The New Copyright Debate

In reflecting upon a remarkable week – the Canadian DMCA delayed until 2008, 15,000 new members of the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook Group as the total passes 25,000, the Calgary meeting with Industry Jim Prentice, and the avalanche of blog postings and media coverage on Canadian copyright – it strikes me that two big issues emerge.  One is the power of social media to galvanize grassroots advocacy, an issue addressed by Mathew Ingram in the Globe, Dierdre McMurdy in a Sympatico MSN piece, and in my forthcoming Toronto Star/Ottawa Citizen column.  It's an enormously important story since it may foreshadow a dramatic change in how citizens speak out and policy gets made.

The other big issue is that the debate around Canadian copyright has been altered from one focused exclusively on creator rights and "piracy", to one that includes (and this week focused on) user rights and consumer property.  That change is at the heart of the thousands of letters and phone calls from Canadians who come from across the country and across the political spectrum.  It is also evident in the media coverage of this issue.  There was a time – not that long ago – that a group like CRIA could put out a press release criticizing the government's decision to delay copyright legislation and could expect the media to cover the release as if it were the last word on the subject.  No longer. 

The broadcast coverage of this issue has shifted toward covering both angles with a growing emphasis on consumer concerns.  This comes through in CBC Search Engine's groundbreaking coverage of the copyright issue and in an interview I did yesterday with the Business News Network.  The print coverage features similar balance.  The CBC balanced an ACTRA release criticizing the delay with references to the opposite view of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition. Ivor Tossell's exceptional article in the Globe and Mail concludes by noting that "copyright law matters. We're lucky that, when the time came, the ground was so well prepared for the revolt that followed." The National Post coverage offers similar sentiments, concluding "with Mr. Prentice already siding with consumers by setting aside spectrum space for new wireless phone entrants that is hoped to increase competition, one would hope he would again side with Canadians and leave those poor single mothers and pensioners alone."  Last week I wrote that fair copyright has found its voice in Canada.  This week it is apparent that that voice has helped generate a new copyright debate in Canada.


  1. Good work all – keep up the fight!

    [PS: I think this also highlights the importance of thinking about what sort of digital spaces we need to be able to discuss politics properly.

    facebook is OK, but it is a closed, private, commercial system.

    there must be something better.]

  2. thesavvyboomer says:

    I’ve made a couple of posts about it on my blog which has about a 60% US readership.

    I think a few of them are getting their eyes opened that we aren’t the quiet, accepting people that many of them think we are.
    Good work Michael.

  3. Just my opinion but this latest post reads more like a political speech than legal analysis…

  4. Well, these are political issues so why shouldn’t it be a political speech? Legal analysis is fine for when the current laws are being applied but talking about new laws and changes to current law seem to demand a political and ideological view.

