Friday, August 01, 2008

holy astroturf Batman, whatever happened to disclosure!?

Professor Michael Geist, founder and administrator of the Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada, a consumer advocacy lobby opposed to the new federal copyright reform legislation, reports today on his blog that the BC Civil Liberties Association "has adopted a position paper on C-61, warning of its effects on freedom of speech and privacy."

Geist, a noted academic, fails to mention what you only find out when you reach the end of the 5-page position paper, which is that it was written by "Fair Copyright for Canada: Vancouver Chapter."

Dude (sad shaking of the head).

This copyfight just gets deeper and deeper into the artificial muck beneath the grassroots field turf, doesn't it?

The paper itself is not entirely inaccurate, though it could use a serious copy edit (several references to the United Sates lead a parade of grammatical issues). On the other hand, it is one-sided in its strong focus on user rights over the rights of professional creators and copyright holders -- but I've become kind of accustomed to that being the initial stance for anyone new to the discussion. The four conclusions and recommendations the BCCLA have "adopted" start with the statement: "In its current form Bill C-61 is fatally flawed..." I don't even necessarily disagree with the rest of the conclusions or recommendations in the paper. I think they are good, debatable points that should be addressed in the committee process leading to the amendment and passing (or not passing) of Bill C-61.

I think the BCCLA does outstanding and necessary legal work. Clearly, though, they need to sharpen up their advocacy adoption policies. I consider my limited rights of ownership and control over my own personal creative works to be very important civil liberties. I would expect an organization like BCCLA to take them into consideration before adopting policy that ignores them.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unless your problem is something you don't state in your blog, it sounds like you and the BCCLA are in agreement. You say you "don't even necessarily disagree with ... the conclusions or recommendations in the paper. I think they are good, debatable points that should be addressed in the committee process ..."

The preamble, that you seem to have a problem with, says "in its current form Bill C-61 is fatally flawed..." (emphasis mine) It sounds like the BCCLA is saying the same thing as you. The bill is currently flawed and could be fixed in committee.

CraigLifter said...

You say, "Geist, a noted academic, fails to mention what you only find out when you reach the end of the 5-page position paper, which is that it was written by 'Fair Copyright for Canada: Vancouver Chapter.'"

So? Michael Geist is in Ottawa. The Vancouver chapter consists of 1,478 members who just happen not to be Michael Geist. I don't see anything for Dr. Geist to disclose. Should he take credit for their actions?

If you are arguing that they take their marching orders from Dr. Geist then say so but I personally choose to believe that in a group of people that large it is probable that at least a couple are capable of independent thought.

Infringer said...

craiglifter is right John. The paper was written by Greg McMullen and Chris Brand. Neither of whom are themselves Michael Geist or have any relationship (as far as I know) which might be a conflict of interest with Michael Geist.

I don't see you disclosing that Chis Moore is a member of PWAC (of which you are ED) when you point to his work. How is this any different? Can you say hypocrite?

"I consider my limited rights of ownership and control over my own personal creative works to be very important civil liberties."

Bzzzz. Sorry. Wrong answer. Your copyright, (or any Intellectual property right for that matter) is not a civil liberty at all, but rather conversely, is a limitation on the civil liberties of others. As such the BCCLA and all other civil liberty groups should be fighting for the bare minimum of IP rights.

John said...

Am I surprised ifwhinger completely misses the point, every point, so consistently? Yes, I am. Even the most talentless batter, flailing away madly at home plate, should manage to contact the baseball now and again.

For the sake of everyone who is genuinely wondering what should Geist have disclosed:

If Geist knew the paper was written by two prominent members of his group (Brand has been a vocal lieutenant as far back as I can recall), and chose not to mention the fact, then in my opinion that is a disclosure mistake. I'll leave it to others to speculate on motivation or reasons for such a mistake.

If he did not realize that the paper was written by two prominent members of his group and was just reporting on information he was sent in an e-mail, he should have been more diligent in fact-finding about the paper.

Neither of these mistakes should shame Geist fatally. If he were an MP, for instance, I would NOT right now be calling for his resignation or casting aspersions about his funding sources.

But they are mistakes -- and three days later, they remain sadly unacknowledged.

Had Chris Moore been credited with writing something as PWAC: Vancouver Chapter, I would not refer to that document as "a position paper." I'm proud of my affiliation with Chris Moore who is an excellent writer and a subtle thinker. Hiding that affiliation is something I simply never do. And by the way, had Moore written a PWAC document, I'm betting it would have fewer typos.

craiglifter and whoever, this is not an issue of independent thinking, which I would welcome (believe me).

mgeist said...

