Friday, February 15, 2008

time to refocus

I've had some interesting phone calls and e-mails in past days that suggest to me some folks in Ottawa have begun to take a longer look at the professional creator position on copyright. As a key stakeholder in copyright, creators are happy when our concerns are not summarily dismissed.

We'll no doubt go into all this in even greater detail in coming weeks, as it looks again like no bill is on the way in the immediate future. To those relatively new to this process of copyright reform, "no new bill" is also known as "just another day." Before we do advance the discussion, I wonder if it's possible for us to pull back and redefine one fairly important thing.

When I call for a bill, I'm calling for a bill. Not a law, and certainly not "the Canadian DMCA," whatever the heck that's supposed to be. It has become very tiring discussing copyright reform in very public places, calling (in fact) for greater public discussion with less rhetoric, and then always being expected to support some entirely fictional rhetorical position. Hey, you're that guy who's in favour of the Canadian DMCA!

Really? Am I? Because I thought I was in favour of strong and essential copyright protection for professional creators. That's why I belong to the Creators Copyright Coalition, and that's why I'm asking for a table to sit down at so I can defend the professional creator position.

Here's a comment I read on Michael Geist's blog, from the ubiquitous "anonymous":

... who is left out there in favour of a Canadian DMCA? American lobbies, CRIA, 100,000 fundamentalists, John and .... anybody else?

And here's Michael Geist himself commenting on the stalled legislative process:

"Rumours tonight indicate that the government has again decided to delay introducing the Canadian DMCA."

Dr. Geist is fond of asking politicians to take pledges. I think such pledges are kind of silly, and even potentially destructive to true democracy. I prefer to allow my legislators the freedom to make mistakes, but ask them to try hard not to. But here's a pledge I support. I hereby pledge never to use the term Canadian DMCA again in this or any other discussion. It's an easy pledge for me to take, because I despise the term and feel it has no meaning or bearing on this discussion.

I don't expect anyone else to take this pledge, but those who do win my everlasting respect.


Russell McOrmond said...


Here is how bad we have done so far in coming up with copyright that we can all agree on. I actually believe a Canadian DMCA is between what I would consider to be Copyright that would be good for creators (including professional creators using traditional methods of production, distribution and finding) and what the CCC/DAMC proposals were.

Saying you are a guy with CCC and not someone who wants a Canadian DMCA might make you sound like Bruce Lehman who believes the USA DMCA failed because it wasn't draconian enough.

We need to get past this situation, and quick. I'm on the side of not debating around the text of a bill as the committee process has been counter-productive thus far (watching Industry and Heritage committees has horrified me), and is not the type of table we need. Our ability to have a productive conversation will be greatly diminished with the presence of a bill.

John said...

Well, Russell, that's a fundamental difference in our viewpoints, I guess. I might also sum it up like this -- you want an idealistic perfect solution (and your idea of perfect has some challenging implications for the "creators of the past," I think), whereas I want us all to sit down and put a pragmatic agreement together.

Try thinking of it this way -- the CCC paper is a starting position, and the points in it represent concerns as much as they do potential solutions. Come to a table and address the concerns. If that means telling the room how certain "solutions" won't work for the "concerns," then make your best argument. That's how negotiations work, no?

I've always said my main argument is not with you; it's with an extremist position I think is well represented in the Fair Copyright Facebook group.

You may be right about where all the various positons lie on a spectrum. But the argument from the "other side" is going to have to get batter at addressing the concerns behind the position on "this side." The seemingly now standard idea among the fair types that traditional methods and rights will simply have to be abandoned, is probably not going to foster friendly negotiation. You don't bring a lot of concerned people onto your side by saying, "yeah, sorry, everything you've understood up to this point is going to have to go; but don't worry because it might theoretically work out okay for you."

Russell McOrmond said...

You say come to the table and negotiate. You want to have what you consider to be a "pragmatic agreement" which will impact far more people than are at the negotiation table, treating this as if it were a labour negotiation when it is nothing of the sort. Your attempt to treat this as a labour agreement is causing *FAR* more damage than it could possibly cause good to the interests of actual creators.

I have come to every table I can, sometimes not totally invited.

People who have differing views than your own have been excluded from many tables, and not because of anything that we have done.

You invited representatives of specific business models, collective societies, to your closed table to come up with the CCC/DAMIC positions. Was there anyone invited that represented alternative methods of production, distribution and funding? If you did, I see no evidence of it given the reports seem to favor the interests of the collectives more than the interests of creators.

