It appears that by design or chance, the big Town Hall meeting on Copyright law in Toronto yesterday was dominated by one side of the debate – that side representing the (mostly foreign-based) commercial music industry, that side seething epithets about “lawbreakers” and “pirates”, that side representing a tiny minority interest, that narrow slice of Canadian society that weakly resorts to costly litigation to solve its problems when the going gets tough. Blame your customers, eh? Blame the citizenry?
Today is Northern Voice (I’m presenting tomorrow, but today is the unconference, most of which I hope to catch!), but right now I’m riveted to my laptop (poring over comments about torrent tracking) before I head out to UBC. Really good back n forth over at Nicholas Weaver’s Random Thoughts regarding claims as to whether it’s actually possible to block torrent traffic (more over at Copyfight). I’m convinced such tracking measures can be circumvented and that torrent sharing can’t be stopped. These debates seem to reaffirm this position, notwithstanding drilling into the tech nitty-gritty.
To repeat – the web is an Open network. Strategies to Close it go against its grain, and are stupendously impractical if not impossible.
I was recently asked by the Songwriters’ Association of Canada (SAC) to submit a briefing on why file sharing is inevitable, and why a levy system for ISPs makes sense. (The SAC is in the process of submitting a proposal along these lines to the Canadian government, in light of the political deliberations over where our copyright law is headed).
Here‘s the draft of my briefing to them (PDF, 176K). The gist of it? The internet IS file sharing. Comment, suggest revisions, and correct me where I’m wrong, if you please.
Read the SAC’s Proposal and sign up to support it here.
The news story I was interviewed for in the wake of the Jammie Thomas verdict has aired and is now up. It’s unsurprisingly simple and straightforward, but surprisingly balanced. Thanks to Richard Smith for capturing and converting the thing.
I tried to stay focused on the Canadian angle, making the points that (1) ISPs in Canada are not obliged to reveal the identities attached to IP addresses and (2) despite pressure from the CRIA (Canada’s branch plant of the RIAA), Canada’s private copying levy (among other things) makes such lawsuits unlikely to succeed here. I also tried to make the point that free distribution of music hurts only a small fraction of musicians (mainly the big celebrities), and that trends in the ongoing reshaping of the music industry confirm this pattern. Hopefully, the messaging is clear on the news tonight. Hopefully I look OK.
They also wanted to film me downloading the new Radiohead LP, but I had already paid for it late last night (FYI – I shelled out Â£5), and the downloading cannot happen yet. So they got some shots of my torrent search bar and some farting around on emusic (the most recent Twilight Circus Dub Soundsystem is ace, btw!). That’s good – hopefully the people watching Global will pick up a few tips on how to take control of their music acquisition practices back from the iTunes Music Store and its ilk.
“Regulators should be careful not to impose regulations that could limit consumer choice and investment in broadband facilities” (Thomas Barnett, US Justice Department).
I’m imagining the frightful amount of cognitive dissonance it requires to make such a statement without laughing. The real problem is, of course, with ISPs imposing regulations that limit choice and investment in the information economy. This is not to say that investment and choice are the terms on which I would defend Net Neutrality per se, but you get the idea; anyone who wishes to defend it on these terms could do so very easily. This is classic U.S. conservatism – contradicting both intelligence and public opinion in the interest of affirming an industry’s right to remain concentrated in as few hands as possible.
I delivered a lecture today for my 200 level Communication class on “Copyright, Commerce, and the Creative Commons”. It might need work around its rougher edges still, but I’m kinda modestly proud to have gotten it into the shape it’s in now. The emphasis is on (1) the historicization of copyright law using a political economy of media approach, and (2), in the second half, confronting the current era of massively collaborative media and imagining alternative regimes of remuneration/distribution. The images are low resolution to enable quick downloads. If anyone wants high-resolution images, or links to the embedded URLs/movie clips, make some noise and I can provide that info.
Feedback is welcome, of course. I’m always looking to improve on this stuff.