Wednesday, March 07, 2012

the age of unoriginal thought - brought to you by free culture

There's an interesting piece in the National Post this morning documenting a growing disagreement in the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) over that organization's official submission to Parliament concerning Canadian copyright reform. The CBA membership runs the spectrum of opinion and practice in Intellectual Property law, from those lawyers mostly focused on traditional copyright rightsholders to those new theorists purporting to stand for consumers. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised by how I just characterized that spectrum of opinion.

A group of actual, working IP lawyers have complained to the CBA that what should have been a balanced submission reflecting all opinions from within the organization was, in fact, hijacked by the more academic, vocal and profile-seeking user rights activists. As evidence toward this claim, the group has documented:
 "16 examples where the CBA submission uses language that is substantially similar, and often identical, to that used in blog postings made by Mr. Geist."
The Mr. Geist referred to is, of course, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist whose longrunning campaign against fair collective licensing for Canada's artists has been well-documented in past postings here.

The kicker in the NP story comes when an American IP lawyer notices a typo in the CBA submission that is an exact, um, copy of a typo found on Geist's blog. Apparently, the CBA's committee in charge of the submission didn't bother to spell check when they were cutting and pasting their opinion from Professor Geist.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to the so called "copyfight" over the last decade. There hasn't been much, if any, original thought from free culture since Harvard prof Lawrence Lessig published Free Culture, and even that foundational text was little more than a collection and refinement of theories that had been cooking away in tech-activist chat rooms for the decade previous. From its beginnings as a generous and freedom-loving encouragement of sharing, free culture theory has been allowed to devolve to nothing more than the tired repetition of anti-corporate platitudes and complete misunderstandings of the mechanisms of culture.

With this careless repetition now appearing as copied sentences (complete with typos) in an official submission to our legislators, has the free culture devaluation of originality reached its nadir? We can only hope.

Nice photo of Professor Geist in the NP story, though. He'll be happy.

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UPDATE: The Music.Tech.Policy blog out of L.A. has posted an update to this story, noting substantial differences in the explanation for the copied passages. Where he earlier claimed "I was once a member of the CBA’s Copyright Policy section but was not involved in the drafting of the Bill C-32 document." Dr. Geist is now admitting that the CBA's version of events, "Professor Geist provided input directly to early drafts of the submission," is accurate.

Classic, free culture 'factiness" in action.

1 comment:

Sandy Crawley said...

Nice one!