Cleaning Up Copyright

With both prospective Canadian Heritage Ministers accepting copyright lobby cash (see The Sad Reality of Copyright Policy In Canada, Campaign Contributions, Tipping Point, That's What Friends Are For) and the funders making it clear that they are in the market for more (see Business As Usual), it is time to clean up copyright in Canada.  The election campaign provides the perfect time to do so.  The short term solution is obvious – Bulte should cancel the January 19th fundraiser and apologize to her constituents and the Canadian public.

The longer term solution was hinted at in Jack Kapica's article in the Globe that is referenced on Bourque.  Kapica argued that:

"Should the outcome of the election be favourable for the morally besieged Liberal Party, perhaps leader Paul Martin should consider rewarding Ms. Bulte's hard work and loyalty with a different portfolio entirely, if only to show that Canadians won't dance to every tune the Americans wish to play and charge us for."

I would go further.  I think the party leaders should take a Copyright Pledge.  It would hold that:

No Member of Parliament who has accepted financial contributions or other benefits from (i) a copyright lobby group, (ii) its corporate members, or (iii) senior executives as well as (iv) a copyright collective shall serve as Minister of Canadian Heritage or as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, nor sit on any legislative committee (parliamentary or standing committees) conducting hearings or deliberations on copyright matters.

The time has come to clean up Canadian copyright policy.  Martin, Harper, and Layton should take the Copyright Pledge.

Update: The Bulte story continues to pick up steam.  Coverage today from the blogs of the Toronto Star (Zerbisias), Macleans (Cosh), CBC, and (Cook).  Add BoingBoing, Lessig, and comments here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, and here and this issue is clearly resonating with many people.


  1. Darryl Moore says:

    Apply same rules to all Ministries
    Thank you Michael, your sleuthing is beginning to unearth a monster. I suspect however that you could probably dig a lot deeper and find that what you are uncovering is really the size of the Canadian Shield.

    Regarding an earlier post, do you know that the CEO’s of the major banks have NOT held a fundraiser for Finance Minister Ralph Goodale? Maybe they have. Sadly I suspect that applying your idea across the board to other Ministerial positions would result in all incumbent Ministers being unable to keep their posts. None the less, I think this higher level of conflict of interest discloser is required and should be an election issue. I will be very surprised if it becomes one however as all the main line parties are equally guilty, and there are likely too many people who do not see this as a conflict of interest.

  2. Larry Borsato says:
    I’m no fan of the record companies, but why is it that when any Canadian writes about a company or institution that they don’t like, they use the word “American” as a derogatory statement.

    I was actually under the impression that the two largest companies were European anyway.

  3. Russell McOrmond says:

    Sent letter to leaders/candidates.
    I sent your pledge to the leaders, and to the Ottawa South candidates.

  4. Giving up on them …
    I don’t see any reason why they can’t use their DRM, but there should be law that requires them to be forthright about it.

    SonyBMG, and whoever else wants to enforce massive and strict DRm should be able to do so, just as they should be able to close down their own business whenever they want. The Sony DRM fiasco simply points out how out of touch they are, how excessive in their responses, and how far they go to limit the honest customers while doing nothing to curb the illegal activites.

    So, let them shoot themselves in the foot. What I think is very important though is that their way not be the ONLY way. Many artists and small record labels can make good use of the internet as a tool of distribution and make money off of it. The trick is to make the customer feel closer to the artist, rather than further alienated, which is what SonyBMG tactics ended up doing.

    The copyright laws themselves need to be balanced for everyone. Let the large labels have their silly DRM, let the small ones have open access to a large and powerful marketplace as they see fit; and let the customer make the final choice.

  5. Russell McOrmond says:

    Why DRM must be adequately regulated

    Whether we use the term DRM (Digital Rights Management, Digital Restrictions Management), Technical Measures (TM/TPM), what we are talking about is the enforcement of contracts through technology. Contracts can be enforceable, unenforceable, and even illegal — and by hiding these contracts in technology, not allowing for the required public and possible court scrutiny, these folks are simply trying to hide what might be illegal activities.

    The contracts which DRM/TPMs are enforcing must be publicly disclosed, and it should be the right of citizens to decode DRM in order to verify that the code and the disclosed contracts match.

    Anything less is a legal loophole which encourages illegal activities.


  6. Thank You
    Michael, thanks for bringing this to light. I live in Bulte’s riding and I will ask her these questions in person during all-candidate meetings. She no longer has my vote – which she did until I found out about this ethically questionable fundraising. More Canadians need to speak out that copyright issues are not just a niche issue, but one that has wide-ranging effects.

  7. Empires of Sound
    Today four conglomerates (SonyBMG Music Entertainments -25.2%; Vivendi Universal – 25.9%; EMI and Warner together control 23.9%; and independent lables control the remaining 25%). As J Bishop argues rightly, “Control (read copyright legislation) in the music business equals power, and power equals wealth. What we freethinking humans and musics lovers must guard against is the encroaching point of mass culture where music becomes homogeneous, for oligopolies breed musical stagnancy. We may already have reached it, depending on your personal viewpoint. It fees that way to me. Oligopoly control in the musics industry repels diversity, which has led to the creation of so many independent labels, most of which, since the media and distribution are in the hands of the oligopoly, have had to associate themselves in some way to the big four in order to survive. Popular music in the US has become predictable and in some cases boring. Through vertical integration the same stars are marketed to the public through music, films, TV, and advertisements. If that is not an example of encroaching homegeneity, then I am not sure what is. Diversity and the music industry are incompatible terms.”

    Bishop’s work is found in the Journal “Popular Music and Society” vol 28, no 4, Oct 2005 pp. 443-471. The title of the article is: Building International Empires of Sound: Concentratios of Poweer and Property in the “Global” Music Market.

  8. What about accepting donations from authors and copyright holders? Should those also be banned? Isn’t it entirely possible that those donations would have an equal impact on the recepients?

    How about this – why don’t we ban all political donations from everyone, to everyone. We’ll put a soapbox on every corner, and politicians can simply shout out their message – thus saving all that money previously donated.

  9. Matthew Rimmer says:

    I think that it is also worthwhile to think about copyright owners providing “other benefits” to members of Parliament.

    Sometimes copyright owners have been known to send ‘freebies’ – such as CDS and concert tickets – to Parliamentary staffers and politicians.

    Direct financial contributions are somewhat easier track; it would be worthwhile scutinising such indirect contributions if at all possible.