The Bulte Video

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.


  1. Dwight Williams says:

    Amen, sir! (And a sidebar question…)
    Many thanks, sir.

    (Sidebar question: I was considering picking up some of Matthew Good’s work for a while there, but this news is particularly good to my eyes. When did he speak up on this topic, and can anyone post a link to it?)

  2. Pro-EFF zealots are real and flamed me q
    I recently asked some tough questions of some pro-EFF people calling them on their use of urban legends and fictoids and outright lies in their reporting and gave them details of my empirical studies from working a merchandise booth at some shows. Many kids were uninterested in purchasing cds because they already had illegal mp3s or CD-rs. We had a show of 500+ attendees with only 10 cd sales!

    I thought I could form an interesting conversation on the matter. They were overwhelmingly hostile and clung to their anti-musician worldview where every musician needed to spend most of their money with an ISP or programmer to get their material heard as they hemmoraged recording costs. Or musicians should give away music and only make money touring (where there’s little money anyway).

    It was identical to discussing this with a Christian Fuindamentalist. Utter dismisal of the FACTS in favor of the FAITH that P2P is victimless. At one point, I was accused of being Anti-Canadian!!!! I’m not joking! Anti-Canadian! As if this is only a Canadian issue.

    What needs to happen is for the zealots to realize that independent artists in cities like NY, Chicago or LA can’t survive on the pittances they get from itunes and reduced cd sales. I’m a programmer, but most musicians aren’t and most of the zealot’s plans involve programmers programming so the money transfers from musicians to programmers.

    There are too many people who ride on the coattails of artists and the artists have been completely bullied into accepting it after the Metallica Napster incident. A friend was NOT happy when her music was part of a mashup, but to complain about it would have branded her “uncool” so she was bullied into silence. I have been bullied and flamed by EFFers online for trying to discuss this issue. The behavior of lobbyist groups like EFF is not much different than the Hollywood Lobbyists except they shout people down instead of spend money. They are NOT better- just idealogical opposites.

    But don’t pretend for a second that indie musicians aren’t selling 50-75% of the cds they were selling in 1999. online mp3 sales are not making up for this loss. Every band I know has a dayjob now because they can’t afford not to.


  3. Commons Music says:

    For Don:
    Don, I’m always interested in seeing another point of view at the Commons Music Blog. Give me a buzz at (sans underscore), we’ll chat. I’m sure my readers would be interested in hearing your perspective as well.

  4. Craig monica.caldbick@sympa says:

    Concerned “Zealot” & Citizen
    Usually, after one is bought off, the only defence one has is to resort to name-calling, derogatory comments and personal attacks in order to deflect te truth. Perhaps the Ex-Minister-to-be should have realized the optics of the fundraiser would be negative. Although vision can be clouded when drunk with power!

    Finally, last time I checked in on the democratic process in Canada, any concerned group should be allowed in front of any committee. Shame, Shame!!

  5. Concerted Efforts
    Recently, I attended a bar-based Red Lightning concert where about 500 people were in attendance. Red Lightning put on an energetic two-set concert, but CD sales were poor. Was it because the concertgoers had already downloaded the band’s songs off some P2P network? I doubt it.

    I’m betting it was because the band just didn’t appeal to the people who attended the show. I bought the CD because I’m a zealous fan of Morrissey, and Red Lightning’s lead singer/guitarist has been Morrissey’s guitarist since 1992. As willing as I was to fork over the $10 for the CD-EP, I had to admit that the song lyrics weren’t all that great and the vocals were almost awful. I loved the music, though.

    Would it be fair to blame file-sharing for the lack of consumer interest? Or could it possibly have been attributable to a less-than-stellar performance? I think it’s the latter. When performances rock, I always see commensurate product sales.

    Mediocre performances aside, I’ve noticed (more recently in my concert-going life) a dismaying level of disinterest or indifference exhibited by club/bar-based audiences: even towards really talented artists. Should we really expect people who chatter during and otherwise ignore performances to be clamoring at the merchandise tables after shows?

  6. Well, at least
    we know she can’t be bought. Sheesh, was never up for sale, as far as I can tell.

    Great, now I am a pirate zealot, simply for wanting there to be a choice of types of distribution channels for all owners of copyright and not only the one required by her friends.

  7. Zealot perception
    Hi Michael. I wrote a blub for a friend (which he included on his blog here: ) after attending the forum on copyright held at Ottawa U in the spring. The opinions expressed by then commitee chair Marlene Catterall were of a similar nature. Namely, the perception is that anyone arguing for balanced copyright is on one side (in this case… “Anarchists”), and the recording industry (representing artists) is the other side. As you can see, our movement for balanced copyright really needs a vocal “everything free – fuck copyright” movement in order to keep the outcome in the middle. As it is now, we are doomed to compromise a compromise (copyright having already been made in the middle) by giving more to the rights holders and taking away from the public.

