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.
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 The roaring twenties came and went before Prohibition was repealed in 1933.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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)
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
[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]
As a Canadian concerned with corporate subversion of democracy, I watched a good bit of the BBC democracy live coverage of the United Kingdom’s ill conceived Digital Economy Bill, known around the world by the acronym #DEBill, being made hastily into law.
Earlier in the year there were great howls of protest from Canadians as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prematurely prorogued parliament as a means of deflecting hard questions about Canadian involvement in torture overseas. Prorogation in Canada means that all the unfinished legislation is tossed out, and is usually done just before an election. Canadians were quite upset about this abuse of democracy, and a result has been the politicizing of a good number of previously apolitical citizens which in retrospect may well be regretted by those in power.
The UK also has prorogation, but before applying it their government can fast track laws in progress during a process called “wash-up” Traditionally in the past, only uncontroversial laws have been rushed through during wash-up, as the alternative is to have to start over from the very beginning at the next session of parliament. But this time, the Digital Economy Bill has been rushed through even through it is not only controversial but riddled with serious deficiencies which will result in sweeping changes to UK democracy.
I also spent a bit of time trying to follow #DEBill on twitter yesterday but there were so many people doing the same it was going so fast and freezing up, it seemed that #DEBill nearly killed twitter. Looking at it today there is still a great deal of activity there.
I think it is sickening that the UK MPs dismissed thousands of protests from constituents. There were thousands of signatories to the talktalk petition as well as some 20,000 individual letters of protest received by the government. According to MP Bradshaw, these communications were trumped by paid advertising (I believe by trade unions) which supposedly represented other constituents.
Only twenty thousand emails from the actual members of the trade unions supporting the DEBill should be able to counter balance twenty thousand constituent protests.
But I doubt that they could marshal that much support from the rank and file of the unions, particularly as many would understand the issues. The corporate media interests behind DEBill are in fact in a position to apply economic blackmail to many of these people as well. You know the kind of thing… support our business model, or don’t bother coming to work in the morning. This is why a great many of those opposed to this law daren’t say anything publicly against it. It is also why a key tool of democracy is a secret ballot.
Supposedly democratic representatives seem to do the same thing the world over. Our representatives seem to consider citizens less important than corporate special interests. Has democracy gone full circle? Are citizens are back to being voiceless serfs while corporations are the new nobility allowed by the government to rape and pillage at will? All because corporations give vast sums to political parties so they can advertise themselves into office? Are funds more valuable than votes?
It was glaringly obvious that the people pushing the Digital Economy Bill through do not actually understand what it is that they are legislating. This is clearly apparent in this letter from the Right Honorable Stephen Timms MP of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. The Digital Economy Bill was pushed through by MPs like Timms who think that the “IP” in “IP Addess” means “Intellectual Property” when in fact it means “Internet Protocol”. I would have expected the UK government would have made an effort to understand the issues before pushing it through to appease corporate pressure.
Worse is that they are taking the allegations made by corporate special interest groups on faith while completely ignoring the opinions of informed constituents.
There were a small minority of MPs who clearly understood what is happening, particularly Tom Watson, who not only worked hard to fight against the Digital Economy Bill, but amazingly conversed live with constituents via twitter during the course of the 3rd reading.
The idea is to tweet:
“I choose not to recognise the UK’s Digital Economy Bill #whatdebill #debill http://whatdebill.org”
Or you can just use the #whatdebill hashtag, and you will be added to the list. Today when I looked just now it was up to:
5,392 Twitter users have declared that
they do not recognise the Digital Economy Bill (#debill)
All the UK political parties seem to have participated in allowing this travesty to become law.
Whether it is because there are computer illiterates in every party or the pressure from the corporate interests was so strong it is hard to say. The point is that computer use and internet access has long since ceased being a luxury; how governments treat the internet will have a huge impact on the country’s economic future.
A huge irony here is that within the confines of this same Digital Economy Bill the UK government is both endeavoring to put more and more government services online as a cost saving measure, while making it possible to summarily cut off citizens by the houseful (or university full) from the internet on the basis of unproven allegations.
I myself do not belong to a political party. I have on occasionally said nice things about political parties when they do good things (and not nice things when they don’t). In general, I dislike the idea of political parties. I have this idea that the people I elect should act in my best interests, but when there is a political party they are often made to act in the party’s best interests ahead of those of their constituents. As a citizen in a supposed democracy I reserve the right to vote for the candidate I believe will do the most good.
That said, in light of the Digital Economy Bill travesty, were I a UK citizen I would be seriously considering joining the UK Pirate Party right about now. Contrary to what the Media companies and political parties in power want you to believe, the Pirate Parties that have been springing up in just about every country in the world do not advocate lawlessness, but rather thoughtful participatory copyright law reform. The PPUK had some excellent articles about DEBill deficiencies. Like the Canadian Pirate party, they seem to be shy about trying to raise donations, I expect largely for the same reason; they are mostly young enough to believe that being right should be enough. Unfortunately it costs money just to sign up a candidate to run for office, and according to their website’s front page they are short a whopping £4,500 to go into the General Election that has forced the DEBill’s high speed scrutiny-free passage.
Check them out. They’ve got some very good ideas. In a world dominated by the internet, wouldn’t it be terribly brilliant to actually have an MP or two who actually understand the technology.
Many UK citizens are clearly incensed, and, being computer literate internet aware citizens, they are using tools.
And of course all of these tools help expatriots and foreigners like myself by identifying the participants. It helps us understand as we follow along and watch the UK government undo centuries of British Jurisprudence.
The Register: Mandybill: It ain’t over yet says that it does in fact go back to the House of Lords for a final vote tonight so it is not actually law just yet. Maybe the UK won’t end up saddled with a next generation DMCA. Maybe the UK won’t be the opening act for ACTA after all. And even if the Lords “nod it through” as everyone seems to expect, Maybe DEBill can be an election issue, perhaps even revisited right after before too much damage is done.
The government seems to have been persuaded that these laws are necessary for economic necessity. In fact, by pushing the DEBill through in the face of so much opposition, it is entirely possible that the citizen backlash will be extraordinary, and in fact may well reroute the stream of UK entertainment income largely into the black market. Just from glancing at the twitter feed thousands of citizens who would not have dreamt of breaking the law yesterday are looking at doing so seriously today as a political protest.
It would not at all surprise me if people who have never so much as jaywalked start buying bootleg disks exclusively. And every time the law clamps down on kids who were not legally criminals yesterday, families who might have agreed in principal with the DEBill yesterday will certainly oppose it tomorrow.
The problem of course is that encryption will not not stop government intervention. In Canada the backbone Bell Canada ISP has been “throttling” (actually impeding via forged reset packets) specifically the internet traffic it believes to be p2p on the erroneous assumption that all p2p traffic is copyright infringement, which just is not so. They are also impeding any encrypted traffic on the assumption that it too is p2p. You are assumed guilty and you have to prive to them you are not engaging in p2p traffic. Another example of guilty until you prove yourself innocent.