The answer, of course, is yes. Bill C-32 has passed Second Reading in the House of Commons and is now headed for a special legislative committee, at which one presumes various interests will propose various amendments.
I think creators should watch very carefully which amendments are proposed and who is proposing them. And writers (and publishers) need to play closer attention, because whether they realize it or not, they've been targeted for demonization by the consumer protection campaign, and it has already gotten ugly.
In a shockingly biased and unbalanced interview this week on the Search Engine podcast, TVO journalist Jesse Brown lobbed user-rights softballs at consumer advocate Michael Geist to try to get at a summing up of his user-focused C-32 campaign. Their friendly chat included lots of winking agreement about how bad "big media" is, and how there is an organized and somewhat diabolical misinformation campaign afoot to convince soft-headed politicians that fair dealing is bad. I quote Brown:
"It all comes down to this... after the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who spoke up for fair copyright, after the millions and millions of dollars of US corporate lobbying money that has flooded into Canada to influence our politicians... the dirty tricks, the name calling, the astroturf websites, the planted editorials..."
"everything this astroturf Balanced Copyright group has been saying in the press through their spokespuppets... almost like US Republican style talking points"
In the interview, Geist does not disagree with this completely one-sided characterization of the debate and the maligning of good-faith discussion and advocacy from the creator side; in fact, he takes it further and accuses Canadian publishers and collectives of an organized misinformation campaign to mislead MPs.
If Brown and Geist's disdain for the professional writing and publishing community in Canada is not clear enough from the interview, here's what Brown tweeted (and Geist retweeted) in response to a Nino Ricci op-ed on educational use in the Globe last week:
"I don't care who Access Copyright gets to write their propaganda: it's lies, not opinion, & the Globe shouldn't print it."
Let's be clear about this. Jesse Brown called two-time Governor General Award winner Nino Ricci a liar and accused Access Copyright of creating propaganda.
Why? Because Ricci expressed widespread concerns about the potential effects of an educational exception on the collective licencing that provides income for writers and publishers.
Brown called him a liar, and Geist happily retweeted the accusation. I wanted that understood before getting to this next part.
Two days ago, Michael Geist published an op-ed in the Hill Times calling for compromise in the amendment process. Geist's suggestions look quite smiley on the surface. He calls for changes to the TPM protections to make them more consumer-friendly, codifying the fair dealing fairness test within the bill to alleviate creator concerns about a broad educational copyright exception, and some vague guarantee from the government to commit to "continued full program funding" in place of an extended copyright levy.
First, creators get the slap-down from Geist and Brown, then the friendly invitation to compromise. Okay, okay, I'll compromise... please stop hitting me.
Writers (and publishers, and collectives) should pay closer attention to these compromise suggestions. Let's start with...
Technological Protection Measures
There is a great deal of panic being spread about legal protection for TPMs. Consumer rights activists are repeating at every opportunity that C-32's TPM protections are an attack on consumer rights. They have succeeded in convincing almost everyone to think of TPMs as digital locks.
The campaign against TPM protection should be of interest to any professional creator right now, because its aim is to weaken the ability of copyright holders to control access to their content. TPM protections allow you to put No Trespassing signs around your intellectual property (see this earlier posting for more on TPMS as signs). Without legal protection for your No Trespassing signs, anyone can rip them down and trespass at will. Worse yet, anyone can profit from their trespass on your property.
Those who think of TPMs only as locks say broad legal protection for TPMs will trump user rights to content. I invite you all to read lawyer James Gannon's response to that suggestion.
For me, the TPM question boils down to this - the attempt by C-32 to decriminalize certain common consumer practices like format and time shifting was done in good faith and is genuinely a good thing, but decriminalization does not create a borderless new "right" to ignore No Trespassing signs. The polite culture of permission still stands, because respect for creativity is at the core of copyright.
I'll address Geist's other "compromises" in a later posting.
NB: This posting was edited to remove a terribly constructed sentence. I was hurrying a bit when I first wrote it. Busy times.