ACTA and democracy

graphic shows Mouse Ears adorning the globe over tagline ACTA attacks Internet

[note: if you don’t know what the fuss is about, a lovely short film explains concisely here.]

The ZeroPaid article ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs makes the excellent point that ACTA negotiations are ongoing, continuing on their fast track with the intent of being concluded by the end of October prior to the American US election.

“There has been no democratic scrutiny of the text, Parliament has been shut out of this process,” laments the UK’s Open Rights Group (ORG). “This draft agreement lacks legitimacy before it is even agreed.”

— Zeropaid ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs

isn’t the same true in Canada? Parliament hasn’t seen it, I don’t know if any ordinary MPs have. I recall MP Charlie Angus pressing Industry Minister Tony Clement to make ACTA public, but it hasn’t been, probably because of the stringent non-disclosure requirements. In fact, none of the elected governments of the ‘democratic’ countries involved in ACTA negotiations have been made privy to ACTA. This means that our elected representatives don’t have any idea what is actually being negotiated.

That in itself ought to have been a red flag. In fact, Canada’s ACTA negotiators were working for ACTA even when our Government was prorogued early in the year.

Of course there’s nothing stopping politicians and citizens from reading Michael Geist’s blog (as our Minister of Industry himself advised. To that end, yesterday Michael Geist launched a new public service ACTAwatch blog. Still, that is no substitute for democratic scrutiny.

drooping

The main European ACTA site, La Quadrature du Net, along with the openACTA: Stop ACTA Now site from Mexico have been working tirelessly to keep citizens informed. We have been fortunate that in spite of powerful disincentives, there has been a steady stream of leaks from within the ACTA negotiations, so the secret treaty is not as secret as they would have liked.

As ZeroPaid points out, The European Parliament adopted Written Declaration 12, yet still ACTA marches on.

Particularly disturbing in all of the “copyright law” being peddled these days is the eagerness to throw out previously existing legal safeguards that have evolved over decades or centuries of democratic law. Like this:

ACTA in Art 2.7 (Ex-Officio Action) would also establish a ‘IP border police’,” adds the ORG. “It goes beyond the provision in existing international agreements such as TRIPs which provides that prima facie evidence is required to seize goods (Art 58). It also limits the time the border authority can seize goods for to ten days (Art 55). ACTA has none of these safeguards.”

I’d like to think that Canada’s ACTA involvement was done to exert a calming effect and to make sure what comes out the other end would be sane and balanced. Sadly, the fact that our government is continuing to push Bill C-32 in the face of near universal citizen opposition has disabused me of the notion.

The WIPO process wasn’t perfect, but at least it was transparent. Secret trade treaties have no business in democratic nations. I always thought that a key element of lawmaking in a democracy was to ensure any new law would reflect accepted societal norms.

We are still a democratic nation.
Aren’t we?

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#digicon

was #copycon futile?

Last year the Canadian Government held a Copyright Consultation to ask Canadians what we thought was important for Canadian copyright law. More than 8,000 Canadians from all across Canada made #copycon submissions. We have yet to see if we were heard, although rumour has it that the legislature will be seeing a new Canadian Copyright bill soon… possibly for June 2010. Many of us have serious concerns about whether it was an exercise in futility or not.

No.

From my perspective, even if the government does not listen and learn from the #copycon, I know I have learned an enormous amount about copyright and how we think from other Canadians who made submissions. From things I’ve read and learned from the #copycon, if I were to make a copyright submission today it would be very different. But that’s another post.

Canadians are talking about copyright, and understanding the forces at play much better. The conversation is far from over, and we need to get a handle on things and come to a consensus about before law is made.

What was said by Canadians in the formal Copyright Consultation submissions has laid the foundation of a valuable resource for all Canadians. A reference primer of “What Canadians Want”.

we don’t want bad law

But the law may be made anyway. Rumours that the government will try to push through a Canadian DMCA (a Bill C61 clone) have many citizens worried. But sometimes that happens, bad laws get passed.

