Sunday, June 27, 2010

attack of the tweets - "Fairness" strikes back

While police cars burned on the streets of downtown Toronto, and innocent, peaceful protesters were used as shields and camoflage by a small group of pointless troublemakers, I spent the G20 weekend looking after my kids in Etobicoke. Every once in a while, I’d gaze east across Humber Bay toward downtown for any distant signs of the violence I was following mainly through the tweets of friends and colleagues in the crowds.

And at the same time, I found myself being used and abused by online "protesters" with as much legitimate complaint against me as those stomping and incinerating cars on Queen Street have against my city.

As reported in my last blog posting, I was talking copyright on Twitter with a bunch of folks the other night, when we were all interrupted by an administrator at the Fair Copyright for Canada facebook empire who informed us that my membership in one of the chapters there had been revoked for “attacking FCFC principles and [Michael] Geist.”

Having reported on being censored for “remarks… not consistent w/ FCFC principles” and “extremist views,” I then found myself on the receiving end of an entirely new round of criticism -- I can only figure because I dared to tell folks that I had been banned and censored for my insistence on protecting artist rights in the copyright reform process.

To their credit, some of the copyleft(ish) commenters dominating the comment streams at artist-friendly Balanced Copyright for Canada expressed their discomfort with my having been banned on their home turf. After all, no-one was banning them from Balanced Copyright for views inconsistent with Balanced Copyright principles. I tip my hat to them. That’s what reasoned debate should be about.

As well, the founder of Fair Copyright for Canada, Michael Geist, paid a visit to my own comment stream to first take a jab at a few IP and entertainment lawyers, and then to disavow any control over the censorship decision, and (finally) to register his disagreement with it. It remains unclear whether or not he intends to do anything about censorship within the group he founded, continues to oversee, and references regularly in his public advocacy for consumers.

Meanwhile, back on Twitter where all this began some days back, I was mobbed by a steady stream of vitriol, which I can only assume is some form of organized damage control from the copyleft(ish) FCFC camp. Blame the victim seems to be to the theme. I tried to dutifully retweet the nastier bits, so folks could see what was happening, but let me requote some of them here:

“@jkdegen I am blaming you for belittling the concept of #censorship by abusing the word!”

“@jkdegen do you troll and smear everyone who disagree's (sic) with your points of view?”

“@jkdegen you can't tell #censorship from a manager/proprietor asking you to leave?”

“@jkdegen As you continue to misuse the word #censorship , you only help clarify why you were removed from that forum”

“@jkdegen You are actively supporting this decision to ban you, through your actions on this over the past few days”

And if the tweet-attack is not clear enough, the admin of the FCFC chapter, from which I and all my apparently offensive, Geist-smearing remarks were removed, has posted an official explanation for censoring me on his own blog. Apparently, it became vitally important to silence my voice within the group because some other writing I had done on my own blog was somehow physically endangering other members of the group and - I’m not making this up - the public at large. And, I quote:

"I took an administrative decision at the time to ban Mr. Degen from FCFC York Region due to not only the attacks he presented on Geist but the public voice of this debate as well. I was not sure at this point how these attacks by creator groups were being conducted, and if those in my group would be targeted next by Mr. Degen in an attempt to discredit the Fair Copyright for Canada Movement and had to act based on the risk already posed to the public voice on this matter by Mr. Degen and others."

Beware of the vicious, attacking artist! Other than linking to one of my earlier blog postings (in which I make no personal attacks), the administrator provides no examples of me personally attacking anyone. I know why. I discuss copyright; I don't make personal attacks.

A couple of final notes on this:

Many of the angry tweets directed at me CCed both Tony Clement and James Moore, the two federal ministers responsible for the copyright reform Bill C32. I assume this was an attempt by FCFC to save face in front of the people who will lead the debate on C32 when Parliament resumes. I’m guessing both Clement and Moore were too busy with the G20 to even notice yet another flood of angry anti-C32 tweets to their mobiles, but if they did I welcome their comments on FCFC’s official censorship explanation.

And finally, other than the quick check-in on my comment stream days ago, and despite the fact that Michael Geist was also CCed on some of the tweets, we have all heard nothing publicly from Geist on this official explanation from Fair Copyright for Canada. As much as he tried to distance himself from the decision in my comment stream, he IS the founder of the group from which all the chapters sprang; he does reference the membership numbers over there (now minus one) in his consumer advocacy; and he does continue to happily stand as their presumptive leader on copyright reform. Dr. Geist has taken time out of his busy schedule to report on "13 mostly teenage protesters demonstrat[ing] against proposed anti-piracy legislation" in Calgary, but has written nothing about ongoing censorship within his own group.

UPDATE: I have just noticed that Michael Geist does address this issue on the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook page, where he responds to a member question about my being censored with this:

"Not on this group. According to the group admin, the York Region group dropped him from that group due to personal attacks."

Again, no examples of personal attacks; and, really, a disturbingly casual response to censorship within the movement.

Heritage Minister James Moore took a lot of heat the other day for remarks he made about “radical extremists” on the fringe of the copyright debate. Michael Geist accused Moore of referring to anyone with any opposition or amendment suggestions for C32. I have amendment suggestions for C32, and I am quite sure Minister Moore was not calling me an extremist.

I would suggest that perhaps radical extremists are those who think burning police cars and destroying private property are valid political protest. As well, surely, there is something radically extreme about blatant censorship, and its apologists.

Bookmark and Share


Russell McOrmond said...

Wow, I am now part of some mythical organized "attack" for calling out your abuse of the concept of censorship. And those you are critiquing are as much representatives of creators as you suggest you are. We are just not on the far-right conservative creator's rights political philosophy.

This debate isn't creators vs. non-creators , but more along the left vs. right you like to talk about.

I'm proud to be protecting creators, rather than incumbent institutions.

Anonymous said...

They shouldn't have banned you.

Helen A. Mitchell said...

John, thanks for standing up for the rights of creators and for exposing one more example of the shocking lack of ehtics that exists among the pirate mob. Here they are committing the worst possible offense against the free flow of information they claim to espouse and showing no awareness or even concern about wht they've done. There is a whiff of brownshirt zealotry about Geist's organization that makes me uneasy, especially as he seems so little concerned about it.

Michael Geist said...


On June 25, 2010, I posted the following on your blog:

“I had absolutely nothing to do with you being removed from the York Region Chapter group and disagree with the decision to do so. I do not administer that group, did not create that group, and I am not a member of that group. I am happy there are local chapters, but they do own their own thing. As you well know, you have posted frequently to the Fair Copyright for Canada group and never had a single post removed.”

I frankly thought the statement spoke for itself, but over the past week or so, you’ve continued to suggest that somehow I haven’t done enough to respond. Until Ms. Mitchell’s shameful comment, I had no intention of doing so given that I’ve already made my position clear. However, given her remarks that liken Fair Copyright to Nazi-like zealotry, I feel I must respond.

First, with respect to your removal of the York Region Chapter, I have already stated that I do not agree with the decision and that I have no control over it. I’m not sure what more needs to be said. While I started the first FCFC and am happy that there are other local chapters, I do not administer or control them. To suggest otherwise, would be akin to claiming that Graham Henderson controls all comments from emanating from all corners of the recording industry.

Second, the attempts to paint me as having a hand in, or being indifferent to, censoring you is particularly sad given that I have never banned, blocked or removed any of your comments on the Fair Copyright for Canada group that I do administer and would not do so. I should note that that group has 87,495 members. The York Region chapter has at most a couple of hundred (I don’t even know given that the numbers are closed to non-members). I think you’ll agree that it is a safe bet that virtually every member of that group is also member of the larger FCFC group. That means that far from being censored in speaking to people interested in FCFC, you can reach all the York Region chapter members and more than 87,000 other people on Facebook without any interference.

If that audience isn’t big enough, you are free to post on my blog. You have posted there regularly – in your name and otherwise – frequently with harsh criticisms for me. I have never removed a single post and have no plans to do so. In light of this track record, it is plainly wrong to paint me as being indifferent to censorship. Rather, to use the words of recent commenter on my site, “the hypocrisy is now astonishing.”

As I noted above, I did not plan to respond because I thought I already did. However, Ms. Mitchell’s reference is so beyond the pale – particularly to the grandson of Holocaust survivors who saw most of their families murdered – that I felt I must. You have been a frequent critic of what you see as my failure to stop the occasionally outlandish comments on my blog. I trust you will now lead by example with your supporters.


Anonymous said...

John's fake censorship battle continues. One has to wonder whether the personal attacks John and his minions are offering are actually effecting their position at the table.

Get a life John! It's a facebook group, are you bi-polar or something?

Anonymous said...

"And at the same time, I found myself being used and abused by online "protesters" with as much legitimate complaint against me as those stomping and incinerating cars on Queen Street have against my city."

You've just admitted here you are not a part of York Region! So what's the real issue here John?

Darryl said...

My goodness John, sticking your foot in your pie hole again I see. Tsk Tsk.

Upset FCFC of York Region wont give you a voice any more? Are you upset that the Norwegian Ladies Yodellers' Society website wont let you post there either? Get a life man.

And continuing to drag Geist into something he has made quite clear he has no involvement of, or control over, really demonstrates a degree of thick headedness which is rather extreme, even for you.

Frankly it appears to be more an act of desperation on your part. You are still confused and upset, unable to figure out why everyone else doesn't see the world the way you do.

Russell McOrmond said...

I offer a longer comment in: Traditional definitions in the copyright debate.

If John disagrees with how I portrayed him there, he can comment and we can discuss.


Ms. Mitchell's comments demonstrate just how wrong it is to claim something is censorship when it is not. The proprietor of a forum has the right to remove a person and their commentary for any reason, including having no reason at all. A proprietor doing this can never in my mind legitimately be called censorship, and it belittles real censorship to misuse the term.

It is also incorrect for her to call those who disagree with John as "the pirate mob" given we are creators as much as John is. Lets not get into childish games about how much of our income comes from our copyrighted creativity, as that still wouldn't put John as better representing creators than those fellow creators he critiques.

This debate isn't about copyright holders vs infringers. The vast majority of debates and disagreements I have had in the 9 years I've been involved in this debate is with fellow creators who have been advocating for policies I firmly believe will take money out of the pockets of fellow creators.