Last night's Parkdale-High Park all-candidates meeting may prove to be yet another turning point in the Bulte fundraising story. If you haven't seen it, start by watching the short version of Sam Bulte's response to a question about whether she would be willing to take the copyright pledge (watch it here or download it here). If you have the time, there is a Torrent of the entire Q & A on that question that is well worth watching since it includes Bulte again raising the spectre of a debate with me on copyright as well as a terrific response from Peggy Nash.
Before discussing the video, I should note that there is additional coverage of the debate. Accordion Guy not only provided the video but also blogged the opening statements. False Positives has additional coverage, noting that there were three copyright questions focusing on the pledge, funding from the Stratford Festival (with a great line from the Conservative candidate Klufas), and the January 19th fundraiser.
There is already considerable commentary online about Bulte's response on the video (Boing Boing, TechDirt, Rob Hyndman, B2fxxx, P2Pnet, Northworthy) which thankfully makes this post much shorter than it might otherwise have been. The focus is unsurprisingly on Bulte's comment that "I will not allow Michael Geist and his pro-user zealots, and Electronic Frontier Foundation members to intimidate me into silencing my voice."
I would respond with only two points. First, the concern with the fundraiser, history of contributions, and past actions as chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is not with what Bulte says, but rather with what she hears. She is free to say whatever she wants. Those concerned with balanced copyright that addresses the concerns of all stakeholders are troubled that she may only be hearing one perpective (and one that does not even represent the artists that she thinks she represents). The fundraiser and fundraising activities amplify those concerns, which is why I proposed the Copyright Pledge (for the record, Ms. Bulte did not answer whether she would take the pledge, Nash and Klufas said they would, and more than 300 people have already called on all candidates to do so at the Online Rights petition).
Second, I think it is important to consider the reference to pro-user zealots. I suspect that Ms. Bulte thinks she is talking about little more than a few file sharers who want access to music that, depending on your perspective, is either free or paid for by the private copying levy. This is where she is simply wrong. I obviously don't think those concerned with balanced copyright are zealots, but I know that when she uses this characterization, she is calling the nine justices of the Supreme Court of Canada zealots. She is calling Canadian artists such as Jane Siberry, Matthew Good, Barenaked Ladies, Bob Wiseman (formerly of Blue Rodeo), Charlie Angus, and Neil Leyton zealots. She is calling the provincial ministers of education zealots. She is calling publishers such as Irwin Law and the 19 professors who contributed to In the Public Interest zealots. She is calling historians such as Jack Granatstein a zealot. She is calling the thousands of Canadians who have contributed to Creative Commons Canada zealots. She is calling the hundreds of bloggers and thousands of Internet users who have become engaged on this issue zealots. Indeed, judging by the video, she is calling many of her constituents zealots.
It seems to me that I'm in good company whatever the label. I can't say the same for Ms. Bulte.
Update: Rob Hyndman's blog features another account of last night's all-candidates meeting that offers further insight into how the issue may be perceived by those outside the copyright community. Meanwhile, Eye Weekly, a Toronto weekly, covers the story with interviews from within the campaigns.
Update II: Steve Stinson, the man who posed the copyright pledge question to Bulte, has posted his perspective on the question and response. Meanwhile, the issue is generating international attention, with ZDNet in the UK featuring an editorial titled The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, which highlights the Bulte issue.