Questionable Questions

Copyright and movie camcording were both raised yesterday during Question Period in the House of Commons.  While the responses from Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier were about as expected (essentially "we're working on it"), the questions from Bloc Heritage Critic Maka Kotto are revealing. Kotto focused on Canada's "outdated" copyright law and asked when it will be modified to "be in line with the two WIPO treaties Canada ratified in 1996."  Regular readers will know that Canada did not ratify the treaties in 1996. Rather, Canada signed the treaties in 1997 and there is a world of difference between signing and ratifying a treaty.

Kotto's question about movie piracy lumped Canada together with China, Malaysia, and India, while claiming that "Canadian industry and the Government of Canada have suffered estimated losses of several million dollars." 

The question demonstrates the impact of the media blitz on camcording – there has been no independent evidence put forward about Canadian industry or government losses (nor any reference to India that I can recall) yet that is how the question is framed.  In fact, Kotto raises an important issue with the wrong question.  A question that needs answering is not whether camcording is a good thing – it obviously is not (particularly in the way that it degrades the quality of the film) – but rather whether there is an impact on the Canadian film industry such that this issue should leap to the front on the line for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.


  1. R. Bassett Jr. says:

    I have heard it said that all of the culture in Canada is in Quebec. Well, if a member of the Canadian government can be so ill informed of the facts on “issues of the day”, because Canada is flooded day in, day out by the American propaganda machine, I mean, “media”, than I question as whether we even have a culture left in this country.

    How sad is it that the people in charge of our collective destiny don’t even understand the issues and where the very government they are part of has stood on the issues in the past.

    I would like to believe that we are different, we Canadians. Traditionally, we have been a tolerant society and we were taught at a young age that our Canadian society is a cultural mosaic, where each is free to discover and nurture his own beliefs. I fail to see how this will be possible when the delivery of our culture is performed through monopoly of “the truth” by those among us with the most money.

    The act of attempting to infringe upon a copyright, knowingly or otherwise, could very soon carry a life time prison sentence in the United States of America, because a handful of corporations want to make more money. Is that how you want our country to operate? Are you OK with this type of “justice”? Even forgetting the human costs of this unfortunate state of affairs, one must consider the undue burden it would place upon our judicial system, which is paid for with our tax dollars. Rather than putting criminals to justice, we will be harassing our neighbors and wasting our time and money. Again, this is all because some people want to make more money.

    Please, inform your MP and MPP how you feel about these issues, because it is evident that not all of our members of parliament know enough about the issues to ask informed questions on our behalf.

  2. Chris Brand says:

    Let him know
    His email address is, for those wanting to educate him.
    I suspect that he’ll be more receptive to messages in French, of course.

  3. Finding list of critics
    Michael (or anyone else),
    can you list the three opposition critics of Industry and Heritage?

    I can find my MP from http://digital-copyright, but am having trouble finding a list of who in the other parties\’ are critics.


  4. I echo the remarks of R. Bassett Jr. Further, I find it particularly ironic if not reprehensible that the question is coming from the Bloc, in light of the cultural protection that Quebec has been able to retain within the Canadian multiculturalism. That cultural protection at times makes me lament for the ROC and want to be a Quebecer if the last bastion of a distinct Canadian cultural moment is to be found there.

    Oddly, France has not ratified the agreements that the Bloc seems to indicate that Canada should ratify. From what I know, France is not even close to accepting the relatively recent historical American epiphany on International Copyright with its worldwide “economic” lead reform, in form and spirit to its sharply protectionist earned base.

    With Canada having just ratified to join France in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, on March 18, 2007, with the United States conspicuous in absence even as a signatory, its clear to me, that the Minister does not have the sense of cultural history that they should embrace and defend. A true Canadian Heritage Minister would have sharply rebuked the Bloc MP and taken advantage of the opening to show how hypocritical and offside they were by their question. It was truly a sad day for Canadian cultural sovereignty.

  5. Chris Brand says:

    Response from Mr Kotto’s office
    You can see the response I got from Mr Kotto’s office on my blog :
    [ link ]

    @Chris – we had a page listing important MPs for the last Parliament – I’ll create one for the current page ASAP. Meanwhile, the easiest is probably to look at the committee membership on [ link ].

  6. Response to Chris B
    Thank you for pointing me there Chris B

  7. Chris Brand says:

    Critics and committee members
    I created an up-to-date list here –
    [ link ]

  8. Steve Stinson says:

    Maka Kotto has a huge conflict of interest and should recuse himself from this debate. Prior to being elected, he was a film and television actor. He still moonlights as an actor from time to time, as I wrote here: [ link ]

  9. Chris B: thank you, wonderful work I believe I’ll be using often as this year’s “copyright agenda”, which I’m certain will include much more than “camcorded movies” with all this talk of WIPO.

    That apparent conflict of interest of MP Kotto is quite chilling. I also received the same reply as Chris B after emailing him (…which is more than I got from my own MP, though).

  10. Digital Copyright home page
    Just wanted to add that I had difficulty finding the “Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (CHPC)” page from the digital-copyright home page, I could only find it from that specific link you gave me. If you link it visibly from the home page I’m sure it would get more hits, too.

    /sorry for the offtopic comments, Michael; I will take it to e-mail here on out.

  11. Dwight Williams says:

    Mr. Kotto’s Travels
    Interesting little detail. I note that we haven’t yet seen similar diversions from the likes of Tina Keeper, who has a somewhat higher profile as an actor prior to entering federal politics last I heard.