Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pro-Stronger Copyright Propaganda Shows Up In Canadian Press; TechDirt, 10/21/09

Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Pro-Stronger Copyright Propaganda Shows Up In Canadian Press:

"Rob Hyndman points us to a column in Toronto's Globe & Mail by Barrie McKenna that is basically all of the recording industry's talking points on copyright, without even a nod to the views of the other side. It appears that most of the info is (surprise, surprise) based on a recording industry lawyer. It starts with a nice little moral panic about how file sharing sites are rushing to base themselves in Canada due to the country's supposedly lax copyright laws. Of course, that's ridiculous. Canada has very strong copyright laws already. What they don't have is a DMCA. That's what the industry wants. McKenna tries to bolster his claim that Canada has weak copyright laws with the following:

"Earlier this year, the Obama administration put Canada on its blacklist of shame - a "priority watch list" of intellectual property laggards, joining the likes of China, Russia and Venezuela."

Sounds nice, but incredibly misleading. The "blacklist of shame" that McKenna mentions, but does not explain, is actually the US Trade Rep's special "301 Report." Mention it to just about any policy maker (excluding those pushing for protectionist policies for a specific industry, of course), and you get an eye roll. It's not so much "the Obama administration" but industries with wishlists attempting to restrain trade in foreign countries by putting forth scary stories about what's happening in those countries. The USTR basically takes those industry-submitted reports and wraps them up into the 301 report. It's a joke. Most of the complaints in the report concern countries that actually are in perfect compliance with international treaties -- but which the industry still wants to go further.

Of course, given that McKenna's source is an industry lawyer, perhaps it's not surprising that such info wasn't shared. But, the next claims go from the just uninformed to the unbelievable:

"Canada, which has repeatedly promised but so far failed to deliver on copyright reform, isn't just out of step with the United States, but with much of the Western world."

This is simply untrue. Canada's copyright law is actually quite in line with most of the Western world, no matter what the entertainment industry suggests (and, you might think that McKenna would ask someone other than the person representing the industry that benefits from this). Furthermore, the line that Canada has "so far failed to deliver on copyright reform" is either blatantly misleading or simply ignorant of rather recent history. Canadian politicians have tried to push forth copyright reform, but due to a massive public outcry from people who actually understand how things like the DMCA cause all sorts of problems -- especially concerning free speech and consumer rights -- those politicians were forced to back down.

That's called informed democracy in action. Oh, McKenna also claims that the last time the Canadian government tried copyright reform was in 2007. According to his bio, McKenna is based in DC, not Canada, but even down here in the States plenty of us were aware that Jim Prentice introduced copyright reform in 2008.

So, McKenna makes it out like Canada has no strong copyright laws (false), that it's laws are different from most of the western world (false) and that it hasn't tried to add more draconian copyright laws (false again). From there, he comes up with this bizarre justification for more draconian copyright law:

"The world has gone digital. And there's now an explosion of legitimate download sites in the U.S. and Europe, including ground-breaking music sites and But you can't use them in Canada.

These and other businesses are choosing to bypass the market entirely, in part because of licensing problems.

And the creative industries that produce music, software and the like - industries that contribute significantly more to the economy than BitTorrent sites - may also shun Canada if nothing is done."

Actually, you have Canadian record labels like Nettwerk, that are doing quite well, even as its CEO has declared that copyright is obsolete and should be done away with entirely within a decade. And the reason that those services can't be used in Canada isn't because the law is too lax, but because the laws are too strict, in terms of figuring out special licensing setups in each country. It's such a pain to get them licensed in a single country that the services have been forced -- against their will in many cases -- to block access in other countries like Canada."

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