Probably one of the biggest exercises in lawmaking futility was the American 1919 Volstead Act which we know more familiarly as Prohibition. God fearing law abiding solid citizens— people who wouldn’t have so much as dreamt of jay walking before Prohibition— instantly transformed into criminals frequenting speakeasies when the American law outlawing alcoholic beverages went into effect. The roaring twenties came and went before Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Because prohibition favored the goals of a special interest group over society’s mores it just couldn’t work. Aside from fostering near universal flagrant contempt for the law among citizens, a serious byproduct was the support this bad law gave to the growth of organized crime. Before American Prohibition, the mafia was just some petty disorganized criminals. After Prohibition gangsters became rock stars. How many books, articles, movies and even musicals have grown up out of the gangster mystique. Canada’s own gangster wannabes in The Boyd Gang seem to have hatched out of the gangster mythology. Folk heroes even.

Friar Tuck and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, Robin In The Hood Festival
Hundreds of years later we still idolize Robin Hood

What I know of history has shown that when bad laws are passed the populace initially chafes and suffers. Although the government passing the bad law hopes that people will put up with it, one thing that they never seem to expect is that bad laws provide their opponents with points of commonality.

Often people who are ideologically incapable of co-operating are galvanized into finding a way to work together when a bad law is passed. The bad law itself becomes a visible rallying point, a specific dragon to slay.

One of the most compelling things that any bad law provides to its detractors are the martyrs.

Although I talked about this story as an example of what to expect if the secret A.C.T.A. treaty is passed, it is a real life demonstration of what is happening right now in the US under the existing American DMCA. A young woman went to jail for the crime of recording her sister’s birthday party.

And although history shows that bad laws tend to be overturned in time, I still think it’s better not to have bad laws in the first place.

In the case of copyright, the people who will be most harmed by bad copyright law are the younger generation, many of whom have not attained voting age. As a mother, this special interest group is important to me, because I don’t want to see bad things happen to our best and brightest.

As a student of history I do know that there will very soon be a time when this generation will not only be able to vote but, may well be able to form a government. When I was a teenager we thought running for student council was a big deal. Today Canada’s newest political party has been formed largely by people barely old enough to vote.

Digital Economy Consultation

In the meantime the Canadian government has again asked us for our input.

This time it is for a Digital Economy Consultation. How the Canadian Government reacts to the changes caused by the digital world will have a huge impact on our future. Our economy.

A long time ago Canada had climbed to the forefront of the world of technology with the Avro Arrow. Yet an incredibly short sighted government pulled the plug on that and well and truly killed the project. Naturally it triggered a “brain drain”, as many of Canada’s best and brightest migrated to the United States to work at NASA. Surely we don’t want to go that route again.

Acryllic on Illustration board painting by Aviation Artist Lance Russwurm
Once Canada led the world in technology...

We certainly don’t want to end up in a legislative shambles the way the United Kingdom has. Their ill advised Digital Economy Bill (know to Twitterati as #DEBill) which was rushed through the legislative procedure without proper scrutiny resulted in a hung parliament and the fall of a Prime Minister. Surely Canada doesn’t want to go that route either.

All Canadians should try to participate…

…even if we say what we think and what we want, and they choose not to hear, the ideas will still be out there floating in the ether.

Judging by the quantity and passion of the comments I’ve been reading in online articles to do with weighty issues like UBB and copyright, many of us have thought about this and have a lot of good ideas. This is a good place to put them. And what better time to be heard than when we are lucky enough to have a minority government. At times like this, governments at least try to give the appearance of listening.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but as a mom I can tell you, when you ask your kid to pretend to go to sleep, before long he really is asleep. Maybe if our government starts out by appearing to listen to our submissions they will accidentally find themselves actually listening.

It’s worth a shot.

#digicon

I think that the #digicon will be just as valuable for Canadians as the #copycon was. The process isn’t quite the same as the earlier consultation. As I understand it, off topic comments (such as talking about copyright reform) are likely to be moderated out of the forums.

