Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Speaking of Smear Campaigns

Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. The Bulte imbroglio is morphing.

The Creators' Copyright Coalition (CCC) is apparently shocked, shocked to see criticisms (which they call a “smear campaign”) of Canadian copyright law, policy and policy makers ...“Particularly when they come from the American lobby group Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is rich but ignorant of Canadian issues”.

Imagine. An American lobby group. Rich. Ignorant of Canadian issues. Active in Canada. American interests lobbying in Canada. Copyright interest groups with money. In our cities. In Canada. I’m not making this up.

That indeed is the CCC’s concern.

So, I wonder how the CCC would describe CAAST, CRIA, CMPDA, CMRRA, CPCC, ESA and other so-called “Canadian” lobby groups and collectives that it must think are operating on modest budgets and are genuinely concerned and knowledgeable about the needs of actual Canadian creators. Otherwise, I’m sure that the CCC would be outraged about their presence on Canadian copyright soil as well.

Seriously, I actually have no problem with rich American lobby groups that are knowledge about Canadian law and society operating in Canada to protect their interests. That’s inevitable, and can even be helpful if their policy agenda coincides with the Canadian public interest. Sometimes they can (hopefully accurately) inform beleaguered bureaucrats about international case law and othe developments that are not always so easy to research. In any event, they’re entitled to present their point of view. That’s globalization and freedom of expression. But there should be some serious transparency in the effort and it is not always present.

CRIA, the Canadian Recording Industry Association for example, wraps itself in the flag of Canadian creators, but this is a flag of convenience that simply doesn’t fly. At a 2004 conference in New York, a prominent international lobbyist in the entertainment industry referred to CRIA in a memorable Freudian slip as the "Canadian Recording Industry of America".

And speaking of excess smear campaigns, I recall that a certain spokesperson for the Writers' Union of Canada (c/o which CCC snail mail is to be sent) and the League of Canadian Poets, two members of the CCC, uttered the following memorable metaphor in conclusion to her testimony in 1996 to the Parliamentary Committee that produced the dreadful amendments to Bill C-32:

In conclusion, I want to emphasis that writers are small business people and our copyrights are often our only real assets. Exceptions to copyright are an expropriation of our property against our will. If copyrights were cars, this would be car theft.

(Emphasis added)

Exceptions to copyright. Car theft. Expropriation. That’s what she said. I’m not making this up.

Funny that the Supreme Court of Canada somehow doesn’t buy into this memorable metaphor:

The respondent contends that s. 2.4(1)(b) is an exemption from liability and should be read narrowly; but this is incorrect. Under the Copyright Act, the rights of the copyright owner and the limitations on those rights should be read together to give “the fair and balanced reading that befits remedial legislation” (CCH, supra, para. 48).

Section 2.4(1)(b) is not a loophole but an important element of the balance struck by the statutory copyright scheme.
(emphasis added)

SOCAN v. CAIP 2004 SCC 45. per Justice Binne.

And who was the wise sage who penned this car theft canard? None other than Margaret Atwood, a doyenne maybe of CanLit but hardly of legal logic.


1 comment:

  1. When Bulte and the CCC are talking about the EFF, they are really talking about the influence by Canadian Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow and the BoingBoing BLOG website.

    So I wrote a blog entry: Where does Cory Doctorow vote?

    See also: BoingBoing: Canadians: ask your Member of Parliament to declare a stand on copyright