You want to push to have that table be a committee hearing debating an already tabled bill. I have observed the committee process fail drastically over the years and exclude a majority of stakeholders from the conversation.

Saying "come to the table" seems to be a cop-out to having existing agendas pushed without the complexities of having to have conversations with a wider variety of people with a wider variety of experiences.

BTW: Since you don't want me to quote Microsoft, EMI and Paramout executives and claim you said it, you should stop reposting things said by someone you have declared as "not the same side" and attribute it to me.

John said...


I missed this last comment for many days. Sorry.

That said, I have no idea what you're talking about. The CCC paper represents the CCC position. Why should your position be reflected in it? You aren't a member of the CCC. I don't remember voting to deny you membership.

The table I refer to is a committee table using our established Parliamentary system to create new and/or improve upon existing law -- whther that means the bill is tabled or not. I'm sorry if you have no faith in that system. I do. It's certainly not perfect, but I sure do appreciate my grandparents having fought for it.

Anyway, that's the table I'm aiming at -- not a labour negotiating table. And as painful as it seems to be to you, I will (hopefully) arrive at the table wondering if you will be showing up too, and asking my lawmakers to do everything they can to integrate your concerns into existing law, wihtout destroying my concerns.

John said...

I'd like to remind you that the CCC was the lead organizer of CopyCamp, and will be again.

You're welcome.

Russell McOrmond said...


Existing copyright law protects a broad range of methods of production, distribution and funding. It is the radical changes proposed by IIPA/CCC/DAMIC that seek to narrowly protect specific methods of production, distribution and funding from competition.

It was my understanding that it was CRA that was the primary host for CopyCamp. Is the distinction between CRA and CCC being dropped? I realize it is some of the same people and groups under the hood, but part of what made the CRA more credible (and able to receive specific type of funding) is that it was intended to distance itself organizationally from the CCC lobbying.

We can all wear multiple hats, and have multiple relationships. It's not like I'm going to dislike you personally and not think of you as a friend just because you are lobbying for things which I believe is harmful to both of our interests.

John said...

Oh Russell, you guys are exhausting. Let's leave friendship far out of this, please.

You're right, CRA is the lead on CopyCamp. My mistake. Since Susan Crean is my contact for both orgs, and the woman we should all thank for getting this thing of the ground, I mixed them in my head. But calling the credibility of CCC into question because you disagree with their positions is really below the belt.

Many of the same people who worked to fund and organize CopyCamp wrote the CCC document. How's that? It's what I should have said.

And again, the CCC proposals are responses to perceived threats against a valuable and economically tricky sector. They represent valid concerns. If the threats aren't actually there, then there might very well be no need to implement the proposals. I honestly believe that the best way to limit the threats to traditional creativity is to stop simplifying the concepts of copyright and intellectual property into cheap anti-corporate soundbites. Unfortunately, I see a trend moving in the other direction.

On the other hand, whatever bill comes down, I will fight to protect traditional creator rights within it.

My suspicion is that many out there opposing the bill-they-haven't-yet-seen do not even accept the validity of most traditional creator concerns. That's a pretty sad starting point.

Russell McOrmond said...


I would love to separate out the separate issues, but they keep getting lumped together.

There is no 'you guys'. The various people who have decided to take up your offer to leave comments on your BLOG are different people with different interests and ideas on copyright. I don't see anyone participating on your BLOG (including yourself) which can be said to be interchangeable with my own ideas.

We have people who are helping to organize Copycamp -- something I'm thankful for, and will be wanting to do what I can to help given the importance of this type of conference.

Some of these same people have identified problems, and for the most part I agree with the existence of these problems and the need for a solution for them.

Entirely separate from the above comments is the specific proposals being made by (yes, some of the same people) in CCC/DAMIC that they think will help solve these problems. This is where we strongly disagree, as I believe the specific proposals will do more harm than good in respect to the specific problems that have been identified.

How is that? Does it clarify these entirely separate things which have unfortunately been lumped together as if they are one?

I don't speak for those who don't accept the validity of creators concerns (regardless of which methods of production, distribution and funding they have chosen -- traditional or otherwise). I don't feel that you have accepted the validity of my creators' rights concerns in the same way I have yours, but that is a separate issue. I'm not one of those people not respective of creators' rights, and am in fact a creator trying to ensure that copyright law protects creators rights -- including our right to choose from a full spectrum of methods of production, distribution and funding -- and not have choices imposed on them.