John,

I find myself puzzled by your professed concern for my lack of disclosure. Let’s set the record straight. First, BCCLA is an independent association with which I have no involvement. It has an esteemed board and I’m guessing it does not adopt positions without careful thought. The position paper – their description – was adopted as a BCCLA position on July 14, 2008. You can describe it as a Fair Copyright for Canada, Vancouver Chapter paper if you like (or focus on grammar and spelling rather than substance), but the BCCLA has made it known to the world that it has adopted its position as its own. To suggest otherwise is to demean an association that you claim does outstanding work.

Second, the Vancouver Chapter of the FCFC functions independently. They have their own, terrific website (faircopy.ca), organize their own meetings, and developed their own position paper. I played absolutely no direct role in its drafting or approval.

There is no need for a disclosure because there is nothing to disclose.

I am absolutely delighted to see that the national group is approaching 90,000 members (not quite a quiet Jays game) and that local chapters in cities across the country are growing and actively writing, meeting with MPs, and taking positions. Their positions are their own, however. I can’t claim ownership, only pride, in this development.

Finally, I think it is good to see Canadians and Canadian associations like the BCCLA take positions on C-61. When can we expect to see you do the same?

Michael Geist

Infringer said...

Unfortunately John your point is on the top of your head, so probably all the better that I do keep missing it.

Chris Brand is no more a "lieutenant" for Michael Geist than I am, or than Russell is. The regional chapters are separate entities consisting of like minded people living in the same geographical area. Giest is not some great cult master telling everybody what to think and write. The position paper itself was quite clear in where it came from and there is nothing improper about what anybody has done.

The only mistake would appear to be your paranoid sighting of shadows in the night. Do you really think that Michael Geist had anything to do with the penning of that position paper? And if he did, do you really believe that he would not have been completely upfront about it?

"craiglifter and whoever, this is not an issue of independent thinking, which I would welcome (believe me)."

Opps, my mistake. you do think that Michael Geist is controlling people. Oh well, not much anyone can do for your paranoid delusions I'm afraid.

John said...

Michael,

I appreciate you took the time to reply. I’d appreciate even more if you’d make a little note on your blog about that position paper, citing its authorship. Such a note would help, I think, explain to the casual reader why the paper is so one-sided and does not represent in any way the fullness of the concerns of professional creators. I’ll be addressing my own concerns about the position to the BCCLA in a letter.

You are, among many other things, a journalist. I doubt your August 1st posting would get past any careful, ethical editor in this country without some request for background on the “adopted” position. I don’t see any shame for you in admitting that you made a mistake by not citing the source (are your students not expected to investigate and cite sources?), so I’ll just continue to report my confusion about the steady stream of denials that followed my posting.

Since you are aware of my postings on copyright, you’ll know that while my positions continue to evolve and mature as we all delve deeper into the issue, my disgust with the political gamesmanship has remained steady. This is a new low. Wash your hands of it if you wish – you certainly have enough acolytes willing to jump in front of criticism for you -- but I think you’d do your movement more good by admitting (and regretting) the error, and then moving on to higher ground.

All of the rebuttals in this stream have focused on the purported “independence” of the Vancouver Chapter of FCFC, which is interesting to me because that has nothing to do with my criticism. I think you reported something improperly. I don’t know, nor do I care, whether or not you exercise some form of mind control over the true believers in your camp. Of course, the more they deny such a thing -- totally unprompted by me -- the more we might all start to wonder.

Since you bring it up, though, I guess I would be interested in knowing the process for the Vancouver Chapter of FCFC to write the position paper. Did everyone in the chapter vote on it? Was there a special committee struck, with the general wording approved in advance? Did the FCFCVC executive have a meeting about it, pass a motion, take minutes? You know, was there some democracy involved? To read the paper, one could easily assume Brand and McMullen themselves are the Vancouver Chapter, but that seems unlikely.

You are right that the FCFC has grown to represent more than one Jays game in numbers (thanks for the reference). The way the Jays are playing, you folks are closing in on three such crowds, or approximately one quarter of one percent of the Canadian population. If there was some way we could be sure everyone in FCFC agreed with all the subtleties of the Brand/McMullen position you endorse, these numbers, in real political terms, would be almost sort of impressive.

As to Bill C-61, aka the Canadian DMCA imposed upon freedom-loving Canadians by the evil emissaries of the United Sates of America, The CCC is working away diligently on reading, analyzing, arguing about, voting on, consulting with our members about, etc. C-61 before we release a detailed statement. PWAC is doing the same through our democratically elected Government Action sub-committee and our democratically elected Board of Directors. I am also working on a personal statement – one Canadian writer’s reaction to the bill. I’m glad to have a bill to look into, and since I tried very hard not to pre-judge what was going to be in it, I am taking some time with it. When it’s ready, you’ll find my official opinion on this blog.

