Meeting with Bob Rae

(A slightly different version of this report was also posted to the Fair Copyright for Canada, Toronto Chapter, Facebook group.)

At the Fair Copyright for Canada, Toronto Chapter, strategy session with Michael Geist, on July 24, attendees were broken into groups by riding, and asked to contact local MPs and speak with them in favor of amending Canada’s absurd Bill C-61 (essentially an ‘improved’ version of the US’ disastrous Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

This morning, Lukasz Kosewski and I met with Bob Rae, at his office on Parliament Street. Lukasz very eloquently presented the perspective of the open-source community, and its problems with highly restrictive legislation such as Bill C-61. (I’ve emailed him this report, and hope that he’ll expand with comments of his own.)

I attempted to present the point of view of the consumer electronics industry (which I cover in my day job as a technology journalist). My efforts met with only modest success. It seems that I was the very first person to actually present this perspective to Mr. Rae! He mentioned that ACTRA had been in to see him earlier that very morning, to plead for more copyright protection. But meanwhile, powerful companies such as Toshiba, Samsung, LG, Sharp and others – all of whom stand to lose bigtime from C-61 – are nowhere to be seen. Very odd.

My main point was that any gains for the content industry will be losses for the consumer electronics industry. The former is stable, whereas the latter is poised for explosive growth, given a halfway reasonable legal climate. I think I took Mr. Rae’s thinking about as far along this path as was possible from a standing start. But much more remains to be done. (I’ve attempted to spur consumer-electronics companies to action in my writings, and will continue to do so. I suspect these folks may be taking a needlessly deferential attitude to Big Content.)

Throughout our conversation, Mr. Rae’s stance seemed to be far less than enthusiastic to the points of view presented by Lukasz and myself. If I had to guess, I’d say that various parties from the content industry had been hitting him pretty hard. He spoke several times about the need to protect creators’ rights. When I noted that most of Canada’s prominent music creators seemed opposed to this type of legislation, he countered that only ‘some’ were opposed; others were not. (ACTRA was mentioned as an example of a creators’ body that at least generally favored the bill.)

On the other hand, Mr. Rae did speak very encouragingly about the need for “balance.” And he acknowledged that the playing field had changed in the Internet world. He also said that when the bill (likely) goes to committee, the Liberals would push for changes. He further suggested that a fall election was very possible, and that in that event, Bill C-61 would very likely go back on the drawing board, with time taken for proper consultation with all parties.

Anyway, huge thanks are due to Lukasz for persisting with Mr. Rae’s office over many days, in order to set up our half-hour chat. I believe we did move the ball a few feet, if not much more. Clearly, there’s a need to keep up the pressure. There’s a long way to go, even though Bob Rae has already spoken out in favor of amending C-61, and is theoretically on our side.

On a more positive note, I’d have to say that Lukasz and I both emerged from the meeting energized and quite a bit more aware of the political realities involved. I hope that other attendees of the Strategy Session are having at least equal success in setting up similar meetings. We’re really going to need to do a lot more of this, if our voices are going to be heard above all the others clamoring for attention.

About fung0

Long-time tech journalist. Contributor to numerous periodicals, online sites and TV productions in the US and Canada. Author of several books on computing topics. Graduate mechanical engineer (Queen's U).

Comments

Meeting with Bob Rae — 7 Comments

  1. It’s great that you were able to set this meeting up!

    There’s one comment I’d like to make, one area where I disagree with you a bit. You said, “my main point was that any gains for the content industry will be losses for the consumer electronics industry.”

    I think this is a false dichotomy, which encourages divisiveness and suggests that creators will someone be harmed if consumers are protected.

    In my meeting with my MP, Joe Volpe, he posed some of the same questions about protecting creator’s rights, saying that he could hear the “other side” of the argument (and playing devil’s advocate to see how we’d respond).

    I immediately tried to switch gears from talking about consumer rights to talking from the perspective of the artist. I am a songwriter and a session musician, member of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC) and the Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC). The record labels and organizations which claim to speak on behalf of musicians in calling for the types of copyright measures in Bill C-61 are wrong about what’s best for creators and do not speak on behalf of a large number of creators.

    My argument was essentially this… locks, levies and lawsuits are bad business for music — how could it possibly be in the interest of music creators?

    That’s what the CMCC says, basically.

