While police cars burned on the streets of downtown Toronto, and innocent, peaceful protesters were used as shields and camoflage by a small group of pointless troublemakers, I spent the G20 weekend looking after my kids in Etobicoke. Every once in a while, I’d gaze east across Humber Bay toward downtown for any distant signs of the violence I was following mainly through the tweets of friends and colleagues in the crowds.
And at the same time, I found myself being used and abused by online "protesters" with as much legitimate complaint against me as those stomping and incinerating cars on Queen Street have against my city.
As reported in my last blog posting, I was talking copyright on Twitter with a bunch of folks the other night, when we were all interrupted by an administrator at the Fair Copyright for Canada facebook empire who informed us that my membership in one of the chapters there had been revoked for “attacking FCFC principles and [Michael] Geist.”
Having reported on being censored for “remarks… not consistent w/ FCFC principles” and “extremist views,” I then found myself on the receiving end of an entirely new round of criticism -- I can only figure because I dared to tell folks that I had been banned and censored for my insistence on protecting artist rights in the copyright reform process.
To their credit, some of the copyleft(ish) commenters dominating the comment streams at artist-friendly Balanced Copyright for Canada expressed their discomfort with my having been banned on their home turf. After all, no-one was banning them from Balanced Copyright for views inconsistent with Balanced Copyright principles. I tip my hat to them. That’s what reasoned debate should be about.
As well, the founder of Fair Copyright for Canada, Michael Geist, paid a visit to my own comment stream to first take a jab at a few IP and entertainment lawyers, and then to disavow any control over the censorship decision, and (finally) to register his disagreement with it. It remains unclear whether or not he intends to do anything about censorship within the group he founded, continues to oversee, and references regularly in his public advocacy for consumers.
Meanwhile, back on Twitter where all this began some days back, I was mobbed by a steady stream of vitriol, which I can only assume is some form of organized damage control from the copyleft(ish) FCFC camp. Blame the victim seems to be to the theme. I tried to dutifully retweet the nastier bits, so folks could see what was happening, but let me requote some of them here:
“@jkdegen I am blaming you for belittling the concept of #censorship by abusing the word!”
“@jkdegen do you troll and smear everyone who disagree's (sic) with your points of view?”
“@jkdegen you can't tell #censorship from a manager/proprietor asking you to leave?”
“@jkdegen As you continue to misuse the word #censorship , you only help clarify why you were removed from that forum”
“@jkdegen You are actively supporting this decision to ban you, through your actions on this over the past few days”
And if the tweet-attack is not clear enough, the admin of the FCFC chapter, from which I and all my apparently offensive, Geist-smearing remarks were removed, has posted an official explanation for censoring me on his own blog. Apparently, it became vitally important to silence my voice within the group because some other writing I had done on my own blog was somehow physically endangering other members of the group and - I’m not making this up - the public at large. And, I quote:
"I took an administrative decision at the time to ban Mr. Degen from FCFC York Region due to not only the attacks he presented on Geist but the public voice of this debate as well. I was not sure at this point how these attacks by creator groups were being conducted, and if those in my group would be targeted next by Mr. Degen in an attempt to discredit the Fair Copyright for Canada Movement and had to act based on the risk already posed to the public voice on this matter by Mr. Degen and others."
Beware of the vicious, attacking artist! Other than linking to one of my earlier blog postings (in which I make no personal attacks), the administrator provides no examples of me personally attacking anyone. I know why. I discuss copyright; I don't make personal attacks.
A couple of final notes on this:
Many of the angry tweets directed at me CCed both Tony Clement and James Moore, the two federal ministers responsible for the copyright reform Bill C32. I assume this was an attempt by FCFC to save face in front of the people who will lead the debate on C32 when Parliament resumes. I’m guessing both Clement and Moore were too busy with the G20 to even notice yet another flood of angry anti-C32 tweets to their mobiles, but if they did I welcome their comments on FCFC’s official censorship explanation.
And finally, other than the quick check-in on my comment stream days ago, and despite the fact that Michael Geist was also CCed on some of the tweets, we have all heard nothing publicly from Geist on this official explanation from Fair Copyright for Canada. As much as he tried to distance himself from the decision in my comment stream, he IS the founder of the group from which all the chapters sprang; he does reference the membership numbers over there (now minus one) in his consumer advocacy; and he does continue to happily stand as their presumptive leader on copyright reform. Dr. Geist has taken time out of his busy schedule to report on "13 mostly teenage protesters demonstrat[ing] against proposed anti-piracy legislation" in Calgary, but has written nothing about ongoing censorship within his own group.
UPDATE: I have just noticed that Michael Geist does address this issue on the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook page, where he responds to a member question about my being censored with this:
"Not on this group. According to the group admin, the York Region group dropped him from that group due to personal attacks."
Again, no examples of personal attacks; and, really, a disturbingly casual response to censorship within the movement.
Heritage Minister James Moore took a lot of heat the other day for remarks he made about “radical extremists” on the fringe of the copyright debate. Michael Geist accused Moore of referring to anyone with any opposition or amendment suggestions for C32. I have amendment suggestions for C32, and I am quite sure Minister Moore was not calling me an extremist.
I would suggest that perhaps radical extremists are those who think burning police cars and destroying private property are valid political protest. As well, surely, there is something radically extreme about blatant censorship, and its apologists.