Learned at the KW Stop C-51 Day of Action

In spite of the fact the Harper Government fast tracked Bill C-51, the Parliamentary Committee won’t re-convene until next week.  When you consider the Harper Government’s vow to have this legislation rushed through so it can be passed by the end of the month, this is a dramatic demonstration of how little scrutiny the Harper Government is willing to accord Bill C-51.

The same can’t be said for the rest of us, because Bill C-51 is actually getting a great deal of scrutiny outside the Parliament Buildings.

There are a lot of terrible things in this draft legislation, but as a writer I am especially concerned about it’s assault on Free Speech.   Ordinarily I only blog about Canadian Politics sporadically, but this week I hope to post daily.   I began Monday with David Weber warns Bill C-51 will lead to a Police State #RejectTerror #StopBillC51 and yesterday I posted about the film I’ll be seeing tomorrow night, The Secret Trial 5 ~ Screening Tour.  Today I want to talk a little about how the news media has let us all down.


Telling the KW Stop Bill C-51 Rally about COMERS vs Bank of Canada
Speaker at the Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against Bill C-51

The Watchdog Press Is Dead

For a long time I’ve known the mainstream “news media” we trust to keep us abreast of the things have dropped the ball. Even though we are most definitely in the information age, newspapers, radio and tv news are not telling us what we we need to know if we are to be thee informed citizenry of a free country.  Because the mainstream news media is not a public service, but the property of corporate entities. Lou Grant was fictional, and in today’s world, Woodward and Bernstein wouldn’t have brought down a presidency, they would have landed in Guantanamo Bay.

In Canada the largest commercial advertiser, the single biggest consumer of advertising in the country is the Canadian Government.

So it is understandable that newspapers and tv networks don’t want to alienate their biggest client. Then too, these media outlets are at the mercy of corporate advertisers — who have their own agenda.  With a big enough bankroll of advertising dollars might make it possible to influence news programming and/or editorial styles.  In addition to the substantial influences exerted both by business and government, the main stream media also happen to be owned by corporate entities with their own agendas. So it isn’t surprising that the “news” what we see on mainstream television, hear on mainstream radio and read in mainstream newspapers comes wrapped in bias. And since these mainstream outlets compete for advertising dollars, the “news” must entertain to try to attract the largest audience.

Our silver bullet to ward off government control of our news media was supposed to be Canada’s independent arms-length national broadcaster, the CBC. Unfortunately CBC has not proven itself immune from government intervention. On the Harper Government’s watch I understand the CBC Board of Directors is dominated by Conservatives. Making things even worse, the Canadian government’s failure to fully fund what should be a public service has made the CBC vulnerable to advertisers in the same way the “commercial” news media is. So although there are occasional blips of CBC independence, it isn’t  really surprising CBC has failed to defend itself or stand up to the powerful forces arrayed against it.

All of which means that even the biggest Canadian news junkies are not actually very informed by the mainstream media.

The Internet is providing alternatives to the mainstream, but even though we are seeing the rise of citizen journalism with both reportage and opinions via blogs and podcasts and social media, even though alternative news outlets like websites like Rabble, the Tyee, Media Co-Op, Canadaland, Huffington Post Canada, Yahoo News etc. are growing their audiences, they are still overshadowed by the powerful mainstream media dinosaurs who still walk the land.

StopBillC51 at Kitchener City Hall

Comer vs Bank of Canada

All of this explains why most Canadians, like me, have never heard of Comer. The first I heard of this very important issue was when a young man got up on the stage at Kitchener City Hall and said a few words to the crowd about how Canadians Sued The Bank Of Canada & Won. Mainstream Media & Government Blacks Out Story

As someone who feels mathematically challenged I am still trying to get my mind around what this means, but at minimum it is something that Canadians should be hearing about. You can find out more at the COMER website.

