop down message will tell you so.

If you discover you have been blocked by the Heritage Minister, you can add your name to the list of Canadians Moore has blocked by following the @no_mpjamesmoore on Twitter. This twitter group was established as a public place for citizens to indicate they’ve been blocked by Mr. Moore.

Open Acta orange Padlock logo www.openacta.org

Extraordinarily this is not a problem unique to Canada. Mexico is having a similar problem with democratic accountability.

Last night on twitter I chatted about democracy with @StopActaNow, the voice of the OpenACTA Group of Mexico.

President Felipe Calderón chooses to block citizen access to his Twitter feed.

Concerned that the rights of petition, access to information and freedom of expression are threatened by this governmental disenfranchisement, Mexican citizens are currently investigating the option of legal action.

The 21st Century has been rough going for Democracy

In the meantime the ACTAsecret Trade Agreement just keeps chugging along.

The August 25th US version of the latest ACTA text was leaked to Knowledge Ecology International, who have published a transcribed PDF version which has also been made available as an HTML version.

ACTA has not been subject to constitutional scrutiny in ANY of the countries participating in the secret trade negotiations. Which is precisely why it is a secret treaty. As I understand it the constraints placed on participation were heavy duty non-disclosure provisions, which is why most elected representatives in most democratic governments of the countries participating are not informed of what is happening.

Laws like the US DMCA, the UK Digital Economy Act and our own misguided Bill C-32 will make it easier for the respective negotiators to sign on the ACTA dotted line. Most citizens still do not know about ACTA.

So tell the people you know. We need to spread the word.

WRITE TO OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.

Email is invisible and easily ignored. Ask people to send letters. Real letters. Paper letters that take up physical space. They probably won’t listen. They probably won’t actually read your letter, or entertain your ideas. The most compelling argument in the world probably won’t sway them. Our letters will simply remind them to send more propaganda form letters our way.

But enough letters will get their attention.

A minority government means that the majority of elected MPs are NOT part of the ruling party.
We can write letters to THEM, too.


If you’re having trouble deciding what to say and how to say it, the Digital Copyright Canada site offers sample letters and advice as well as information about copyright.

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digEcon scandals

[I’m breaking some of my digEcon issues down into a three part series across my blogs. The first part is published in the wind where I usually look at copyright issues as a content consumer and a writer. This second part here in Oh! Canada and the final part in StopUBB. When all three are complete I’ll add link arrows.]

Canadian Flag

One thing we all seem to love about the Internet is the opportunities we have to “Like” things. A simple mouse click bestows or withdraws our approval on comments or news stories on the Internet. It gives us the power to be heard.

Voting in the Digital Economy Consultation

classic thumbs up hand

The Canadian Government recognized our liking for “Liking” and gave us the means to do so on the Digital Economy Consultation website. The top three ideas appeared on the home page, right under Industry Minister Tony Clement’s video opening. Every time I logged in to the DigEcon site the same three ideas were on the front page. If you wanted to participate in the consultation you had to be registered and logged in to vote for an idea.

Classic thumbs down image

I’m not entirely sure how these ideas got there although I think they originated in the online discussion forums.

digEcon Voting Scandal?

One idea did really well, one which sought to Reinstate our Census Long Form aka Questionnaire 2B based on the understanding that in a digital world information is vitally important, especially for Government’s long term digital economy planning. A great many visitors to the digEcon site agreed with this idea and it quickly rose through the ranks.

Apparently the Government didn’t like this.

So the Government relocated it.

‘Reinstate our Census Long Form’ was pulled and tucked in an out of the way corner. Even after being pulled, at the end of the day it still held second place, having received +389 votes.

I learned about this from

But “officially” it didn’t count. As far as the Government was concerned, only the three ideas on the home page were the “winners”.

To Compete You Must Compute with +463 votes
A discourse on the importance of Supercomputers, it also appears to be an advertisement for Compute Canada

The idea to provide Open Access to Canada’s Public Sector Information and Data called for the creation of “a data.gc.ca for Canada’s public sector information” garnered +338 votes.

Finally in third position a proposal for improved access to publicly-funded data
with +197 votes.

The Census idea was removed July 9th, a day after Compete/Compute arrived onsite.

The Census idea was unfairly treated, but in all fairness you could still vote for it– if you could find it.

The Government claims the subject matter was outside the guideline, which clearly was not the case. Even if it had been true, it should have been taken down much sooner. It sat on the front page for a very long time to get that many votes.

The sad thing is that it has been well proven that this type of “voting” system can be easily “gamed”. The fact that it was done so heavy handedly is bad. I have to wonder about the appropriateness of Compute Canada’s vote getting campaign. Clearly the only concern is getting votes. I would hope that the Canadian government isn’t planning policy based on such flimsy data.

