As of this afternoon, I am unclicking my membership at Michael Geist's Fair Copyright for Canada and leaving the group for good.
Why? Because I have other, better, online choices for learning about and discussing copyright reform in Canada. Also, I value good faith discussion of the issues surrounding Bill C-32; and I find little faith at FCFC, none of it good.
The changing landscape:
Access Copyright and 12 partner organizations have recently launched a C-32 information and advocacy website called copyrightgetitright. It joins Balanced Copyright for Canada and the aforementioned Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group as online places for those interested in Bill C-32 and copyright reform in Canada to get information and focus their efforts to communicate on this issue.
Why are there three prominent websites? Good question.
In case you haven't been reading my comments section for the past few years, you should know that copyright reform is a contentious topic that often seems to pit professional creators and corporate rightsholders against consumers.
As I have often written, I personally believe this is a false dichotomy. The campaign to protect consumers from unsatisfying interactions with vendors should not involve the removal of individual rights for creators -- because at an individual level we are always both creators and consumers under copyright. An attack on copyright only harms us all as individuals. In essence, we risk robbing our creator selves of rights in order to give our user selves permissions we already enjoy but have not learned to use in the digital world.
Please read the comments that will inevitably flow from this posting to understand why three different websites seem to be representing the same worries about copyright reform.
You need a program to tell the players. So here it is:
copyrightgetitright represents the views of Canada's copyright licensing agency, Access Copyright, and twelve partner organizations all of whom generally agree with the idea of collective licensing as a solution for providing access to copyright-protected works AND compensation to creators. These are professional writers, publishers, translators and playwrights. In other words, real people whose livelihoods depend on the individual rights provided by copyright.
If you've signed up to this site (I signed up the other day), chances are you belong to a professional association more on the writing and publishing side of the cultural sector or are just passionate about creator copyright.
Balanced Copyright for Canada is an information and advocacy website created and populated mainly (but not exclusively) by workers in the Canadian music industry. As they say of themselves:
"Balanced Copyright for Canada is a coalition of content creators, artists and rights holders, and people who work in music, movies, games, books, and software, who believe that Canada needs to move into the digital age on its legislation governing copyright. The website is a commons to support balanced copyright reform, and is intended for anyone who supports that goal inside or outside the coalition, including consumers."
Despite a large and active membership, and an advisory board of creative professionals, Balanced Copyright for Canada continues to be accused of corporate astroturfing by consumer advocate Michael Geist and his more vocal anti-corporate followers. In fact, the discussion board at the Balanced Copyright Facebook page is the primary arena for many of these accusations.
I am an active member and supporter of Balanced Copyright for Canada.
Balanced Copyright for Canada should not be confused with balancedcopyright.gc.ca which is the federal government's official site for information about Bill C-32, or balancedcopyright.ca which is a fairly static info page from the Pirate Party of Canada.
Finally Fair Copyright for Canada is a series of Facebook-centred initiatives by consumer advocate Michael Geist. Originally launched in 2007 in anticipation of Bill C-61, the site attracted tens of thousands of one-click members, all of whom undoubtedly believe in fair copyright, though certainly not agreeing on what exactly the word fair means in this context. While many professional creators joined the Fair Copyright page, there can be little doubt its primary activity is in service to the consumer side of copyright reform (see above where I mention a false dichotomy).
Fair Copyright's founding statement pre-judged the government's attempt at a reform bill as a Canadian DMCA, and a recently revised statement on the page is little more than republication of a Michael Geist post in which he takes C-32 to task for protecting artists over consumers.
The fairness of Fair Copyright is up for interpretation. I regularly post to the site and can count on being immediately and angrily attacked for my views (which I consider quite fair - my views, I mean). Just today I was called "pollution" and a "corporate shill" on Fair Copyright, and not that long ago I had my membership in one of the Fair Copyright sub-chapters revoked for "remarks in group not consistent w/ FCFC principles." In other words, I was booted from the Fair Copyright chapter for speaking my mind freely. So much for fairness.
My opinion only -- all others welcome:
If you are a creative professional in Canada, or understand the need for creative professionals to have faith in laws protecting their work, you will probably find the information at copyrightgetitright.ca and the discussion at Balanced Copyright for Canada to be most fruitful.
If my experience is any indication, professional creators looking for actual fairness in the discussion at Fair Copyright are bound to be disappointed.
Perhaps it's best at this point for professional creators and those supporting them to unclick our memberships at Fair Copyright and move on (this can be done at the bottom of the left hand menu on the FCFC page). While our numbers are being counted and quoted over there, our words and thoughts aren't welcome. As I began writing this, FCFC had 87,197 members, many of whom are left over from the initial wave interested in real discussion and real fairness. They have one less now, for what that's worth.
On the other hand, if your copyright concerns focus exclusively on consumer permissions around content, and you believe there is a corporate (American) conspiracy to attack the Canadian cultural consumer, then Fair Copyright is the place for you.
(images courtesy copyrightgetitright.ca, Access Copyright, Balanced Copyright for Canada and Fair Copyright for Canada)