  8. A Sarmite Bulte dictionary:

    “Users” – the Canadian public, a special interest group

    “Zealots” – people who believe copyright law should balance the interest of the public and copyright owners. Also: “Pro-user zealots”

    “Friends” – the corporate entertainment lobby; e.g.: “These people have become my friends and I don’t apologize for that.” – Toronto Star, Jan 6

  9. Darryl Moore says:

    Turning over some more rocks….
    reveals that is is not just the Parliamentary Secretary suffering a bad case of corpratus imperiosus, but the Heritage Minister as well. Corporate donations for Liza Frulla’s riding association from 2004 total over $10K

    I don’t know all of them but I recognize some such as Alliance Atlantis and Cogeco. There are many others which could easily be special corporate interests as well.

    The cap recently put on corporate political donations was good, however I don’t think it was good enough. The only way to really keep corporate interests from unduly influencing national policy is an out right ban on corporate, union, and other interest groups.

    Individuals are the only ones allowed to vote. They should be the only ones allowed to donate as well.

  10. Melanie McBride / chandrasutra says:

    High Park resident
    I was there for the debate last night and I’m very glad Joey deVilla got that footage. It really was Bulte’s last stand and I think she knows it, too. As a freelance writer and the daughter of a Canadian musician (actually my uncle was the front man of Canadian rock band, Lighthouse as well) so I know about the challenges artists face making a living. I didn’t get the chance to ask my question but I was livid when she referred to her opponents as “local artists” and “zealots”. If it wasn’t for the artists, there would be no “industry” to fill her party coffers. Furthermore, she does not NOT have the support of the arts “community” in any way shape or form. Arts and culture festivals like Stratford (who made campaign contributions) are full of wealthy patron volunteers who believe that arts support is a hobby for the rich, not something tax payers (or governments) should fund. And what Bulte is doing is further reinforcing the notion that the only arts and cultural production that makes any difference is the stuff that makes the film, television and music industry lots of cash. And yet she likes to talk a good talk about “supporting” the arts and heritage. Well, we writers and actors and artists don’t always have nice stories to tell and our paintings don’t always go with the carpet. Real support of the arts begins with funding local artists whose cultural production isn’t evaluated according to commercial interests. It’s clear that Bulte is no friend to the artist – or anybody who attempts to participate in cultural production outside of corporate enterprise.

  11. Chris Brand says:

    More “zealots”
    Michael missed the nearly 2500 “zealots” who have signed the petition for users’ rights at

    And in reply to Don – yes, there are some “zealots” out there who want to scrap copyright altogether. There are many more people who recognise that giving somebody a monopoly on a form of expression for the rest of their life plus another 70 years is not actually a good way to build a vibrant culture.

    As for “anti-Canadian”, it is worth noting that most of the press about how downloading is hurting music sales, how we need stronger copyright, etc, comes from the CRIA, which represents a tiny fraction of Canadian musicians (but many US and European music companies).

    What I’ve heard from the musicians I’ve talked with is that they don’t make any money from CD sales anyway, so those sales being reduced makes no difference to their income.

    Then of course there’s the fact that Canadians paid $39 million to the music industry last year for the right to make private copies of audio recordings.

    Overall, it’s a very complicated problem. the really sad thing is that the only people making any money out of music at the moment are the record companies. They’re clearly going to be lobbying to maintain or improve their bottom line and any benefit to musicians is goign to be incidental. Many musicians nevertheless seem to accept the idea that “whatever the CRIA is asking for must be good for me” rather than telling their government what copyright law would actually help them. Personally, I’d love to see something that helps the creators and their audiences while cutting out these middlemen, because I think that creators would be better off and audiences would be happier.

    Oh and DRM *is* handing over control to programmers – if the market for downloads carries on as it has, Apple will be the one with all the power (and hence, money).

  12. Dwight Williams says:

    Manners and Thanks
    Some of the conduct of people on the users’ rights side could certainly do with some improvement, for the sake of the goal’s needs if nothing else. Bad manners, particularly when ill-timed, just undermines the effort with bad PR.

    And speaking of manners, I owe a thank you for that pointer to Matthew Good’s blog entry on Ms. Bulte. Much appreciated, neighbour!

  13. Jeremy Johnson says:

    Questions From Another Riding
    I took the liberty of recording questions about the Sony Rootkit DRM technology in the Prince George ridings debate as well. You might also be interested to hear what they have to say: