Yesterday there was a firestorm of discussion over Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore's speech (which was promoted by his department in advance) in which he labeled critics of Bill C-32 "radical extremists" and urged confrontation against those who argue for fair copyright, which he said is really an attempt to mislead and oppose the bill. In response there were hundreds of postings on Twitter (including a debate between Moore and Cory Doctorow) along with:
an NDP release from MP Charlie Angus saying Moore was way out of line
a terrific article by Doctorow providing an author's perspective on "radical extremism" and copyright
an article by Blayne Haggart that provides some context on the smears
Almost lost amidst the considerable outrage from many people over Moore's comments, was the possibility that there was an attempt to bury the "radical extremist" comment. The initial video posted by event organizers (the Chamber of Commerce's IP Council) did not include a clip of the reference to radical extremists. Sun Media ran a story that included the quote but others seemed to act as if it never happened.
After I blogged about the comment, the Entertainment Software Association of Canada tweeted a reference to "@mpjamesmoore's actual remarks" as if the remarks did not include the reference. The next morning, Barry Sookman blogged on the speech and characterized my post on "radical extremists" as relying upon a second hand source. While that is true – I relied on Sun Media – both the ESA Canada and Sookman were in the room for the speech and surely heard the comment.
More noteworthy is that Moore himself denied making the comment in direct messages with several people on Twitter who expressed concern about it. For example, he sent this to one correspondent
The House of Commons is shut down due to today's earthquake, but I have received a copy of a release from the office of NDP MP Charlie Angus which responds to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore's attack on fair copyright. The NDP planned to issue the release today, but cannot due to the office closure. I was given permission to post the release in its entirety. [update: official release]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 23, 2010
NEW DEMOCRATS CALL MOORE OFFSIDE FOR ATTACKING FAIR COPYRIGHT ADVOCATES Minister’s description of ‘radical extremists’ shows he’s in need of a time-out
Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore's "radical extremists" comment yesterday generated considerable attention, though he privately denied saying it in some correspondence (one DM: "Not what I said. Not even close"). New video has now been posted that confirms the comment and further attacks on those supporting fair copyright. The latest comments:
There was considerable attention yesterday on a media report stating that Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore warned against "radical extremists" opposing C-32. A video of part of his remarks has now been posted online [full video here]. The comments, which come after the prepared speech, feature a no-holds-barred attack against those arguing for fair copyright. According to Moore, some proposed amendments to C-32 are not genuine but rather part of an attempt to oppose copyright and copyright reform, to drum up fear, and to mislead. Moore encourages confrontation, urging the audience to confront on Facebook, Twitter, talk shows and in the media until "they are defeated."
I'm under no illusion here. Yesterday, I asked in a post who Moore's "radical extremists" are. The video suggests that he thinks it is me and the thousands of other Canadians who have argued for fair copyright (a reporter at the event reached the same conclusion and CRIA lawyer Barry Sookman is happy to do the same). His comments met with applause from the audience and will be taken as a mandate to continue the astroturfing activities on Balanced Copyright for Canada.
To hear the Minister of Canadian Heritage both discredit the views of so many people and to encourage confrontation as the optimal plan of action is incredibly discouraging. To use his own words, it is an attempt to mislead, misdirect, and undermine what has been more than a year-long effort for Canadians to speak out on copyright. For those that are interested, my actual take on C-32 is here and some proposed amendments here. The comments are not dissimilar from many consumer, education, library, business, and creator groups. I see few people who are "absolutists" out there – most want a fair approach but may disagree on precisely where to strike the balance on issues such as digital locks or fair dealing.
Perhaps most troubling is the fact that this is part of a growing trend. Yesterday's comments targeted fair copyright, but we are not alone. When consumer groups criticize the bill, Moore claims they don't represent consumers and cites support from the Chamber of Commerce instead. When political opposition parties speak of the need for reform to digital locks provisions, he says they have not put forward amendments. When creator groups such as ACTRA criticize his approach, he blocks them on Twitter. When business and education groups express concern about digital locks, he selectively cites their supportive comments instead. Moore is clearly ready to fight and has urged the few supporters of DMCA-style provisions to do the same.