    And the SAC has their proposal to monetize file sharing, which has problems of its own, but it seeks to embrace the technology and accommodate consumer habits and desires, rather than to continue playing a game of whack-a-mole to stamp it out with stricter, unenforceable laws. Bill C-61 doesn’t enable the SAC to do this, but rather, it puts up barriers.

    I tried to argue that we have 10 years of hindsight that we’re ignoring with the DMCA. The anti-circumvention legislation was crafted to enable business models based around DRM, which have simply not worked. Microsoft shut down its servers, Yahoo! shut down its servers, and I believe every major lable is not offered DRM-free downloads through at least one avenue or another.

    Why is Canada not learning from this?

    Bill C-61 is not in the interests of creators because it’s bad business for them. Suing your customers and making a whole bunch of daily activities illegal (i.e. neglecting consumer rights) is just going to piss your customers off. That’s bad for business. The state of the record industry as a result of the lawsuits the DMCA enabled is evidence of this.

    These arguments seemed to go over fairly well with Volpe. At the very least, he didn’t voice any further objections.

    I realize Rae was talking about ACTRA, as opposed to the music business, and I’m not as familiar with them, but Jason Chesworth — an ACTA member — has debunked their claims. It may be worth forwarding onto Rae that there is disagreement even within ACTRA, never mind some of the arguments Chesworth makes.

    Sorry for the length of this message. I’ve just been rambling, I guess because I’m not sure exactly how to express myself.

    What I’m basically trying to say… consumer rights are not at odd with creator rights because stomping on consumer rights is bad business for creators. It’s not a matter of pitting one against the other, and I don’t even think it’s a matter of balance.

    I think we need to try hard to avoid the “creators vs consumers” view on copyright, because it’s largely incorrect and the false perception allows politicians to rationalize laws like this which clearly don’t respect consumers.

  2. Try as I may, I have a hard time viewing ACTRA as a “creator’s” body…

    Thanks for the posting on your meeting.

  3. These Politian’s really need to get involved in the debate a bit more. They keep hearing from politically motivated lobby groups, rather then actually taking an interest in the actual research that has been done.

    Content creators have over stepped their boundaries when it comes to copyright. Mr. Rae should have been presented with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce report on C-61 located:

    http://hamiltonchamber.on.ca/policies/Federal/IP%20Enforcement%20Regimes.pdf

    Also Mr. Rae should have been informed that those “some that oppose this bill” when it comes to music creators, are currently on top of the digital sales charts.

    Serious questions need to be answered by our political leaders, and the answers to these questions need to be based on non-bias data coming from Political lobby groups. There are a lot of creative idea’s floating around that are of beneficial for everyone. One needs to ask why our political leaders are not lending an ear to those that have the expertise independently to get both sides to the table, instead their ears are too tuned into those trying to protect a monopoly marketplace:

    http://www.music20book.com/ (pdf is a free download)

    If our political leaders don’t take to heart the serious questions and needs for more enforceable laws, our Canadian Industries will suffer huge. But one would expect Mr. Rae to really not look at the big issues or understand them fully in this debate. He left Ontario with a huge debt to pay. One would wonder if he actually learned from that lesson or is poised to repeat it on a federal level.

    Good job on the meeting guys. Although it may have fallen on deaf ears, the need to make our political representatives responsible for what is to come should they not take a full understanding of the current copyright situation will be more relevant in the months and years to come. It’s unfortunate for Canadian Industries, and the fact that many that stand to lose have chosen to take the side lines on this debate. That’ll be their own downfall.

  4. Another way the consumer electronics industry will suffer is, ironically, in the protection of their intellectual property rights. If they suspect that a competitor is infringing on their copyright or patent rights by using their technology in the firmware on their electronics, it is impossible to investigate without breaking the TPMs.

  5. look everyone the law is unconstitutional as is:
    you cant have me download NON copyrightable material and have me charged with a 20,000 dollar fine just because it is a dvd rip( aka breaking that stupid TPM 4.3 gb file becomes a 700 meg xvid and with bell canada’s traffic shaping policy you be the judge what ill get)

    note pre 1958 = as it is do as you want even sell it.
    after this law:
    unlimited copyright ( aka you need movie house permission to break the TPM- which is fancy drm)
    and you get a 20,000 fine plus can be sued by them(copyright owner even though its not copyrightable…wtf) under the law.

    so everyone go get pre 1958 movies we’ll all turn our selves in and make them pay for a massive class action section 12 charter violation: CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT

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