I have received the following letter from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in response to my open letter. I'm out of the fray briefly on a writing sabbatical but, in the interest of timeliness, I will load the letter here and leave it to commenters to shake out the meaning of it all. I'll comment more fully later, but I will say I'm immediately a bit confused by the reframing of my own points in this response. I have no idea what the "other concerns" are that BCCLA has farmed from this blog, or why someone would do such a thing in response to a letter:
August 8, 2008
Dear Mr. Degen,
Re: BCCLA’s position on Bill C-61 – Copyright Reform
Thank you for your letter dated August 7, 2008 regarding our recently adopted position paper on Bill C-61. You describe your missive as an open letter that you will be publishing on your blog (www.johndegen.com). In visiting your blog, I have learned of some other concerns that you have regarding this position paper and I am pleased to have the opportunity to address those matters as well.
Firstly, I would like to clarify that the BCCLA’s Position on Bill C-61 is entirely independent of Fair Copyright For Canada (“FCFC”) and determined solely by our Board of Directors. We have no affiliation with FCFC. Additionally, although we find ourselves in agreement with many of the positions taken by Dr. Michael Geist and welcome opportunities for collaborative efforts on civil liberties matters, we have not in fact collaborated with Dr. Geist on Bill C-61.
As you know, Greg McMullen and Chris Brand wrote our position paper. They were invited to a recent Board meeting by one of our Board members and asked to give a presentation on Bill C-61. We frequently invite people with expertise in particular topics to address our Board and write papers for our consideration. It was my request that they provide a written summary of their presentation points in the form of a draft position paper to be debated by the Board. This document was approved as an Association position with various amendments from the Board. As we would like to recognize the efforts of volunteers who write position papers for us, we acknowledged Mr. McMullen and Mr. Brand as the authors of the paper and they chose to cite their affiliation with the FCFC.
For more than four decades, the BCCLA has developed positions on various pieces of proposed legislation. This is not, as you have described our efforts to date on Bill C-61, an “interruption” of important democratic processes. Indeed, it is full participation in the democratic process as we contribute to the public debate and, frequently, make submissions to Parliamentary Committees. The crucial Committee process relies entirely on interested citizens bringing their considered positions forward. We are not, as you put it, “prejudging” Bill C-61. The bill exists and the time to develop a position is now, not after the opportunity to make a submission to the Committee is lost.
As you note, our position paper deals primarily with the issue of digital rights management (DRM). You say that you feel that this matter does require clarification and that this should be an important aspect of the legislative process to come. We do not appear to disagree on this point. Our role is to make legislators and the public aware of the civil liberties concerns about DRM as it appears to be envisioned by Bill C-61. It is not clear to me that you have substantive opposition to what we have set out as our concerns. You say that the current exceptions to copyright, such as fair use, are very important civil liberties worthy of protection. In stating that we are being insufficiently attentive to authors’ rights I gather that you feel that our opposition to Bill C-61 amounts to supporting a substantial broadening of these exemptions. Rather, our position is that the bill impermissibly narrows, or makes practically impossible, these crucial exceptions.
To clarify, we have not taken a position opposing copyright nor opposing copyright reform. Rather we believe that Bill C-61 does not represent an appropriate balancing of rights and constitutes an unacceptable abrogation of privacy and expressive rights.
We have amended positions in the past and are always prepared to learn more about any given subject. If there are specific, substantive objections that you have to any of the points we make in our position paper, we would be happy to consider them.
We would welcome your posting this letter on your blog as our reply to your open letter.
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
cc. Greg McMullen