From the Compute Canada Website:

screenshot from the Compute Canada web page above a photo of Industry Minister Tony Clement, text  which reads Consultation on Canada's Digital Economy  Please vote for the Compute Canada submission "To Compete You Must Compute" at http://de-en.gc.ca/home/ . Instructions are:  1. Click the "Log in" link along the left hand side just under "Home" 2. Click register to get an account. The standard email confirmation process then occurs. 3. After you have an account, log in. 4. Click Idea Forum along left hand side of home page. 5. Click "Digital Infrastructure" in main window 6. Search for "To Compete You Must Compute" 7. Read and Vote. Or just vote a thumbs up.
Compute Canada's website campaign

Does Canada really want our future decided on the basis of an advertising campaign?

As amazing and important as supercomputers may be, in the real world there are very few Canadian Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) that would actually need supercomputer access. Certainly there are a few specialized cases where it would be ideal, but I suspect that most SMEs don’t use the PCs and equipment that they have now to the fullest. Everything changes so quickly, just keeping up is both cost and labor intensive.   It would be a lot of fun to play around with a Supercomputer, but as a writer all I actually need to write novels is my ancient laptop.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

digEcon Canadian Content Scandal?

I didn’t have time to be active in the forums, but something about the Digital Economy Consultation website disturbed me a little at the time. The more I’ve thought about it the more irritated I’ve become. The blue Twitter bird mascot

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

The site gave you the option to share your submission, and probably your forum ideas as well via email, Twitter or FaceBook.

And of course there were problems with the Twitter partnership, most likely because of Twitter’s extremely proprietary nature. Although it is the kind of thing that frequently happens with proprietary software and digital locks…

Digital Economy forum entry about software conflict between Twitter and the Canadian Government websites causing users to be blocked from sharing
digitaleconomy.gc.ca

So often ordinary users aren’t aware that the technical difficulties they are experiencing are DRM side effects.

red maple leaf graphic

What bothered me is that the Government of Canada has chosen to include both Twitter and FaceBook here on an official Canadian Government website. This is effectively an advertisement and a government endorsement of these two American corporations.

I am well aware that Canadians use these services, as I myself do.

That’s not my problem. I am wondering where the Canadian Content was. Hmmmmm… isn’t that one of the things that our current Heritage Minister James Moore is in charge of watching over?

In particular, I’m wondering why the Canadian Government chose not to give equal time to Identi.ca?

an Identi.ca page
My Identi.ca account

Why wasn’t Identi.ca included along with Twitter and FaceBook? Identi.ca is a Canadian Micro-blogging service. Like Twitter, only better in a lot of ways. I do almost ALL my “Tweeting” as “Dents” on Identi.ca

Like a lot of people, I have Identi.ca and Twitter connected for the best of both worlds.

using Twitter online
My Twitter account

Identi.ca runs on open source Status.Net software. Which isn’t at all surprising since both are part of the same Canadian company from Montréal. People and corporations all over the world are creating their own Status.Net sites. A corporation can easily run Status.Net software  on their own LAN.  It can be contained as an internal system or interconnect with other systems (without  FaceBook type privacy issues) because it isn’t proprietary software. I know individuals who run their own Status.net domain they then connect to Identi.ca

Status.net logo

I am not saying we can’t use American services like Twitter or Facebook. I’m writing this blog post on a blog on the American WordPress site.

But Status.Net is a Canadian digital economy success story.

I would have thought it elementary that the prime directive of the Canadian Government’s Digital Economy strategy would be
promotion of the Canadian businesses who are out there building Canada’s Digital Economy.

At the very least I would expected our Government to give equal time to Canadian Digital Enterprises.



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Image Credits

“Thumbs Up” by David Benbennick, Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0 License
Image Credit “Thumbs Down” by Joe Goldberg under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generc

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Astroturf: promoting Bill C-32

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

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

grass

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

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

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

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

dandilion in the grass

The Internet gives citizens a voice.

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

Today we can blog about bad stuff.

Or create a website to push for change.

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

And organize on a Facebook page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

blades of grass

political astroturf?

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

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

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

Wikipedia on astroturfing

misinformation

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

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

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

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

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

the line in the grass

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

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

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

istockphoto_8506505-happy-young-men-and-women-standing-together
Go to istockphoto for Royalty Free images

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

boingboing logo

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

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

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

pirate party of canada

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

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

soccer ball

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

Canadian DMCA

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

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

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

Globe and Mail, Tory bill cracks down on copyright pirates

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

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

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

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

Whose law is it anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

Citizens don’t want this law.

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

Why is the Canadian Government pursuing this so strongly?

Perhaps it’s time our Government started thinking about what legislating Canadian Copyright Law to appease foreign Interests will do to Canadian Heritage.
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