Anonymous said...

While were at it, I'm hoping for full disclosure on who actually put together Bill C-61.



"lieutenant"
HA

Infringer said...

"Such a note would help, I think, explain to the casual reader why the paper is so one-sided and does not represent in any way the fullness of the concerns of professional creators."

Mortimer, I think you have forgotten who the BCCLA is. They are a civil liberties group. They don't fight for creators rights. They fight for civil lberties. Creators rights are suppose to be your job.

With regard to civil liberties, the paper could hardly be called one sided. They focus exclusively on TPM and its effect on civil liberties. They do not touch any of the other contentious issues such as photograph terms, internet "broadcasts", or academic uses.


"All of the rebuttals in this stream have focused on the purported “independence” of the Vancouver Chapter of FCFC, which is interesting to me because that has nothing to do with my criticism."

Of course it has everything to do with it. By saying Geist has some duty to disclose who the authors are (beyond the fact that the paper itself says it quite clearly) you are implying that some connection exists between all these people which would make Geist bias.

It is no different then Chris Moore even opening his mouth. There is not PWAC: Vancouver, but so what? FCfC:Vancouver does not have Geist as a member. Moore is a member if PWAC ( I think, in some way) and Brand is a member of FCfC, so if Geist must disclose this every time he mentions something that Brand does, then so too should you mention your relationship to Moore every time you reference his work.

I look forward to reading your balanced criticism of the position paper. I want to know what exactly you will find to be critical of.

John said...

anonymous dear heart,

Her name is right there on the front page of the bill. Apparently, you are mad at someone named Elizabeth II for writing C-61. By all means, seek her out in England and let her know your opinion.

Surrogate? Stand-in? Fellow traveler? Take your pick.

Infringer said...

Damn. She's queen in 15 other countries too. She must be busier then a pack mule writing all that legislation for all those countries.

You jest, but anonymous makes a good point. The point has been brought up before with all the campaign contributions from industry people to the likes of Oda and Bulte. How much do these ministers serve their broader constituency and how much do they serve the narrow self interests of the industries that finance them?

John McFetridge said...

"Bzzzz. Sorry. Wrong answer. Your copyright, (or any Intellectual property right for that matter) is not a civil liberty at all, but rather conversely, is a limitation on the civil liberties of others."

Really?

It seems the only limitation copyright puts on something is that you have to pay (a "limitation" on lots of things I'd like to acquire). Certainly no civil liberties association is fighting for your right to access any of this material without payment of any kind, are they?

Maybe I missed the position paper on nationalizing my internet connection and making it free.

This whole issue is now clearly a shifting of who COLLECTS the money that the consumers will continue to pay for this material.

Infringer said...

Yes McF. Really!

Copyright has nothing to do with whether or not you have to pay for something. All my computers run Linux, I recently read Doctorow's "Little Brother" in PDF, and I read the newspapers online most days. All of that is covered by copyright, and none of which I ( or anyone) have to pay for.

Copyright regulates behaviour. It says what actions are protected by the monopoly rights holder, and therefore require that person's permission.

Not being able to take common cultural references and use them to make new works and share them is most certainly a limitation on my liberties.

A certain amount of limitation is arguably justified to meet the goals of copyright which is to increase creativity. The purpose of an organization such as the BCCLA in this context is to ensure that those limitations are the minimum necessary. Their position paper is wholly consistent with that.

John said...

McF,

I thought you were wondering aloud about the fact that people are still making game show noises to decorate something that might be mistaken for a rhetorical point.

Of course any right conferred to you, to everyone in fact, by general agreement of society -- like copyright and like the various exceptions to copyright defined within fair dealing -- is a civil liberty. It is surprising, therefore, that the BCCLA would concentrate on only some of the liberties in copyright, and not all of them.

John McFetridge said...

"All my computers run Linux, I recently read Doctorow's "Little Brother" in PDF, and I read the newspapers online most days."

That computer wasn't free and getting access to that stuff "online" wasn't free.

But, of course, it is the choice of Doctorow and the newspapers and Linux to allow you that access (once you've paid for it - the computer will always need to be paid for, and upgraded). That's why I don't even see the problem here - except that there are some others not following Doctorow's lead fast enough for you and you want their stuff too. Don't worry, there are more non-copyrighted books online now than you could read in the rest of your life.

Oh yeah, you don't want THOSE books, you want ALL books.

