Death to copyright violators?

It’s been tried, according to Rick Falkvinge, who begins a seven-part history of copyright today. Moneyquote:

The copyright industry has tried the same tricks and rhetoric for well over 500 years, and they are also keen on trying to rewrite history. But the tale of the history books differs sharply from what the copyright industry is trying to paint.

When the printing press arrived in 1453, scribe-craft was a profession in high demand. The Black Death had taken a large toll from the monasteries, who were not yet repopulated, so copying books was expensive.

Obsoleting scribes was not a popular development with the Catholic Church, who tried to ban the printing press with increasingly harsh punishments, up to and including the death penalty for using a printing press to copy books.

“How will the monks get paid?”, they argued to justify this. Still, even the death penalty couldn’t stop the copying.

Of course, it wasn’t about payment of monks. The Catholic Church couldn’t have cared less, really. It was about control over knowledge and culture. Once most of the populace had learned to read, the Church lost its grip permanently.

Improving government websites

Our old friend Ivan Smith’s ears perked up at our mention of an independent advisory panel to offer suggestions on how to improve a government website. He wonders if anything similar is planned in Canada.

Smith points to copyright activist Michael Geist’s interesting testimony March 25 before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (available, sigh, not on the committee’s website, but on Geist’s.) Moneyquote:

In recent years, many countries have embraced open data initiatives, including both the U.S. and U.K.  Others, such as Australia, have adopted open licenses to make government content more readily usable and accessible.  We have started to see the same thing in Canada at the municipal level, with Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto leading the way.

Open government data is consistent with government transparency goals and holds great economic potential by inviting Canadian businesses to add value to public data. Canadian policy should encompass open government data, the removal of crown copyright or adoption of open licenses, and a commitment to equality for open source software procurement.  Much like the City of Vancouver, we should be talking about open data, open standards, and open source.

Geist makes a number of other good points, such as the spectacular success of the National Film Board’s project to place all its movies on line, unencrypted; and how, contrary to propaganda by corporate copyright bullies, Canadian arts and culture is thriving in a world of Internet abundance.  The whole submission is worth reading.

Netizen Smith, proprietor-editor of Nova Scotia’s Electronic Attic, has been waging a one-man crusade against poor web design on the Province of Nova Scotia’s website—with little to show in the way of results. A former high school teacher, he recently took his red pencil to a particular egregious federal example. Screenshot:

Senate Speakers website-ivan smith-550

Note: the errors only occur on certain browsers on certain platforms. Writes Smith:

[Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella’s website] fails to meet… design standards that were current in 2000, a full decade ago. There is no hint that anyone in government is aware of the digital dinosaur fossil that is the Senate Speaker’s website offered to citizens this week. And there is no place for a citizen to direct comments about this website; at least there is no place other than elected MPs who would have no idea what the citizen was talking about.

Bloggers put media’s copycon coverage to shame

CopyCon Ministers - cropped

Why is Canada’s news media doing such a shoddy job covering the copyright consultations now taking place in select cities across part of Canada?

At the heart of the consultations on planned changes Canada’s copyright law lies a fundamental question: Should the law protect authors of creative work, or corporate intermediaries who traditionally profited from the massive effort formerly required to reproduce and distribute them?

Thanks to digital technology, the cost of copying and distributing works is rapidly approaching zero. Naturally, those who once profited from copying and distributing creative works are frantically trying to stem the flow of creative works, advocating ever-lengthening copyright protection,  and mandatory enforcement of consumer-hostile technologies that prevent all copying, legal or otherwise. In many cases, they have co-opted creator organizations to their cause.

Not surprisingly, news organizations tend to view this question through the lens of corporate intermediaries. With exceptions, they frame the debate in terms University of Ottawa law professor Jeremy De Beer describes as, “the caricature of toiling creators vs. freeloading pirates.”

Continue reading Bloggers put media’s copycon coverage to shame