Even though the mainstream media has apparently chosen (or been told) to ignore this issue, there has been new media coverage.   I am certainly no economist, but there does seem to be information out there.  So far I have just scratched the surface, so I have not read much of the information available; nor have I watched all the videos in the playlist.  It will take time to get a handle on this.

Still Report #356: Good News From Canada

New World Next Week: Canadian Sue the Bank of Canada

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ACTA W5

When I was a kid there was an excellent Canadian news magazine television series called W5 which taught me (and probably other Canadian watching) about the five spokes of journalistic inquiry.

Since the mainstream news media has declined to cover ACTA in any meaningful way, I thought I’d say a few words here.

WHO

Participating in ACTA

mouse ears on the world: text says ACTA ATTACKS INTERNET

  • Australia
  • Canada,
  • the European Union
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • United States

American Flag hangs down

ACTA came with heavy duty Non-Disclosure penalties. Which is why most if not all of the elected representatives of the participating governments were kept in the dark about what was even on the table. This includes elected representatives of the American Government. If they were made privvy to the negotiations, they were legally restrained from talking about it. Not very democratic, eh?

Of the few Americans who were at all aware of ACTA, most believed that Congressional oversight would protect them, and if conditions were untenable to American citizens it would have been possible to stop ACTA at that point. The problem was, however, that ACTA was proceeding under an executive order, so only the president’s signature would be necessary for ratification.

WHAT

ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The problem is, that is only part of it. The scope of ACTA is actually much wider.

ACTA was supposed to be negotiated in secret.
Presumably to keep out the riff raff (i.e. citizens, consumer interest groups)

Although deliberately not mentioned in the title, it seems clear that the primary purpose of ACTA was always to deal with copyright enforcement. The intent was to do an end run around WIPO, the successor to Berne, which was previously the International means of achieving copyright treaties. The WIPO process was transparent, so that everyone knew what was being negotiated. ACTA was secret, so that no one would know.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) selected the countries they believed it would be possible to pressure into signing an agreement beneficial to certain American Corporate Interests.

WHERE

The negotiation “rounds” took place around the world.

WHEN

Begun by the Bush administration in 2007, continuing until now, ACTA has been pushed equally hard by the Obama administration, and in the current president invoked national security as a means of keeping the terms secret.

ACTA was put on a fast track in an effort to shoehorn it’s passage in time for it to become a “done deal” before the American federal elections in November.

One of the chief sources of information and organization in the fight against ACTA has beenLa Quadrature Du Net whose latest word on the subject is: ACTA is No Done Deal.

WHY

cheese and crackers on a tray

The USTR wants the entire world to conform to their agenda, which is dictated by American corporate interests.

Issues the United States would not give in on included recognizing and paying royalties for American use of European geographical trademarked names for types of cheese (like “Parmesan”) or alcoholic beverages (“Cognac” or “Champagne”)

The copyright terms of ACTA appear to have been largely dictated by the MPAA and RIAA, and in many ways seek to impose DMCA like copyright conditions on the rest of the world. Yet the DMCA has not actually been good for American citizens or culture, in fact causing many unintended chilling effects. Over the course of the DMCA’s existence, it has undergone repeated constitutional challenges which has resulted in changes that lessen it’s grip.

In the mean time, there has been an unprecedented amount of American lobbying efforts directed at influencing the copyright law of other countries, I think to alter their domestic copyright law in order to make signing ACTA work. The Digital Economy Act was rushed though the U.K. Parliament without the usual level of democratic scrutiny or debate under the “wash-up” process.

Canada has been subject to USTR pressure and lobbying efforts for nearly a decade. Repeated spurious inclusion on the USTR’s piracy watch list has provided a patina of legitimacy to completely unfounded rumours of Canadian copyright infringement, when in fact a growing body of evidence indicates Canada’s incidence of copyright piracy is far lower than American. As well, this false allegation has been used over and over again to fuel misinformation and propaganda in lobbying attempts to force Canada to rewrite our copyright law to American specifications.

Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the fact that first the Liberal Party of Canada and then the Conservative Party of Canada have tabled draft legislation that mirrors American copyright law. Some have said these three are close enough to the American DMCA to be themselves considered infringing on it’s copyright.

Yet that isn’t really a charge that could stick, because unlike Canada, the United States does not have “Crown Copyright.” Any Intellectual Property generated by the American Government goes directly into the public domain under the assumption that having alreasdy been paid for, it should not be paid for again. In this way everything from NASA photos to American legislation are not protected by copyright.

This is just one of the ways American copyright law is “weaker” than Canadian existing copyright law.

the real “why”

Commercial counterfeiting, also called “bootlegging” most probably does cut into MPAA/RIAA profits. And like me, most people opposing ACTA and laws like the UK DEA or Canada’s Bill C-32 don’t have a problem with cracking down on commercial bootlegging.

My problem is they are trying to change the laws of ownership to make sharing illegal.

The people pushing for these laws have indicated they think personal back-ups and format shifting should be illegal. I’ve also heard it said that consumers shouldn’t be allowed to lend their digital books or CDs or DVDs to others; the Industries want every person who gets access to these works of “Intellectual Property” to pay for the access. In the extreme this means that both parent and child will require a license in order for the parent to read their child a story.

Some would say that this is the extreme, and that it hasn’t yet happened under the DMCA.

But ACTA has NOT passed.

Once laws like this are universal those things will start becoming accepted. ludicrous or not. The fact that a young Chicago woman spent two nights in jail for videotaping her sister’s birthday party under the existing DMCA is proof enough for me.

From an industry standpoint, that would be the icing on the cake, but is not the real goal.

Stopping “piracy” is another red herring.

While Industry studies may show vast losses of income due to peer to peer (p2p) filesharing, independent studies have shown that p2p actually increases industry profits because it increases exposure. The same way that radio airplay increases exposure and sold records, and now CDs.

The real goal of draconian copyright measures being contemplated or implemented is to stop independent access to distribution.

The combination of vast decrease in the costs to production of digital media with the ease of Internet distribution is the true menace to the media giants represented by the MPAA and the RIAA.
NO Canadian DMCA

In Canada almost a year ago, This Magazine reported that 30% of the Canadian Recording Industry is now Independent. Independent Canadian Artists no longer have to barter away their copyright in order to record or distribute their music. This is the real threat to the Incumbents. Ultimately the goal of the copyright law they want to pass is to stop this Independent erosion of their control of these Industries.

This trend is not confined to music. Internet video productions are beginning to become more common, and excellent feature films like Sita Sings the Blues and Die Beauty are being made by independent creators and distributed legally via p2p online.

It’s the LEGAL p2p traffic that they really need to stop.

Because the best way for Independent Artists to distribute their digital wares is through the Internet.
Which is why ACTA is bad.
This is why p2p is actually good for culture, and Net Neutrality must be protected.

What Happened to the News Media?

You become a writer, by writing. You become a driver by driving. You may be licensed to drive, but if you don’t get behind the wheel and drive, you aren’t a driver, In the same way, you become a publisher by publishing.

I am just floored by the saga underlying the p2pnet article: Wayne Crookes wants to freeze the net. It seems that p2pnet Blogger Jon Newton is (and apparently has been) almost all the way through the Canadian court system because he’s being sued for defamation and libel. Next stop: Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Newton is in fact the publisher of a blog called p2pnet. He is being sued by Mr. Crookes for libel and defamation, not because Newton himself published anything defamatory or libelous, but because Newton linked to other articles on the Internet that Mr. Wayne Crookes of West Coast Title Search Ltd. claimed were libelous and defamatory.

The crux of Mr. Crookes’ suit is the contention that creation of hyperlinks and subsequent refusal to remove hyperlinks to alleged libelous web pages makes Newton a publisher of the source material, and therefore responsible for it. The convoluted idea is that he became a publisher of the source material through inaction.