"Not being able to take common cultural references and use them to make new works and share them is most certainly a limitation on my liberties."

This simply isn't true. I do this all the time. Seriously, my books are in most libraries and bookstores, have a look. I've even used many a cultural reference in my short stories I give away to people who have paid for internet access.

It takes some skill, sure, and there are some rules but they're not complicated and they're not very restrictive for people who are trying to create their own art.

It's not a wide open free-for-all, I admit, but it's also not nearly as closed as you make it sound.

"A certain amount of limitation is arguably justified to meet the goals of copyright which is to increase creativity."

I'd like someone to write down exactly what amount of limitation they feel would properly increase creativity.

Like most artists I am often limited creatively - but never by copyright, it's always by my own personal limitations. If opening up copyright did anything, it would make me a lot less creative -- and some of my critics would say that's impossible.

Now, I would agree with you that self-censorship is a problem and I've met a lot of people who don't think they can, "get away," with stuff -- I've been asked many times how I "got away" with things in my books.

If you want to be a writer, you have to find out how these things work.

If you think your liberties are being limited maybe you should do more of what I do and get out there and use them, push some envelopes.

And, if you think Doctorow is all for other peoples' liberties I'd tell you a story if this wasn't a public forum...

Infringer said...

"Of course any right conferred to you, to everyone in fact, by general agreement of society -- like copyright and like the various exceptions to copyright defined within fair dealing -- is a civil liberty."

Right. So if by general agreement (which I guess would be determined through what? Acts of Parliament?) we decided that I could choose not to serve you in my business because you were black or had a pointy head, that would be my civil liberty, and the BCCLA should support me in that.

Mortimer, I think you have a very shallow understanding of the term.

Infringer said...

"But, of course, it is the choice of Doctorow and the newspapers and Linux to allow you that access"

Exactly. The monopoly holder has that power. A monopoly (any monopoly) by its very nature is a limitation on civil liberties. I'm not sure why you bring up the computer or internet connection, neither of which are covered by copyright so don't really have anything to do with this conversation.

The fact that your particular artistic endevour does not make significant use of prior art says nothing about the situation of many other artists. Check out Illegal-Art.Org, AppropriationArt.ca or DeathByCopyright.ca. Good old Walt Disney certainly wouldn't have had much to work with if he didn't have all that public domain material at hand.

I don't want everything for free. I just want some acknowledgment that copyright, by its very nature, imposes limitations on everyone; That there is a social cost for that limitation; And therefore we have to be very careful how much power we give copyright holders.

Too often the tone from the politicians and the Industry execs who have their ear, is "Technology is hurting the artists. We have to protect the artists." Of course they don't really mean that. They just want to hold onto their old distribution business models and adapt technology and the law to suit. They certainly never are concerned about end users (including appropriation artists) and that is how we end up with abortions like Bill C-61.

John said...

Yeah, McF, I'm sorry I haven't found a place for that story yet.

You know what I find interesting -- that ifwhinger gets all hyperbolic thinking he's achieved a gotcha moment, but he is really only revealing his own complicity in what he claims to despise. Here's a link to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey's own copyright notice on their website, where they insist on their own rights under copyright.

Oh wait, here's the BCCLA's notice, insisting on their copyright. My goodness, by ifwhinger's logic, this group believes in racism!

John McFetridge said...

"I'm not sure why you bring up the computer or internet connection, neither of which are covered by copyright so don't really have anything to do with this conversation."

Because without them there's no conversation. There's certainly no Facebook group and no new legislation being tabled.

People can try and deny that this is being driven by the technology all they want, it clearly is. And all that technology is driven by profit. By an insatioable desire for profit.

"I just want some acknowledgment that copyright, by its very nature, imposes limitations on everyone;"

Okay, I fully acknowledge that. And I agree we need to be very careful how much power we give copyright holders.

"'Technology is hurting the artists. We have to protect the artists.' Of course they don't really mean that."

You're absolutely right, they don't. In fact, no one in this whole discussion wants to protect the artists, or cares about the artists at all. The comments on this blog show that. People here (usually under the cloak of anonymity) have said flat out that they don't care about the creators, they just want the stuff.

Has Walt Disney Inc., closed off copyright too much? Wow, it would be great if that's what this discussion was about.

But it's not. It's not about the public domain source material being closed off by over-copyright controlled by multi-nationals.

It's about how many copies of my new DVD can I make? It's about time shift recording TV shows.

It's about access. It's about how acquiring "digital files" offered for sale isn't stealing.

I bump up against copyright and what cultural references I can use in my work every day. It's how I make my living.

Five minutes on the Facebook page and Geist's blog and I could tell those people are simply not interested in these issues at all.

Tell me, do you think under-copyright will create as many problems as over-copyright?

Infringer said...

"Here's a link to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey's own copyright notice on their website, where they insist on their own rights under copyright."

Mortimer, apparently you did not read the last paragraph of a previous post here where I said "The purpose of an organization such as the BCCLA in this context is to ensure that those limitations are the minimum necessary." So your little attempt at humour falls rather flat.

Minimum necessary is not the same as abolishment.

Infringer said...

"Tell me, do you think under-copyright will create as many problems as over-copyright?"

See, now that is a very interesting question. It is actually the sort of question I had originally been hoping to pursue through dialogue in this forum and other places.

First, I believe there is a healthy middle ground. A sweet spot for societal benefit. Lessig's analogy to water, (too much and you drown, too little and you dehydrate) is very good.

With regard to which is worse. Too little, or too much copyright, I think it might be helpful to look at the extremes in both those cases.

Extreme too little copyright would naturally mean abolishment, so anything you create could immediately be used by others any way they wish. Would culture suffer greatly in this context. Certainly there would be fewer hollywood blockbusters. But as youtube, various fanfiction, and others have demonstrated, there would still be art. People would still create because they want too, and with no legal impediments it would in some ways be easier. We would not have an optimum amount and the quality of much of it would be lower, but there would still be a lot of it out there.

Extreme too much copyright would be what is at the end of the road we are currently traveling on. Perpetual copyright. No fair use or fair dealings. In this context there would be few amateur artists at all. The legal hurdles very significant, and all artists would need the aid of a good lawyer through a media corporation to clear copyright. Lost works though inability to renew copyright on borrowed content would become the norm rather than the exception (think "eyes on the prize" or "WKRP" here) In this context I think there would be a huge chill on creativity, let alone free speech.

So to answer your question briefly. I'd say no, I don't think under-copyright would be as problematic as over-copyright. Unfortunately, the copyright we currently have is very much over-copyright and this bill just takes us further in that direction.

Now, if anybody would like to get into a discussion regarding were the elusive sweet spot is, I'd love to talk about that.

John McFetridge said...

No, I don't think you'll get too many takers for a discussion of the sweet spot.

I'll tell you, though, the current amount of copyright works fine for me. I can make my living within the current boundaries and I use plenty of cultural references. I've never had a situation where I'd like to do something and copyright held me back.

Would even less copyrighted material make for even more opportunity for me? No, my creativity is often limited, but never by available source material.

And as a fan, the current amount of copyright is fine for me.

But from what I've seen, fanfic and the rest of the YouTube generation would be devastated without Hollywood blockbusters and would give up just about anything to have access to them - even creative use of them. Anything that might result in one fewer big-budget superhero movie would be a bad thing for them.

In all this talk no one ever mentions the possibility there might be less of something - it's always about people getting their hands on more.

I'd be happy to talk about the sweet spot, but I'm pretty sure the discussion will be you, me and JohnD.

John said...

Hmmm, wise you are, McF.

I thought I started the discussion about the sweet spot a couple years ago when I wondered out loud why there is not more natural respect for the limited control artists are given over their creativity.

"Mutual respect" being the sweet spot I believe voluntary adherence to copyright brings as a side benefit for all of society.

Infringer said...

"I thought I started the discussion about the sweet spot a couple years ago when I wondered out loud why there is not more natural respect for the limited control artists are given over their creativity."

Too bad I wasn't hanging around in this dark alley back then. My answer to your question is that I expect most people are like me and think that the limited control that rights holders have is already in excess of what should be reasonable.

I am curious about your views of the 'sweet spot' John. Do you think the current terms for copyright are appropriate? Too much? Too little? I've heard your views about academic uses. Far fewer exceptions then the Americans have but still more than you'd like. And fair dealings I know you somehow already interpret more broadly than most others do. What about your views of when statutory licensing is or is not appropriate? What about rights to time or media shift? And of course, the elephant in the room these days. What about TPM. There is a lot of material here to have a good discussion. If you think your up to starting a new thread on it, give it a go. It might be edifying for all of us.

Anonymous said...

"I'd like someone to write down exactly what amount of limitation they feel would properly increase creativity.

Like most artists I am often limited creatively - but never by copyright, it's always by my own personal limitations. If opening up copyright did anything, it would make me a lot less creative."


Maybe in the field you chose to make a living. Sample clearance can be a perfect example of an artist being limited creatively. It's probably the number one reason you'll never see another piece of art like the album "It Takes a Nation of Millions".

