PM Harper’s Mentor Speaks Out on WIPO

Amid the attention being given to the CRIA/Pollara survey and the CATO report on the dangers of the DMCA, I nearly overlooked an important op-ed from Professor Tom Flanagan, a hugely influential political scientist widely described as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's political mentor.  Professor Flanagan's article, co-authored with Gemma Collins, appeared in Saturday's Ottawa Citizen under the headline File Sharing is an Asset, Not a Problem.  The full article is behind a paywall, but it argues that "P2P file-sharing is no more a threat to the movie and music industries than lending libraries are to the book-publishing business."  The article saves the best for last:

"As Heritage Minister Bev Oda has noted, a balance between creators and consumers must be the goal of sound copyright legislation. But 'making available' ignores the consumer in favour of the producer, to solve problems that don't exist. There is no crisis of creativity or profitability in popular culture that requires such draconian interference with personal liberty. Canada signed the 1997 World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties, but we have not yet ratified them by enacting their provisions into our domestic law. There is still time to draw back from a step that would create a new class of lawbreakers and impose censorship on the Internet, without doing anything to foster genuine cultural vitality."

Update: The Flanagan article is now online.


  1. paywall
    oh, the irony that such an article – espousing the benefits of filesharing – would be behind a paywall.

  2. Thats actually encouraging to hear that from the “mentor” of the new PM. If he has any influence over harper this would be great for our country. Show everyone else that we will stand up to the axis of evil…TheMPAA & RIAA that is 🙂

  3. Lockem up has posted an image of a 20 year old logo warning doom and gloom on the music industry because of cassette tapes. Like the VCR, the entertainment industry has capitalized on these to the tune of billions a year ever since. They need protection from themselves for crying out loud.

  4. The big ‘minority’ of WIPO…
    Totally AGREE, there is LOTS of time for Canada to take the necessary steps for a critial and comprehensive examination of the impacts of these WIPO treaties on our domestic and cultural vitality, as well as our constitution, democracy and personal freedoms.
    Perhaps Tom Flanagan AND the Hon. Bev Oda have finally cut through the layers of what is now an entire decade of rhetoric and relentless lobbying from the US-dominated Copy-CORPORATE-rights trade, collective and special interest groups, and hopefully they (and others) have been brought up to speed on EXACTLY WHAT THESE WIPO TREATIES ARE and who is to benefit from them.
    Perhaps the whole MP Bulte politico-campaign-payoff thing helped to bring it to the surface, but it certainly seems that the jig is finally up and the new govt players realize that 57 or 58 party signatures from countries on a 183 member list is a very weak 32% accomplishment after a a whole 10 years.
    Looking through presentation papers in Heritage Copyright Policy Branch’s online archives, an interesting discovery is that in a 2002 Statement to the Standing Committee for Copyright Reform, the CRIA’s Mr. Robertson boldly acclaimed that by 2004 there would be more than 80 countries signed onto the WIPO Treaties. Well here we are in 2006 and the list has but drizzled up to 57.
    The important question for the Hon. Stephen Harper and his newly-formed Canadian cabinet to ask is this…
    Q: Apart from the USA and Japan who together represent the world’s consumer electronics devices industry and the consumer information content industry respectively, WHY haven’t ANY of the rest of the G8 countries (which include the UK, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, & Russia) or Australia, or all 4 Scandinavian countries… Why haven’t ANY of these become signing parties to these ‘important’ WIPO treaties already 10 whole years later? Together, these non-signing WIPO member states represent the majority of the world’s most significant economic powers, and as a collective they have the economic might, political prowess and IP knowledge to invoke high-caliber, world-class and expert decision-making, YET they have NOT signed these treaties.
    That they haven’t signed, obviously this “MAJORITY” of the world’s most influential economic powers must have good reasons to remain part of the majority of countries having NOT signed party to these treaties.
    Domestically, each MUST have significant legitimate concerns and cautions about these treaties and absolutely they must continue to ask critical questions about the IMPACT these treaties will ultimately have within their own borders, and globally.
    The straight-forward logical view presented in the Ottawa Citizen item offers a nice hint that Mr. Harper might possibly have been serious about the new government representing fairness and accountability.
    Carry on cultural bounty folks!

  5. Irony
    I think the real irony is in how copyright laws have moved from their original purpose of fostering creativity to what they do now, which is stifle it. It’s really sad that so few people are actually questioning the need to offer any protection to “content owners”, when plenty of content is created without intent of profiting. It is the people who readily create and share work in an altruistic way that should be rewarded, not those who manufacture it for money.