In previous posts and comments, I have expressed my discomfort with the idea of asking politicians to "pledge"... well, anything beyond allegiance to the Queen. This came out of Michael Geist's original copyright pledge which had to do, I believe, with keeping any politician accepting campaign contributions by way of copyright-dependent industries from having anything to do with legislating copyright.
Anyway, the whole thing reminded me of certain pledges that show up in US politics from time to time -- "I pledge to never raise taxes. Please vote for me." That kind of thing. How's that working out for the US, by the way?
Michael Geist is at it again. He's recently published his Copyright Pledge - 2008 Election Edition, in which he asks voters to try and get candidates to "sign on to" a pledge that, among other things, appears to privilege user rights in the copyright debate.
To me these types of pre-election, pre-Parliamentary binding promises feel anti-democratic, and thanks to a keen-eyed commenter on Geist's blog, I now understand why they feel this way to me. Because they are anti-democratic. So anti-democratic, in fact, that they are expressly forbidden under Canadian law. Section 550 of the Elections Act reads:
550. No candidate shall sign a written document presented by way of demand or claim made on him or her by any person or association of persons, between the issue of the writ and polling day, if the document requires the candidate to follow a course of action that will prevent him or her from exercising freedom of action in Parliament, if elected, or to resign as a member if called on to do so by any person or association of persons.
UPDATE: Michael Geist has posted a disclaimer on his blog explaining the pledge's compliance with the Elections Act. You can find the revised posting at the link above, or see Dr. Geist's response to me in the comments section for this posting.
FURTHER UPDATE: Boing Boing linked to Geist's pledge with the headline Canadians: ask your candidates to take the copyright pledge! They seem to have interpreted it as a pledge for individuals, which we now know it is not. I am attempting to engage with the Boing Boing audience in their comments section, but am having a bit of trouble getting my points and links past a moderator. Meanwhile, the author of that Boing Boing post, Cory Doctorow, enjoys unmoderated access to my comments section.