Don't get me wrong. People should have to pay when they take the concept of a whole song or a major portion. But the idea of copyright on a half of a second sound is unreasonable. There are companies out there who just search out people to sue (*cough Bridgeport Music) who have used the smallest portion of a track they hold the copyrights for.

Also, a huge problem is the fact that for a major portion of music you can't find who holds the copyrights in the first place. Only until you get sued.

Russell McOrmond said...

JohnD said,

"I would expect an organization like BCCLA to take them into consideration before adopting policy that ignores them."

I'm curious what aspect of their document does this? You make statements that suggest you feel C-61 will benefit creators, but don't seem willing to post examples. On the other hand, as a fellow creator (not a lieutenant of some organization against creators, even though I'm the Ottawa South coordinator of a group asking for fair copyright), I have been writing extensively about how the policy direction articulated in C-61 will be harmful to creators.

Cultural and creators rights are generally recognized as human rights, and are part of the balance of rights articulated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Lets all avoid confusing respect for authors rights with obedience with incumbent copyright holders wishes, as they are not the same thing. This is where much of the conversations about "mutual respect" fall down, as they are often one-sided concepts of respect.

The "sweet spot" conversation must start with a recognition that all works covered by copyright exist in entirely different markets. I'm not surprised that a book author and book readers would be happy with current copyright, as it is working well for books and there is even minimal infringement. The same is not true for all works, and if you look at the dynamics of each class of works you will find very different reasons for the growing mutual disrespect.

By the way, Chris Brand has been a member of the Digital Copyright Canada forum since October 2001. Since the host of an open public forum (with a wide variety of viewpoints being expressed) seems to be seen as some sort of "leader", and everyone who joins a "supporter" or "lieutenant", then I guess I'm even more responsible for this document than Geist and should have disclosed this fact and the alleged mind control I have over BCCLA :-)

John D's attempt to lump together everyone who has different beliefs than the members of the Creators' Copyright Coalition is amusing at best. Maybe he is worried that politicians will notice that the opponents to the policy directions proposed by the CCC represent vastly more voters than the proponents.

John McFetridge said...

"It seems the only limitation copyright puts on something is that you have to pay"

I'm assuming this was said as a joke, given this isn't remotely close to what copyright currently says, nor what the opponents to C-61 are talking about. There are people who want something for nothing, but they are such an insignificant portion of the debate as to not be worth noticing.

John said...

Yes, Russell, I'm aware of your opinions about how this Bill will be harmful to creators. Those opinions existed before the Bill did, I believe.

Of course, there's a lot of ifs and buts involved in your opinions -- a lot of speculation about things that might happen, and not a whole lot of admission about things that have happened and continue to happen to traditional creators. I guess we traditionalists now fit under your "incumbent copyright holder" label. And we all know incumbents are lazy and resistant to change.

The FCFC policy paper adopted by the BCCLA declares the Bill fatally flawed based on TPM provisions, without, in my opinion, properly contextualizing the TPM discussion. Specifically, damage to the existing rights of copyright holders from unchecked and morally excused but blatantly illegal online behaviours is never mentioned other than a throwaway reference to "infringing use."

As I said in my original posting, I don't completely disagree with any of the four main recommendations, and I would welcome debate on all of them -- but if the debate is not properly contextualized, one side (copyright minimalism in this case) is unfairly advantaged.

Should a civil liberties organization be in the business of privileging one human right over another?

And yes, if you didn't cite the authorship of the paper when reporting on it, you made the same mistake as Geist. As I mentioned, it's not about your considerable powers of mind control; it's about accurate and ethical reporting.

And I don't have to lump anyone together -- you've done it yourself with FCFC and its official position as stated clearly on the first page of the group. I mean, I'm a member of FCFC (back in the day when it was under 4,000), and I don't remember being asked to vote on that wording.

As to my fear that politicians count votes before determining what they'll support -- you better believe it. I want politicians who vote for what they think is right, not what they think will get them re-elected.

Russell McOrmond said...

"Specifically, damage to the existing rights of copyright holders from unchecked and morally excused but blatantly illegal online behaviours is never mentioned other than a throwaway reference to "infringing use.""

This is thrown away as that is just the justification used for the radical change, not a reason. If someone said they were painting their house blue to stop infringing uses of copyrighted works, would you then lobby to make it illegal to paint your house white? The fact is that "technological measures" will not reduce infringing uses, and I've written more than once about how this abuse of technology is already increasing infringing uses.

All locks do is keep out honest people -- it does nothing to stop dishonest people. In the case of these digital locks, they actively encourage honest people to do dishonest things.