  5. REASONs for facebook says:

    have brains will tell
    ok i can easily answer that, anyhting you do not have to register at can become a slug fest and awfully misued.
    You will not many sites need and even this one osme protections versus bot responses ( automated programs that spam messages at random to make it appear that one side has more support then they really do and it has been done in the past )
    Anyhow cudos to all the work everyone did keep it up.
    I mailed local politician and NDP as well.
    Oddly local mp has yet to return a response after a week. Wonder how many letters he got LOL.
    Jack layton gave me a copy of the question period and i was impressed at the line how it went.
    I do not doubt that prentice will try this if:
    A) liberals get weakened and get chicken on elections (boys n girls ladies and gents may we then form our own party or get in with the NDP who has been very helpful in past)
    B) He can water it down just enough that there would be enough liberals and bloc(heads) to support it.
    I will say this i think the new liberal direction is more honest and open. would be neat if we could see a merging of the NDP and liberals they both are quite simular in enough respects. That would practically nuke any chance of another bush style govt ever again in canada.
    regarding the site:
    Nice work and if you want to have ideas on a site that a canadian hosts, well here is an offer i will make.
    i have neough webspace myself to host 80000 websites, and enough bandwidth ( 3 terabytes a month ) to look after 150 million hits a month.
    I would extend any one in htis fight the oppurtunity to have your own blogs, or whatever.
    I am a disabled canadian who is trying to make my own go at a few bucks but id rather spend the hosting money on a fight like this.
    The fact that the site is up past 25000 in such a short time ( how long has rick mercer taken to get to 50000? That tells you how much the world hates the american style DCMA and sooner rather then later other parts of the world may see canada’s model works and other grass roots movements may spring up.
    Why tie the legal system up with somehting that can get equatably solved and why shoudn’t that 7000 $ software cost less on the internet.
    BTW MR GEIST THERE IS OPENSOURCE AND FREE AUTOCAD SOFTWARE THAT DOESN’T COST 7000 DOLLARS. Thats what that guy represents and we need all opensourcers in canada to get into this fight as well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You don’t have to burn it, you don’t have to provide bandwidth now advertising nor marketing, nor have packaging, nor the media to put it on , you don’t have to pay for developing DRM on it. All that costs a crap load a money and when i use it for personal use and not for commercial i am not doing that company harm. In fact it does them good as if i legally want to under existing laws use it commercially i would have to still purchase it.
    This is the as it should be. I myself downloaded diablo II off p2p and loved it so much i went out and bought the boxed set with the expansion disk.
    would never done that except everyone in the “community said give it a try” you can’t do that under a DMCA style CRIA RIAA MPAA loving atmosphere.
    Michael you are an excellent public speaker and we all are forever in your debt to have such intellignce on our side.

  6. my biggest fear is (what i call) the BB effect…

    big-brother black-balls the blacklist.

    for the very best of reasons, the corp version of the web simply stops working… well, except for disneyland.

    censored-out websites, news black-out list, blackballed
    users. BB BB BB

    had a root/DNS attack last week. torgan redirect.
    provider was clueless and ineffective correcting the prob.

    intersting, eh?

  7. Russell McOrmond says:

    Alternatve venues to discuss

    Back in the summer of 2001, when this round of copyright revision started, a forum was set up called “Canada-DMCA-opponents”. This morphed into the Digital Copyright Canada forum at [ link ]

  8. Re: Reasons

    Write me an email I would to like to get in contact with you regarding the hosting. I am the person organizing the Queen’s Park Protest. The protest has become a virtual meet and greet with some speaking, swag, and good people discussing the importance of digital rights in the near future. My email is, or you can find me via facebook: [ link ]

  9. “There was a time – not that long ago – that a group like CRIA could put out a press release criticizing the government’s decision to delay copyright legislation and could expect the media to cover the release as if it were the last word on the subject. No longer.”

    Unless you live in Vancouver, where neither The Vancouver Sun nor The Province newspapers seem to have had any sort of coverage of the past week’s activities (victories?), despite previous breathless reports on how Canada is one of the World’s Worst pirate nations, just like that nice Mr. Henderson at the CRIA tells them it is.

  10. Michael, I know you didn’t do this alone, but from my perspective you were a major driving force in making this ship change course. It was awesome to watch, to learn, and to participate. I told my wife and kids yesterday that you are a hero.

  11. Andrew Butash says:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! The single best thing that came out of this was that we raised public awareness about the upcoming bill and its creation, as well as sparked public debate about what these new laws should entail. This is how it should be! The government should be afraid of the people, not vice versa! It’s really great to be a part of this ongoing “digital revolution”, and Michael deserves a huge thanks for spearheading this effort. Mr. Geist, you are currently my hero. Keep fighting the good fight everyone!

  12. What’s old is new again
    Very little new (in principle) from British debates of the 1840’s [ link ]

    …. if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot.

  13. It’s nice to see some positive political and media shift for a change.

  14. beanCube2008 says:

    What about current limitation of busines
    Public opinion has never sided small netrual business in tradings. Why they don\’t have their fair and protected rights in distributing media and market for avalibilities?

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