I'm in Ottawa to take in some of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, but since Bill C-11 is right now being debated on the Hill, copyright continues to be an important focus for me in this great cultural city.
So it is that I found myself spending the entire day today at the IP Osgoode copyright conference, Can Canada Learn Anything From Europe? at the Ottawa Convention Centre (photo above, from my Blackberry), and may I just say that it was an unbelievably refreshing experience to hear real-world copyright issues being discussed east of Parliament Hill.
There is plenty of real-world copyright in the Ottawa air right now as Parliament debates a good-faith bill in true democratic fashion, but walk a few blocks away from the Peace Tower (just over the canal) and things can often get quite, um... speculative and unreal. This conference was like sinking into a warm bath after years out in the Ottawa copyright winter.
Thanks to IP Osgoode's Director, Professor Giuseppina D’Agostino, who oversaw the organization of a truly informative and engaging program of international copyright experts. Really, the intellectual property pedigree in the room was kind of over-the-top. This conference certainly establishes IP Osgoode as Canada's intellectual centre for copyright discussion.
The morning began with a big-picture review of European Union copyright legal activity from Dr. Silke von Lewinski of the Max Planck Institute for IP and Competition Law in Munich. Ms. von Lewinski set the tone for the day, I think, with a gentle swipe at "academic excitement" over TPM protections that are "not reflected in the real world." Considering the local "academic" who was sitting about thirty feet from her as she spoke, I think the only possible interpretation of that comment can be... in your face.
Are you beginning to see how something as geeky as copyright can actually be kind of fun and exciting when you get right into it?
Other contributors included former World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Assistant Director General, Dr. Mihály Ficsor, and UNESCO consultant and President of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale (ALAI), Professor Victor Nabhan (oh, the irony - a visiting professor at Ottawa U).
I'd go through the rest of the program point by point but the Ottawa night and the writer's festival (real-world cultural engagement) beckons. Anyone interested can get full conference materials directly from the IP Osgoode website, starting tomorrow (I believe).
I'll spend a bit of time digesting everything I learned today, and I'll likely work it into my next blog posts. But I can't finish right now without reference to one central message from today. This morning, there was a prolonged discussion about the sensationalist rhetoric and unhelpful analogies that can so often distort real-world copyright discussions. One speaker referred to this as pre-loading the dice in favour of one side or another.
Well, in a full day discussion that included many, many mentions of Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) and Digital Rights Management (DRM), I'm pretty sure I never once heard anyone use the term "digital locks."
Score one for cutting through sensationalist rhetoric.