So on one hand we have a lot of harm that is real (not the what if's that you suggest), and on the other you have -- well -- nothing of benefit to creators. Doesn't sound like a great balance between competing interests to me.

"copyright minimalism in this case"

Being opposed to abuses of "technological measures" is not copyright minimalism. If these measures were possible to become effective, they would become a replacement for copyright which is far more like "copyright minimalism".

As to your suggestion about ethical and accurate reporting, I look forward to a list of names of actual humans (not broad organizational lists which mean nothing) of who authored the CCC platform.


And no, you are doing the lumping. Being a member of a facebook group means you are interested in a conversation with other people about a topic, not that you agree or disagree with any particular perspective (including that of the host).

The two of us don't always agree with each other, and yet I'm a "member" of the John Degen blog as much as I am the Fair Copyright for Canada facebook group.

John said...

Russell,

Does that mean you'll wear one of my official johndegen.com "Captain Copyright -- a true Canadian hero" t-shirts?

As I said in another post, I wish you're description of FCFC was true. It's not. Sad fact.

CCC is made up of all the groups listed on its website, and since all those groups must -- by law -- elect boards of directors who are responsible for the democratic governance of the organizations, anything the CCC has to say in the public discourse is light years ahead of FCFC in terms of democratic legitimacy.

Russell McOrmond said...

"anything the CCC has to say in the public discourse is light years ahead of FCFC in terms of democratic legitimacy."

In terms of a bunch of acronyms, I will agree with you.

But in the case of the statement that BCCLA endorsed, the two individual people who authored the statement were listed. I wish they had not tainted their work by adding in the FCFC "branding", but they did -- but at least we know who the "they" that did this was.

The same thing with the position paper from CLUE. Even though it is endorsed by a board and an executive director, it is signed by me so people will know who the main person is to blame/etc.

The press release for the CCC platform lists only you and Bill Freeman, who should be expected to be willing to discuss and clarify any statement made in the platform in the same way we should all expect Greg and Chris to. I've been asking questions and posting comments on the CCC position since it was authored, and don't get much back from the only two people who have signed their names to it.


In the case of the BCCLA endorsed statement, it seems you agree with it except the abuse of the "Fair Copyright for Canada: Vancouver Chapter" brand added to it. I agree that this was the wrong thing to have added, and it cheapens the document.

The document also didn't mention creators rights as you see them, nor did it mention gas prices or climate change, and I don't think it should have been expected to. But otherwise, was there any problems?

John said...

Russell,

So, we're talking about the press release? Yes, I agreed to be a contact on the press release because I can talk with some authority about the make-up of the CCC, and the reasoning behind us coming together to create a statement on copyright reform.

I did that when the release went out, I continue to talk about these things almost every day on my blog. Does this mean I should allow myself to be endlessly drawn into debates on every point within the CCC paper? I guess that might be possible of I had a staff of graduate students running my blog, and assisting in my actual job, but I do not.

My answer to anyone who wants to understand where the CCC stands is "read the statement." It's public record. It's also out of date, since we now have a bill. Being pragmatic people, we intend to talk more about the tabled legislation and less about an old statement.

By the way, you may recall that immediately upon its release, the CCC statement was mischaracterized by Michael Geist as not at all interested in user rights (which I guess are the only important rights in this debate) and then completely ignored going forward. To read Geist's blog (and others') you'd think Appropriation Art, doc-makers, one actor and Steven Page are the only working creators in this country.

I don't get at all your concerns over the legitimacy of the CCC statement. I do get that you disagree about it. Oh well. We do tend to disagree on a lot of things. Of course, I keep saying I'll bet there's a way we can both get most if not all of what we want, and you keep saying that's just impossible. I think society and its legislation can be subtle and multi-toned, while you seem to see things monochromatically.

Anonymous said...

If you have no problem with the substance of the suggestions, why is it a problem that they came from an interest group? I think the paper is actually pretty awesome and that your post is completely off the mark.

John said...

anonymous -- we generally like to know who we're talking to here. There's really no reason not to declare yourself.

A couple of people have asked similar questions -- if I don't have a problem with the recommendations, why am I complaining?

I think I've made clear my concerns about the contextualization of the TPM discussion in the paper. It is a faulty context that privileges a specific political stance on copyright reform in general.

At least we now all seem to agree that FCFC is an interest group. That's a step toward honest discourse.

Greg said...

