nettime's avid reader on Wed, 12 Dec 2007 12:10:36 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Canadian Goverment Surprised by Resistance Against Copyright-Reform

Tories blink on copyright law change

'Cyber-movement' forces Prentice to delay plans for bill

Deirdre McMurdy, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Kempton Lam, Corey Doctorow, Michael Geist and Howard Knopf aren't
exactly familiar names in Ottawa's political power circles.

But yesterday, those four -- along with thousands of other Canadians
-- managed to throw a spanner into the works of the Harper government.

As leaders of an increasingly vocal and organized grassroots cyber-
movement against controversial, anticipated changes to the federal
Copyright Act, their persistent efforts derailed Industry Minister Jim
Prentice's plan to introduce an amended bill this morning.

"I'm the last guy in the world to be an activist," admits
Mr. Lam, a Calgary-based technology consultant and blogger
( who organized a rally at Mr. Prentice's
Calgary riding office over the past weekend. "The copyright issue of
fair use and dictating who can have access to what information really
bugged me. And instead of just bitching, I figured I'd better do

That something resulted in about 50 people -- some of whom drove from
Edmonton to Calgary -- gathering and confronting Mr. Prentice about
his proposed copyright legislation.

That, along with heated blogs, online discussions and the delivery of
thousands of e-mails and letters, has apparently led the minister to
ask for the revision of sections of the document dealing with digital
rights management (DRM) and anti-circumvention technology.

(That's the technology that blocks users from gaining access to
information without paying for it and imposes stiff penalties on those
who break through the barriers. It's a key part of the U.S. Digital
Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA), which many believe to be the template
for the Canadian legislation.)

Clearly, for a fragile minority government, the chorus of angry voices
was too loud to ignore. Although many are demanding a broad- based
public consultation process on copyright, the objective is now to
table a revised version of the bill within the few remaining days
before Parliament breaks for Christmas.

Although Industry Canada shares the copyright file with the Heritage
Department, Mr. Prentice has been the lead minister on it. He not only
has more clout in caucus because of the nature of his portfolio, but
he's known to have the ear of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

There's no question that over the past several weeks that acute
pressure -- much of it below the surface in the world of blogs and
chat rooms -- has been building around the copyright file.

Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes
in Internet and e-commerce law, set up a Facebook page on Dec. 1 as
a focal point for the opinions and efforts of Canadians who were
concerned about the direction of copyright law. As of yesterday, there
were 13,000 members of Fair Copyright in Canada and the pace of growth
has been averaging more than 1,500 names every day.

"It's not just the numbers, it's the amount of discussion around this
issue," he says. "Copyright may be a complex technical issue, but
people understand the basic issues and how everyone is affected by


Tories blink on copyright law change
'Cyber-movement' forces Prentice to delay plans for bill

Deirdre McMurdy, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Certainly, the advent of Facebook and YouTube have made it easier for
such special interest groups to form and to galvanize their members.
(A recent study by Solutions Research Group of Toronto indicates
that eight million Canadians -- or one in four -- now have pages on

Mr. Lam, for example, consulted with Mr. Geist about his plan for a
rally, and he credits the law professor's popular blog and Facebook
for quickly spreading the word.

"It's remarkable, but it's not surprising," says Cory Doctorow, an
activist and editor of the popular blog "It shows that
the Internet has developed its own immune system now and when it's
attacked, it will be defended."

He adds: "It's a pretty tough sell for any government to convince
people that scarcity of access to culture and knowledge is somehow
good for them."

In particular, Mr. Doctorow insists that the apparent emulation of the
U.S. model and the huge pressure from the U.S.-based entertainment
lobby is a big part of what makes the copyright issue so resonant in

"People are asking guys like Jim Prentice who he really works for,"
he says. "And what recording industry are we protecting when so many
Canadian musicians and labels have left the recording industry lobby

Yet another faction in the copyright underground is represented by
Ottawa lawyer Howard Knopf, who writes a regular blog defending the
premise that the less copyright regulation we have, the better.

That's actually the view that was favoured by the previous industry
minister, Maxime Bernier, who, true to his libertarian ideals, openly
favoured limited government intervention in all sectors.

A lawyer by training and experience, Mr. Prentice -- who acquired the
Industry beat in August -- was apparently poised to take a much harder
and more pro-regulation stance. That is, until he got blogged down by
the grassroots.

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