Patry and Pessimism About Copyright

Many bloggers have lamented Bill Patry's decision to put an end to his invaluable blog.  The blog has been a daily read for many and will be sorely missed. Patry points to two reasons – the inability of some readers to separate his personal opinion from the views of his employer (Google) and that the current state of copyright law is too depressing leaving the blog with a distinctly negative tone. The current state of copyright – particularly copyright reform – is depressing.  Whether the ongoing secret ACTA negotiations, the stalling of a WIPO Development Agenda in Geneva, or lobbying pressures for domestic reforms, copyright law is increasingly unrecognizable.  In a Canadian context, as a I work through the 61 reforms to C-61 project it is discouraging to see just how one-sided Canadian copyright law could become if the bill becomes law.

That said, I think (at least in Canada) there is reason for optimism.  The Canadian DMCA may be awful, but the continuous negative reaction to the bill suggests that many Canadians and some politicians are awakening to the importance of the issue and of the need to strike the right balance.  Over the past month, the local Fair Copyright for Canada chapters have genuinely taken on a life of their own with wikis, regular meetings, and many meetings with MPs.  When MPs state that the issue ranks in the top three among constituent correspondence, hold town hall meetings, post pictures of themselves meeting with constituents concerned with fair copyright, or send letters that demonstrate awareness of the concerns and the need for balance, I say there is reason for optimism. Patry notes that copyright law's "principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to supress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners."  That sounds like a description of Bill C-61 today.  I remain convinced that it need not be the law tomorrow.


  1. hope?
    I am not quite as hopeful as you are, since I don’t know the position of the Bloc or NDP on this law. The Liberals fear of an election that they are not ready for may be enough to allow it to pass. The arrogance of the Conservatives probably will cause them to try to make it a confidence motion with no changes allowed. If the Liberals abstain from voting, then I wonder if other laws will also be for sale to the highest bidder.

  2. Indeed, very depressing
    It is very depressing. I am a tech industry worker and I lived in the US (right in silicon valley) when the DMCA was being railroaded through. I saw the kind of activism that we see here protesting it. Seeing as it got rammed through despite all of the protests I also saw how it was all in vain in the end.

    Is that a reason to stop protesting? I don’t think so. I’d just say don’t get fooled into thinking we (the people) have more power and input into the laws that govern us than we really do. Governments are owned by business. Governments pass laws that protect businesses, not the rights and interests of the people they purport to represent.

    Until a government can be elected without the (i.e. financial) support of big business this will never change. Business pays to have their puppets installed into government and when they get there, those puppets have to do the bidding of their puppet masters.

    As an aside, I can’t even count on the vote of my own MP in the copyright battle. His (Peter Milliken) exact words were “While I will not be voting on this bill except in the event of a tie…”. Maybe that’s because he is the speaker of the house. What’s the point of me having an MP that doesn’t add my vote (and the votes of my neighbors) to the contest?

    It is all very very depressing.

  3. There is hope
    Dion with is \’green plan\’ is disposed to call elections at the first chance he will have. We must pressure the Bloc and the NPD to vote against the bill of course.

  4. What Google objects to is having to pay for the content that fuels its huge profits

  5. Russell McOrmond says:

    The last comment (“What Google objects to…”) demonstrates what Bill Patry wrote about. Patry has been an important US copyright lawyer long before Google existed, and will quite likely have other clients. What “Google” wants is not relevant to the conversation, and what this person said that “Google” wants is also incorrect.

    The core of the debate really is failed buisness models and the unwillingness of copyright holders to actually accept the money people want to offer them.

    Where is that “buy me now” button for Copyright?

    If copyright holders were actually offering their works in a manner and format people are wanting to pay, rather than simply forbidding things and then complaining, I think a vast majority of the current problems would just go away.

    The fact that people still exist out there that think this is about stopping some form of “Theft” is just an example of what leads to pessimism.

  6. Google
    Google’s business is not predicated on a “buy me” button. It’s about using other people’s content to draw advertising.

  7. If we don’t constantly challenge..
    Quote from p2pnet [ link ] :

    Several times I seriously thought about closing p2pnet down, but in phone calls and emails, he encouraged me to stay online saying, in so many words, we need dissent now more than ever, even if it’s painful on the dissenters, and even if it means suffering the trolls and the people who believe freedom of speech is something to be strictly controlled, not enjoyed as a basic right.

    Lately, I’ve been been wondering if it isn’t time fo me to pack it in. But I can’t forget Bill Evans and what he stood for while he was alive —- freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

    If we don’t constantly challenge the status quo and the Powers That Used To Be, we’re lost.

    Let’s hope Patry changes his mind.

    Jon Newton – p2pnet

  8. Geed
    I’m completely in agreement with Russell’s comments. It’s unfortunate that Pantry chose to end his blog, but completely understandable. This copyright debate is very technical, and negitive on all sides. A lot of this is due to the wrong direction copyright law has taken. Many feel in the music business that the “fun” of creating music, and sharing it with others has been taken out of the equation by a lot of the rights holders, not the creators themselves.

    Too often those in the music industry rely on their representation to act on their best interests, which for over the past 10 years hasn’t seemed to go over well with the fans. Basterdizing consumers, and taking away the rights and freedoms of society because 50 cent want’s a new SUV, is not the the appropriate action those representing in this industry, and has caused a lot of problems. Greed has over stepped the boundries on several occasions, and actions this industry taken against consumers is appolling, and unwarrented. We need a balanced approach not one sided. The one sided approach hasn’t worked in a decade, nor will it in the future. New idea’s are emerging on how to emerge in a new business environment, and as those representing sing the same tune, content creators will take up more interest in this debate themselves and I think will force rights holders into a new more profitable realm. After all most of them use peer to peer for their music as well.

    It’s not all about music, but it started with music, and I believe it will end with solutions the creators come up with in this industry that benifits all. What’s amazing is the stupidity at the top levels of these corporations in coming up with a solution that’s balanced, instead one sided. When is Gen X going to take over in these positions. Too many “old guys” who only know the word “black berry” and have to call tech support to find the “Any Key” on their terminals.

  9. byrne\\\s fan says:

    About music and different approaches. David Byrne and Brian Eno are trying to promote their last album solely through Internet word-of-mouth. Let’s help them in their intent downloading their free song “Strange Overtone” here [ link ]