Hello John,

First, a bit about the Vancouver Chapter of Fair Copyright for Canada. The two meetings FCFC:VC meetings I’ve attended have been run as complete grassroots adhocracies. The agendas were set by wiki by anyone who wanted to contribute and meetings were chaired by volunteers from the floor. We adopted a system by which people who hadn’t spoken yet could take priority if they had something to say, which allowed the entire group to get involved. The speakers ranged from highschool students to veteran software engineers, from law students to authors and documentary film makers. I was amazed by the diversity of backgrounds and the willingness of the more seasoned group members to let newcomers like myself participate. I’m not sure where the astroturfing speculation comes from—these are all legitimately concerned citizens who brought their own ideas to the table.

At the first FCFC:VC meeting I attended, a representative from the BCCLA invited group members to bring their concerns to the next BCCLA board meeting. I’d not met Chris Brand before the meeting, but at the meeting we both volunteered to collaborate and represent the group. Over the next week, we met over coffee to discuss what we wanted to say, and with input from Chris, I drafted the document that led to this discussion.

There was no vote by FCFC:VC on our attending the meeting or on the position paper, but drafts of the paper were posted to the group wiki for comments, suggestions, and even edits by the public. Apparently it could have used a few more edits to catch the stylistic issues you’ve raised, but substantively I’m pleased with what Chris and I brought to the BCCLA and feel it represents many of the concerns of the group.

None of us are seasoned lobbyists. We’re learning as we go along. I included the name of the group on the position paper because I felt disclosure was important. I wanted the BCCLA to know who we were and why we were there. I’ve never met or corresponded with Dr. Geist, though I do subscribe to his RSS feed and was glad to see something I’d written linked to there. He certainly didn’t see the paper before we submitted it, and as far as I know he wasn’t asked to link to it. Since it came out on the BCCLA news feed, it’s very possible that Dr. Geist came upon the document without realizing it was produced by FCFC:VC members.

I’ve worked hard to avoid the anti-American, anti-corporate rhetoric that many copyright activists have adopted, and to balance the interests of rights holders with Charter rights. When I mentioned the American experience, it was not to complain that the Bill is “made in America” or any of the lines that have been used, but rather to point out chilling effects that the American DMCA legislation has had on security research. I also gave credit where due, praising C-61’s notice-and-notice system that will avoid the chilling effects of DMCA-style notice-and-takedown. Bill C-61 provides extensive protection to the rights of copyright holders. Our recommendations were intended to address the rights overlooked by C-61.

FCFC:VC recognizes that in the digital world, the distinction between producer and consumer is increasingly blurred. Powerful tools offer individuals the opportunity to create professionally from the home and to reach unprecedented audiences around the world. FCFC:VC includes writers, computer programmers, documentary film makers, photographers, librarians, musicians, lawyers, and many others who are all very much aware of the importance of protecting the property rights of creators and the role copyright reform must play in the process.

We know we don’t have all the answers. Recent FCFC:VC meetings have looked at alternatives to blanket bans on circumvention that would protect the economic interest of creators and address unauthorized downloading while still protecting Charter rights to free expression and privacy. We also encourage alternative business models that take advantage of the post-scarcity nature of the digital world (see Radiohead’s In Rainbows or Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible), and even innovative rights holders taking advantage of piracy itself, as recently discussed in The Economist (July 17, 2008). We look forward to working with (and hopefully not against) the other stakeholders in the process, and trust that together we can make amendments to Bill C-61 or create new legislation that will meet the needs of all Canadians.

If you need further clarification on the development of the paper or the workings of FCFC:VC, please feel free to email me at the address found on the position paper or to join our Facebook group.

Sincerely,

Greg McMullen

John said...

Greg,

Thanks for writing in. Honestly, from what I've read here, I have no issue with your personal intentions in writing the paper or bringing it to BCCLA. I hope I've made clear in my initial posting, subsequent comments and the open letter I sent to BCCLA that I do think your paper does not accurately enough contextualize the appearance of legal protections for TPMs in C-61. Because of that, I am disappointed the BCCLA adopted your, admittedly good faith, position without asking you to go away and fill out the creator concerns first.

Again, I don't disagree completely with your recommendations, but I remain very uncomfortable with the way Geist reported this development in the public discourse.

As to the astroturf reference in my initial posting, if you are not aware of how the Facebook group numbers are being used to advance a specific position rather than the concept of open discussion on copyright reform, I hope you become aware of it. There are serious democratic problems with a free-wheeling adhocracy being reduced to bullet points and sound bites that always seem to suggest one very reductive and political opinion -- read back in my blog to where I ask Geist to pledge never to use the term "Canadian DMCA" again, and then notice how often he used it after that posting.

I joined FCFC back in the 4000's. I continue to post on it's main page regularly. I do not see my reasonable concerns reflected in your paper.

I don't think we need to pretend that politics are not being played here, whatever your good intentions in writing the paper with Chris Brand.