Wednesday, October 15, 2008

change is in the air

I hope regular visitors to this blog are not too shocked by what they see. I've changed the look, and am about to embark on changing the content. I don't quite know what this blog will become, but it will definitely change in tone. Not only am I tired of the struggle over copyright in this country, but I have a need to officially pull back from the debate. My opinions about reform have not changed, but I am going to be working for creators in what I hope is a much more effective and meaningful way.

Reasons behind the changes will become apparent in the next couple of days, I'm sure. There's nothing too mysterious about it.

For now, I'm going to add a twitter feed to the site for quicker and smaller updates. Thanks for all the challenging argumentation of the past couple of years. I think it had a tangible impact on legislative discussion.

I like the look of this new template because it has map elements, and these days I'm all about the maps.


Russell McOrmond said...

Before I read this posting by you, I read the following that explained it:

John Degen to take over for Filyer at OAC

I think that this is congrats, but I'll leave that for you to evaluate.

I agree that all this Copyright stuff is pretty negative. I wish there were more software authors out there trying to protect our rights, but far too many in this field naively think that they can write software to get around any dumb changes to the law. They seem willing to abandon that 99.9% (not sure how many 9's) of the population don't really have the technical skills to protect their own rights without our help, just like most people don't get engaged deeply in public policy. As this recent election has shown us, an increasing number of us don't even bother to go out and vote.


I hope that whoever replaces you at PWAC will be as open to actually discussing the issues as you have been. Far too many groups are being insular and not speaking with the other Canadian creators they need to be.

John McFetridge said...

Hey wow, I hadn't seen the article about your new job, John, yes congratulations. The OAC is lucky to have you.

After spending a few months avoiding doing any real writing and looking through the copyright stuff instead it all seems pretty much moot for us novelists (not a really big part of this anyway, really). Industries are adjusting, writers and consumers are adjusting and it looks like new methods will work for everyone.

When Russell pointed out that those educational institutions weren't going for open source software some alarm bells went off. Here, on the one hand they have people trying to give them perfectly workable software for free but they insist on buying expensive stuff (I just started using OpenOffice, it's fine) and on the other hand they're complaining like mad about having to buy multiple copies of DVDs at twenty bucks a piece. There's something else going on here and it isn't about copyright...

I hope you find enough time to get that next book out soon.

Russell McOrmond said...


Re: "those educational institutions weren't going for open source software some alarm bells went off."

I know this is kinda off-topic for this forum now that JohnD is heading off to other things, but I really want to rant about Copyright and Educational institutions with people who may agree (or at least know what I'm writing about).

When I joined in the Copyright debate I was really confused about who I thought my allies and political opponents would be. As much as the Creators Copyright Coalition confuses me, so does CMEC/etc.

It really seems that educational institutions want to have their cake and eat ours too. They want to have the knowledge inputs to their institutions to be $free, but their knowledge outputs to be $fee. They have lost nearly any moral authority they may have had in the past.

Canadian institutions are less likely to participate in Open Access or Free/Libre Software initiatives as they mistakenly believe that there is money to be made by these institutions in $royalty based educational publications and software. These are types of knowledge that are expenses to these institutions, not assets, so their thinking is counter-productive.

Add to all of this the fact that it is all taxpayer money and not their own, and this isn't adequately accountable.

Its sad, and so many are getting screwed over. Authors like yourselves aren't getting paid what you are due, and students are taught methods for the production of software that are extremely outdated. Students graduating from our institutions are less and less equipped to compete in a global economy where the majority of the world is heading in a different direction.

I noticed a few heads turn at a recent talk when I said that since most teaching and learning happen outside of educational institutions that the current Canadian educational exceptions are worthless. I think Canada should adopt US-style Fair Use (modernized to clarify some things), and abolish educational institutional exceptions entirely. I think educational institutions, like government institutions, are the *LAST* places that should be exempted from copyright. Teaching children to do things in schools that they are not allowed to do outside of school is simply wrong! Having politicians and bureaucrats not understand how copyright impacts the rest of Canadian society is dangerous, especially since these are the folks who will be manipulating that law.

There are IMHO solutions to the current problems, but they may not be feasible in the current stupid political climate. I've seen the suggestion elsewhere, including on Knopf's blog -- rather than having collectives collecting from educational institutions and governments that we instead expand and create new funding programs similar to the PLR (better targeting of the funding to creators rather than intermediaries, less overhead/lawsuits, etc). This would be better for creators than fiddling with copyright which creators don't generally benefit from. Unfortunately the same bureaucrats/politicians who believe that copyright should be "stronger" are also the first to suggest that government funding of creators should decrease.