On all of Mr. Crooke’s previous days in court against Mr. Newton, the courts have agreed that the use of an Internet hyperlink is the Internet equivalent of a footnote, therefore absolving Mr. Newton of any culpability. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. I’ll go along with the idea that a link is the Internet equivalent of a footnote that will direct you to the source.

But the Montreal Gazette article explains Mr. Crooke’s latest argument:

Crookes contends that Newton, by creating the hyperlinks and then refusing to remove them when advised they were libelous, became a publisher by his inaction.

“Given that Mr. Newton didn’t break the hyperlink and continued to act as a chain of publication, Mr. Crookes is taking the position before the court that he is in fact republishing the defamation,”

said Dermod Travis, a spokesman for Crookes, owner of the company West Coast Title Search.

from the Montreal Gazette: Supreme Court wades into Internet speech debate with hyperlinks case

Jon Newton’s article explains Mr. Crookes contention:

“linking to an article is the same as publishing it and that linking to an allegedly libelous article can, therefore, be the same as defamation.”

from the p2pnet article: Wayne Crookes wants to freeze the net.

A slashdot comment suggests that unlinking the link would have made it into a mere textual footnote and solved the p2pnet problem is… ahem… absurd. After all, a proper footnote in a scholarly work tells you what the exact source is. If the source is a published book, I should be able to get a copy from my local bookseller, which would put the source directly into my hand. Does that mean the bookseller published it? Hardly.

Whether an Internet footnote (aka a hyperlink) is an actual hyperlink — like this earlier p2pnet story:
http://www.p2pnet.net/story/12056

or a textual representation of a hyperlink like this: http://www.p2pnet.net/story/12056

it is possible for anyone to click the former or cut and paste the latter your search bar and voila, you’re at the original source.

Libel? Defamation?

It doesn’t even matter whether the articles p2pnet linked to were in fact defamatory.

That isn’t the issue Mr. Crookes has brought before the Canadian Supreme Court, it is whether or not including a hyperlink to source material makes you responsible for the source material. The Crookes contention is that Newton’s links to the source material makes Newton a publisher of the allegedly defamatory original source.

What is a publisher?

I would think that a publisher would have at least some element of of ownership– even if only moral– and at least some measure of control in the publication.

Book, Newspaper and Magazine publishers have traditionally asserted copyright over the material they publish, and because of this, have been able to charge advertisers to advertise in their publications and to have customers purchase a single issue or subscription.

Wikipedia has an excellent comprehensive article on what constitutes publishing, and nowhere do they say use of a hyperlink constitutes publication. Of course, Wikipedia is one of the parties Mr. Crookes has sued.

As a lowly beginner blogger, I do not have ads on any of my blogs. Even so, I am the publisher and have control over what goes into them. Although I have not been blogging long, I have learned that the point of the internet is inter connectivity. Because of this, I strive to use as many links as possible in every blog post to share my source material. By using these hyperlink footnotes, my readers have the opportunity to decide if I have misinterpreted the information provided by my sources.

The reader can read the link in my blog, but unless the reader clicks on the link, the reader cannot read the source material. Because the source material is not in my blog, it is not under my control. It is published on someone else’s website.

As a self-publishing blogger I have authority and responsibility for what is in my blog. Although I can direct people to the source of information with a link, I have no control over the information in the link. I have absolutely no power to add to or change the information on the originating site. I do not receive either royalties or advertising revenue from the originating site. It’s terribly annoying when a site I have linked to breaks the link. I know how frustrating it is to read an article with broken links. But the person creating the link has no control over the sites they link to.

If the source material that Jon Newton or any online publisher links to proves to be libelous or defamatory, then I would expect the originator of the libel and/or defamation to face a court challenge. I have grave reservations about censorship of web content based on allegations, rather than rule of law. If the material is alleged to be defamatory or libelous, the law can investigate. If convicted the originating website will take the offending material down one way or another.