Read the #digicon Consultation Paper
Participate in the digicon forums – see what other people have to say
DENT about #digicon
tweet about #digicon.
Talk about it on your wall.
Then write your own submission.
**Note: They want a 250 – 500 word summary of the submission as well. I assume to make it easier to sort the piles.

the process

It seems that although the 40 page Submission Guidelines can be downloaded as a PDF, they are also available in clear HTML on the website. Yay! I love that they are asking for submissions in

text-only format or as a document upload (e.g., Word, RTF or WordPerfect formats”

http://de-en.gc.ca/submissions/

Sounds like they’d rather not get stuck in the PDF morass they had for copycon. Deconstructing all the PDF submissions is probably the chief reason why it took so long for all the submissions to be posted online.
(I hate PDFs!)

time limit

As of today, there are 49 days to make a submission. But there’s a lot to think about, so don’t leave it until the last minute (as so many of us did with #copycon)

Things you might say today may help someone else develop a brilliant strategy that would benefit us all. (Hint: that’s why re:mixing is such a good idea)

back-up

I read a comment yesterday from someone who was concerned that the comment or link they’d posted to the #digicon page had been subsequently removed (or moved somewhere else).

If you’re concerned that may happen to your comments or links, or if you’ve something you want to say about the Canadian Digital Economy Consultation that you feel may not survive their moderation, feel free to put it in the #digicon links & comments
My only rules: no spam, no personal attacks/hate mongering.

Similarly, if you have pertinent links you think may help answer questions or examine the issues, feel free to include them. If they start to pile up, when I have a minute I’ll list them under #digicon links in the sidebar.

insurance

Because some Canadians are a bit cynical, we not only submitted our formal #copycon submission to the government, we also posted it on our blogs or websites as (ahem) insurance.

As any emerging artist knows, the wider you can disseminate your art the more people will have the opportunity to become a fan. Or in this case, the more people who can see and read the argument, the more can understand the argument.

to blog or not to blog

If you don’t have one, you can get a free blog from various sources; personally I’d recommend WordPress.
If you don’t want a blog, but want to be heard, I’m willing to post submissions on the Oh! Canada blog as a guest post.

Consultation Questions

Innovation Using Digital Technologies

  • Should Canada focus on increasing innovation in some key sectors or focus on providing the foundation for innovation across the economy?
  • Which conditions best incent and promote adoption of ICT by Canadian business?
  • What would a successful digital strategy look like for your firm or sector? What are the barriers to implementation?
  • Once copyright, anti-spam and data breach/privacy amendments are in place, are their other legislative or policy changes needed to deal with emerging issues?
  • How can Canada use its regulatory and policy regime to promote Canada as a favourable environment for e-commerce?

Digital Infrastructure

  • What speeds and other service characteristics are needed by users (e.g., consumers, businesses, public sector bodies) and how should Canada set goals for next generation networks?
  • What steps must be taken to meet these goals? Are the current regulatory and legislative frameworks conducive to incenting investment and competition? What are the appropriate roles of stakeholders in the public and private sectors?
  • What steps should be taken to ensure there is sufficient radio spectrum available to support advanced infrastructure development?
  • How best can we ensure that rural and remote communities are not left behind in terms of access to advanced networks and what are the priority areas for attention in these regions?

Growing the ICT Industry

  • Do our current investments in R&D effectively lead to innovation, and the creation of new businesses, products and services? Should we promote investments in small start-ups to expand our innovation capacity?
  • What is needed to innovate and grow the size of the ICT industry including the number of large ICT firms headquartered in Canada?
  • What would best position Canada as a destination of choice for venture capital and investments in global research and development mandates?
  • What efforts are needed to address the talent needs in the coming years?

Canada’s Digital Content

  • What does creating Canada’s digital content advantage mean to you?
  • What elements do you want to see in Canada’s marketplace framework for digital media and content?
  • How do you see digital content contributing to Canada’s prosperity?
  • What kinds of infrastructure investments do you foresee making in the future? What kinds of infrastructure will you need in the future to be successful at home and abroad?
  • How can stakeholders encourage investment, particularly early stage investment, in the development of innovative digital media and content?