If that happened, Jon Newton’s links would have been broken. He would not have been asked to act as judge and jury. The LAW would have filled those functions. Yet it seems that he is being sued because he did not himself break the links based only on allegations.

Jon Newton is a blogger, not a judge. Bloggers engage in online discussion, and express opinions and disseminate information, not pronouncements of law.

This is a huge issue that could well lead to ramifications for the freedom of the entire Internet.

Mainstream Canadian Media is near silent

As I write this, I’m a little bit nervous. I don’t have a lawyer. What if I get sued? I’m just a mom with a blog, trying to make sure that the Internet continues to be a wonderful interactive place, to do my bit to see that the world our kids inherit is as good as it can be.

One of the first things I learned as a parent is that children learn best from modeling. Freedom of speech is incalculably important, and I have always taught the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Using fear and allegations to censor and suppress dissent is never a good thing for society.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.

–Edmund Burke

An issue this important should be getting big headlines in Canada at least. Talked about on the Radio. Top of the hour on the TV news. But no. I only heard about this from an online friend Haris in Malaysia who was reDenting British writer/journalist/blogger glynmoody. Not from the Canadian news media.

The “News media” has a mystique which has built over the years.

The legend grew as great reporters risked their life and liberty so that great newspapers and radio/tv stations could honestly inform citizens about what was happening in the world.

Reporters like Ireland’s Veronica Guerin risked and lost their lives exposing drug dealers to make the world safe, and reporters like Woodward and Bernstein risked their liberty reporting about corruption at the highest level of the American government to make the world better for succeeding generations. Many reporters have risked their lives for a story over years, many have gone to jail in order to protect their sources. Many have died.

Getting these news stories was important. But the value to society only came into play when the newspaper published the story.

@haris CNN screenshot. Their Newspulse shows Wikileaks vid as most popular story. They still won’t feature it. http://file.status.net/identica/greggish-20100406T032041-cgghd33.png

Unfortunately there has been an ever increasing trend to sacrifice the news to profits. Newspaper, radio and television newsrooms have been gutted and gutted and gutted some more. Reporting the news started coming second to ratings. Objectivity lost out to advertisers. Today the news is “packaged”, and quite often editorial content seems handed down from above.

As news outlets have been bought and sold and sold some more they have ended up as tiny pawns in gigantic media corporations. I don’t know if they’ve lost their voices, or if they are afraid to report for fear of being shut down entirely.

There are precious few independent news purveyors left in the world. And even those few are scrambling for advertising to survive. In today’s world advertisers seem to dictate the news.

But what they are NOT doing is providing the news without fear or favor,

In Canada, the “news media” is NOT telling Canadians about Usage Based Billing. Around the world there has been barely a breath about the secret A.C.T.A. treaty being aggressively pursued by many supposedly democratic governments in secret… because they know very well their citizens would not agree.

And we are still a nation at war. Why? I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t strike me as a just war. Worse, bad things happen. Canada has not behaved well in Afghanistan. Our military and our government is implicated under a cloud of torture which continues to be covered up. Even Pierre Berton wouldn’t have been able to make this one palatable. I suspect it would have sickened Canada’s esteemed biographer as much as it sickens me.

Bad things are continuing to happen. Canada is no longer the lily white peace keeping force. We aren’t helping anyone. Continuing to hang around and prop up this war that is bad for all of us; it lends credibility to the war that shouldn’t be.

And today another horrendous story has broken, which again was brought to my attention from the other side if the world, from wikileaks via Haris, who lead me to a blog post by biologist P.Z. Myers: We have seen evil, and it is us Unlike professor Myers, I can’t watch the “Collateral Murder” video which shows the casual slaughter of Iraqi journalists. But I can help spread the word.

What ever happened to the Canadian news media? Shouldn’t intrepid reporters be spilling these stories? Two Iraqi journalists lost their lives… and for what? Why aren’t their brethren standing up for them?

Why isn’t the news media doing its job?

That’s why net neutrality is so important. Not just for internet freedom. But for freedom.