Building Digital Skills

  • What do you see as the most critical challenges in skills development for a digital economy?
  • What is the best way to address these challenges?
  • What can we do to ensure that labour market entrants have digital skills?
  • What is the best way to ensure the current workforce gets the continuous upskilling required to remain competitive in the digital economy? Are different tactics required for SMEs versus large enterprises?
  • How will the digital economy impact the learning system in Canada? How we teach? How we learn?
  • What strategies could be employed to address the digital divide?

Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage

  • Should we set targets for our made-in-Canada digital strategy? And if so, what should those targets be?
  • What should the timelines be to reach these targets?

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There are a lot of questions. After reading the material, listening and/or participating in the forum discussions, chatting with co-workers around the water cooler or the oil rig, or the kids in your youth group, or with your e-friends on Identi,ca, Twitter or Facebook…

Say what you think.

Our government is asking us for input. Let’s give it to them.

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[Digital Economy Simulpost: Since this will affect all Canadians, I’m posting the same post in all three of my blogs, Oh! Canada, StopUBB, and in the wind]

A.C.T.A.: Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (double speak)

This is terribly important information for all Canadians.

Wikipedia: Double speak language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.”

Since 2007 Canada, Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland have been participating in secret negotiations initiated by the United States for a supposed “Trade Treaty” called A.C.T.A., an acronym for the misleading “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”

The American copyright lobby, made up of media corporations, trade associations and copyright collectives representing the Movie and Music recording industries have somehow convinced the American government that this would be a good thing for the United States. On the American side, the treaty is being pursued under an executive order, which means that the American president has the authority to ratify it on behalf of the United States without first subjecting it to congressional scrutiny or vote. A.C.T.A. negotiations are continuing at break neck speed under heavy non-disclosure agreements which mean that most of the elected representatives of the countries involved in the negotiations are not privy to the terms under negotiation.

President Obama has denied Freedom Of Information inquiries on the basis of National Security. This type of treaty negotiation is not only wholly unprecedented, but possibly illegal as well under 19 U.S.C. 2902(b)(2).   Although it purports to be primarily about counterfeiting, the ACTA secret treaty negotiation seeks to regulate the Internet on a global scale.

I have spent a great deal of time attempting to make sense of this, since it will have serious consequences not only on Internet users but also huge impacts will be made on culture and economies around the world. The intent appears to be to legislating anti-progress by imposing strict control over the Internet.

A.C.T.A. “ stands to fatally wound all user-generated content sites from mailing lists to YouTube; which stands to criminalize kids for noncommercial file-sharing; which stands to put your internet connection in jeopardy if anyone in your house is accused of infringement, and much, much more.”

Cory Doctorow: Everything you want to know about the scary, secret copyright treaty

The media isn’t talking about A.C.T.A. which is possibly the most important and under-reported news story in the world so it is left to us to spread the word. Contact your elected reprentatives and tell them that A.C.T.A. is bad.

For more information on ACTA:

I have been blogging about A.C.T.A. in an effort to help other non-technical people understand what the issues are.

A.C.T.A. is BAD

errata: A.C.T.A. is BAD

A.C.T.A. is still BAD

Much Ado About A.C.T.A.

As well as some of the underlying issues: Nutshell Net Neutrality

D: BitTorrent

Personal Use Copying vs. Bootlegging

Free Culture, Copyright and Open Video

DRM is BAD

I’ve blogged a great deal more about copyright in the wind
This might explain why my novel “Inconstant Moon” is not finished yet.

Weightier A.C.T.A. Sources

Michael Geist, University of Ottawa Law Professor and Copyright Reform Proponent has laid it out in detail.

The ACTA Guide, Part One: The Talks To-Date

ACTA Guide, Part Two: The Documents (Official and Leaked)

ACTA Guide, Part Three: Transparency and ACTA Secrecy

ACTA Guide: Part Four: What Will ACTA Mean To My Domestic Law?

The quantity of leaked material seems to be increasing, so the latest info can usually be found in Michael Geist’s blog

Cory Doctrorow reports steadily on A.C.T.A. developments in his , and recently wrote a summary which can be found at Copyright Undercover: ACTA & the Web for Internet Evolution and he

Other excellent sources of information about A.C.T.A. include the digital liberty proponents: