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The EFF Never Met an Artist They Didn’t Want to Stiff

June 30, 2010 1 comment

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is continuing their campaign of making every artist suffer to the full extent of the law–and now they are going after indie film makers trying to protect themselves from the onslaught of theft that the EFF loves to lionize. And EFF have a couple new friends that make it all the more vile. (See also Vivek Wadhwa’s excellent piece “How The EFF Lost Its Way By Defending Hate Mongers And Tunnel Rats“–”[W]hen organizations achieve too much success, they often develop a sense of confidence and arrogance that, when unchecked, leads to their downfall. They begin to believe they can ‘do no evil’”.)

EFF’s artist-hater in chief we are told defended YouTube, Veoh, TorrentSpy, LimeWire and Real Networks among others. Those last two had some serious accusations leveled at them about futzing around with evidence, and the EFF got called out in the LimeWire case by the federal judge presiding. Most lawyers would find that embarrassing or potentially career ending–not this guy. He stepped right over to Google (who was probably in the background in all these cases even if they weren’t named.) Looks like he made his bones. Google, of course, is enjoying their latest victory over creators in the YouTube case that built upon the the ridiculous proposition that the Congress of the United States intended that stealing is good for America. But since Google styles itself as “the biggest kingmaker on this Earth” none of this is surprising. (See today’s round of antitrust prosecutions, “Google Told By France to Restore Map Service’s Ads“.)

I think it is a safe guess that you can lay a good billion dollars of losses and untold pain of families at the feet of the EFF and their program of defending liars, thieves and obfuscators. And now we are about to launch into a new era of destruction of the creative community as these Children of the Lessig God have aligned themselves with Public Citizen and the ACLU to attempt to destroy the livelihoods of yet more creators and their families. Roy Cohn must be laughing his tuckus off.

By this action, these three groups have put themselves squarely against the creator unions and the families they represent–the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the American Federation of Musicians, the Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, the Screen Actors Guild and the Songwriters Guild of America, not to mention the AFL-CIO. This is a new role for Public Citizen and the ACLU, old news for the EFF.

This new alliance is especially troubling given the millions that ACLU receives from what’s left of the entertainment industry. I have asked them to remove me from their fund-raising list. There is no reason to pay to support the activities of anyone who may be admirable 90% of the time, but dedicated to your existential destruction 10% of the time. This is different than disagreeing with them–they have gone over to the dark side.

It seems pretty clear that all those years our industry supported ACLU are now gone in a flash when Google and their fellow travelers show up.

Of course it is not 100% clear whether EFF got any of the hundreds of thousands in money from offshore gambling operations (including from trusts associated with confessed felon Anurag Dikshit) that Lessig acknowledges receiving for a couple of his other pet projects. Maybe some of that money is finding its way to to the ACLU, too. They obviously don’t need support from creators anymore.

My Own Private ACTA

June 29, 2010 2 comments

As we lurch into the second decade of the post-Napster era, I am struck by how many similarities there are between the problems that the creative community has online and the problems that we are asking our government to protect us from.

Given fundamental flaws in the Internet’s initial architecture, the lack of authentication and basic identification gives rise to cross-border identity theft and law enforcement issues not to mention nastier forms of commercial spying and outright espionage. This plays a key role in the relations between the U.S. and its trading partners and competitors, especially China. As James Mulvenon, director of the Defense Group’s Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, has noted, the reason that there is no meaningful security baked into the network is because those who were around for dARPAnet node No. 1 (such as Steve Lukasik) did not think the network would ever be used for malicious purposes and thought that putting security in the stack would make it less efficient.

Boy, was he wrong.

However much the continued cyberattacks are symptomatic of commercial and espionage challenges that countries with valuable digital properties (often intellectual property or classified materials), the more serious of these attacks are aimed largely at the intellectual property economy. Mulvenon puts it succinctly: “Remember the halcyon days when we were worried about Taiwanese hackers putting “Hello Kitty” logos on Chinese web pages? Given our dependence on the network and given our vulnerability, we are now racing toward a future in which we are frantically trying to repair the car while we are driving 70 miles an hour down the freeway.”

Members of the creative community have to find all this rather amusing in a sick kind of way. We have been robbed blind online for a decade, but–typically–now that it’s Google who is falling victim to cyber commercial espionage—now America has to worry about what’s happening to a multinational corporation.

Market Rules One Substitute for Network Security

The lack of security and authentication at the network level means that it is highly unlikely that there will be a fix anytime soon—if ever. Discussions about dealing with the massive theft and other moral hazard issues online often center around filtering at the network level. I just don’t believe this can happen without starting over again on the Internet’s architecture which is highly unlikely to happen.

Given that re-architecting the network is not a realistic possibility, it is critically important that alternatives be developed that can make up for the extraordinary lack of foresight of the network designers. “Geeking around” these problems of the nation state is not a perfect solution and certainly would have its flaws and inefficiencies. But it’s better than nothing and is certainly better than self-help alternatives.

One solution might be to have an internationally recognized law enforcement solution that many countries would negotiate in line with other international treaties and their representative governments and that would offer at least a framework to create additional commercial security online and in line with international law.

In addition to these interlocking agreements, intellectual property owners can take advantage of digital rights management solutions that they think will advantage them in line with market reaction by consumers. Examples of DRM applications include video games, books and movies, as well as some music retailers such as the highly successful iTunes (which offers a DRM and, increasingly, a non-DRM solution) and the non-DRM files available at Amazon. Another tool to compensate for the lack of security built into the network. (I’ve been banging the table about allowing the market to find a non-DRM solution for a good five years.)

If these options are not available as law enforcement solutions to governments or commercial solutions to the creative community, the file stealing operators such as Limewire and Isohunt will be able to unilaterally impose their own “rules” on the governments of the world in stark defiance of international law.

Wait—there is such a framework agreement called the Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Nowhere is there more venom directed at ACTA than from Michael Geist (aka “he who shall not be named,” according to a prominent Canadian artist. Geist is advisor to the U.S.-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, the Alcan of intellectual property, with its American advisory board, and the paid consultant to Industry Canada. SG-CIPPIC‘s external advisory board includes Lessig, the EFF legal director, the director of EPIC, and Pamela Samuelson, who is also a board member of EPIC and the EFF. Very cozy.)

So what does Geist want? I mean in addition to attention.

His Own Private ACTA

Geist has something of an obsession with DRM or what he calls “digital locks”. Given his apparently close relationship with modchip makers (modchips are used to crack the DRM on videogames), this is not surprising. Modchip makers (such as the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights, a grandiose moniker if ever there was one) clearly want to stop any laws that prohibit them from selling their warez–directly affected by anticircumvention rules.

The new legislation to reform Canada’s copyright laws protects the right the IP owners enjoy under the laws of many countries (including the United States) to use DRM solutions. The legitimate purpose of DRM is to further the purposes of copyright and allows a copyright holder what is essentially a protection against serial copying from an authorized source to an unauthorized source. The self-defined-copyright crowd is has been wringing their hands about DRM for years—as has Geist. The argument about DRM boils down to whether the government can dictate to a copyright owner whether they can use DRM on copies of works of copyright. It is frequently positioned by self-appointed consumer advocates like Geist that the mere presence of DRM is itself harmful to consumers.

What is always omitted from arguments against DRM is the fact that the market will tell the copyright holder whether DRM works. Meaning that consumers—not consumer advocates—are the best judges of what they want to buy. If DRM is too restrictive, it will fail. If not, it will succeed.Meaning that in order to know whether DRM works, there must be at least a somewhat orderly market so that copyright owners can tell how much DRM is commercially successful—or maybe have no DRM.

Witness the music industry’s gradual adoption of mp3 as a sales format. I encouraged the industry to adopt mp3 as a format starting around 2001. I remember having a conversation with a sales executive around that time in which I asked if they had a problem with not having an offering in a format that accounted for 1 billion downloads a month. (A bit of a fudge for dramatic effect, but you get the idea.) The reaction I got was like a dog on a mirror.

After a decade of worrying about DRM in the face of massive theft of their property (and after having missed the boat on putting serial copy protection in devices as was done with cassette players), it suddenly dawned on everyone that they needed to quit making it difficult for fans to buy rather than steal the music that would play on the players they were most likely to have.

iTunes found an excellent balance of DRM controls that was obviously successful with consumers.

So why is it that Geist pounds the table about DRM? It appears to be because he believes that the only way to protect consumer interests is to do the thinking for the consumer before the consumer gets a chance to choose between a DRM work and a DRM-free work. This would also have the benefit of denying copyright holders the right to protect their works.

And of course it would make life much easier for consumer electronics companies who want to free ride on works that owners choose to protect. Wouldn’t it be a much more decisive consumer message to have the DRM goods rejected in an orderly market?

My Private WIPO

Where do these anti-circumvention statutes come from? The WIPO Copyright Treaty—which Canada has agreed to—among other places. Geist takes an absurdly narrow view for which he has been deservedly criticized, including by Dr. Mihály Ficsor, the former Assistant Director of WIPO (See
Legends and reality about the 1996 WIPO Treaties in the light of certain comments on Bill C-32” an academic paper directly challenging Geist’s lightweight interpretation of the digital rights management provisions of the WIPO Copyright Treaty).

So when you add all this up, what Geist seems to want is to impose his own version of reality on the international creative community—not just Canadians. If Canadians decided to live in the Geist universe as applied to Canadian content in Canada, fine. (Which is the case the Canadian orphan works regime.) But that territorial restriction seems to get left out, and is highly unlikely to happen in a networked world. Surely Geist knows this. We live in a networked world and this is a prime example of why we have treaties and why there are international trade agreements–a topic of considerable interest this week due to the G-20 meetings.

The effective result of what Geist wants to do is the imposition of his own private ACTA on the creators of the world—rules not negotiated by Canada’s trading partners, but rules to be imposed by Geist, modchip warez makers and consumer electronics industries, under the watchful eye of “AceLessig, the EFF and the Samuelson-Glushko triangulation).

Sorry—I don’t think that was why Canada negotiated and signed the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

And speaking of flipping the mob switch…

June 29, 2010 Comments off

Interesting video of mob riots obfuscating evidence. I particularly love the familiar line from an apparent Black Bloc fan to the film maker: “We don’t want your ___ing evidence!” and “We’re trying to ___ing commit crime here!” And if you listen closely you can hear someone scream “You forgot the ____ing Frappachinos!”

Where’s the EFF when you need them, eh? (see EFF, Best Practices for Online Service Providers http://www.eff.org/files/eff-ospbp-whitepaper.pdf). I’m sure they could have been a big help.

Now there are those who would say uncharitably that riots like this are an analog to what happens online every minute of every day. That’s completely wrong. You’d have to have this video without the cops for that to be true. Sheesh.

Are Lessig & Pirate Party Extremists or Mainstream Critics of Obama and Biden?

June 28, 2010 Comments off

Remember when Lester Lawrence Lessig III (call sign “Ace“) said he liked everything about the Pirate Party except the name?

How about this: Travis McCrea of the US Pirate Party [said] the news about the US government’s plans [to stop Internet theft] is not a surprise, since Obama and his party have consistently failed to live up to the promises they have made, including delivering high-speed internet to rural areas, and reforming copyright and patenting. [McCrea] said he does not believe the Obama administration is being bullied by the music and film industries and “he knows exactly what he is doing”. He was particularly critical of the appointment of Victoria Espinel, who he called the “Intellectual Property Czar”, the appointment of whom was endorsed by the MPAA.

He also disapproved of the appointment of Joe Biden as Obama’s vice-president, saying that it shows that Obama does not care about copyright and patent reform.

He told us that while the Pirate Party commends Obama’s efforts to make his government more transparent and adopting an open source backend for the White House website, the government is repeatedly failing the consumer, and that is hurting the enconomy, not piracy. He said that artists would make more money without middle management trying to control everything and that TV and film could be better distributed without the hassles of traditional TV networks and DRM copy-protection….Recent studies [such as the Government Accountability Office "observations"] have shown that piracy may actually help the U.S. economy and that virtually every citizen commits some form of IP infringement on a daily basis.”

Alrighty then. What did we ever do without these guys?

I think “Ace” Lessig needs to propose a “Poker Summit” given he’s so inside. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Confict Minerals: Something in common

June 27, 2010 Comments off

Supreme Court guidance regarding petition signatures

June 26, 2010 Comments off

Interesting U.S. Supreme Court case may offer some guidance regarding digital democracy. Although online communications were not at issue in the case, the Utah Supreme Court is dealing with that issue directly and may be influenced by the SCOTUS opinion in Doe v. Reed:

“The State’s interest in preserving the integrity of the electoral process suffices to defeat the argument that the [Washington State referendum qualification statute as issue] is unconstitutional with respect to referendum petitions in general. That interest is particularly strong with respect to efforts to root out fraud. But the State’s interest is not limited to combating fraud; it extends to efforts to ferret out invalid signatures caused not by fraud but by simple mistake, such as duplicate signatures or signatures of individuals who are not registered to vote in the State. The State’s interest also extends more generally to promoting transparency and accountabilityin the electoral process.” (at p. 3, emphasis mine)

Food for thought.

New Music 6-25: Pomplamoose, Brandon Flowers, Pulled Apart by Horses, Blitz Kids, Octopus Project

June 26, 2010 Comments off

News you wish you couldn’t use

June 25, 2010 Comments off

POLITICO (http://www.politico.com/email-alerts/morningtech/morningtech_06242010.html):

“CLOSED-DOOR FCC MEETINGS CONTINUE – Wednesday marked Day 3 of meetings between FCC staff and industry stakeholders on reclassification and Genachowski’s proposed ‘third way.’ While some participants have already cast doubt on the utility of these talks, it seems clear the negotiations won’t stop key players from duking it out in public. The latest example: An expensive, full-page ad in Wednesday’s edition of WaPo in which Free Press excoriates the FCC for abandoning Genachowski’s pledge to make the agency more transparent.

THE IRONY: Industry sources say Free Press is still taking part in those very meetings through the Open Internet Coalition, of which it is a member. Others point out it was Free Press that hit up the White House at the end of 2009 to meet with key administration officials ahead of the FCC’s initial inquiry on net neutrality.”

Google Monitor (http://bit.ly/aSfWDp)

Is Mr. Masnik Becoming Google’s go-to Apologist?

“Now this week Mr. Masnik is assuming the role of Google’s go to apologist again by declaring he is ”almost certain” Google’s three-year WiFi data collection in over thirty countries by retrofitting its entire StreetView vehicle fleet with special WiFi antennae was ‘accidental. Mr. Masnik would have more credibility if he did not summarily dismiss the possibility that someone in the privacy offices of several nations, the FTC, Scotland Yard, and roughly 30 state Attorneys General who are now investigating Google’s international WiFi data collection, might know something that Mr. Masnik might not be aware of?”

Billboard (http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3i4398ded06f46a32cb1e09eb7361cd56f)

Viacom/YouTube: What does it mean for the music industry

An interesting quote in this story, “I hope today’s decision is a wake-up call for big media to cooperate with online services and to talk about a solution.”

This was from someone “with knowledge of the case” commenting anonymously.

Of course.

The talk around Washington is that the level of arrogance displayed by Google lobbyists and executives would be laughable if they didn’t have so much money and influence over the Democrats. Witness the hand slap of Andrew McLaughlin and the ensuing debacle when FOIA documents surfaced. Ask yourself what would have happened if instead of being Google’s former worldwide head of lobbying and brown paper bags, he was instead employed by say, Coors Beer?

From the UK:
UK Treasury (http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/junebudget_press_notice1.pdf)

The government plans to create economic conditions that benefit the creative industries through encouraging enterprise, such as reducing the corporations tax, reducing the small profits rate, a National Insurance Contributions holiday for regional start-up; an increase in the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the creation of a new Enterprise Capital Fund and a Regional Growth Fund.

Geist Flips the Mob Switch

June 23, 2010 Comments off

Recently I was discussing the effect of the Internet on Chinese dissidents with a friend from a world that concerns itself with that kind of thing. He told me that what bothered the Chinese was not so much that dissidents had access to any particular information which does bother them, and it wasn’t so much that dissidents were able to post particular information which bothers them a bit more—what really bothered them a lot was that dissidents were able to use the social media tools to organize. Now that they don’t like at all.

Although the tools were quite different, what is happening today in reaction to the onslaught against artists from the consumer electronics industries and their fellow travelers is not that different from the organizing efforts of the labor movement against other unfair labor practices in the past. Instead of anonymous goons with baseball bats, organizers are met with anonymous hoards “commenting” online in something very similar to what George Orwell called the “Two Minutes Hate” and what Jaron Lanier calls “the mob switch”.

As Lanier puts it—“If everybody connects to everything you have [the potential for] a mob… [especially] in an online design that encourages cheap anonymity with no sense of commitment and no sense of consequence such as the comments section on a blog or a YouTube video…You can tell you are a mob member when you are with a group of people who have designated [for abuse] a member within and an external enemy as the competing clan”.

Sound familiar?

Like most mobs, those who witness the savaging become fearful of being savaged themselves in what some might call the Old West of the Internet. They may seek the safety of mob membership, whether or not they have participated in the savaging themselves.
Is it surprising that mobs form online? Not really. The potential consequences of the mob leveraging security failures online and the inexcusable dereliction of government to enforce the law offline for online violations are enough to scare anyone. So in these and other ways, the analogy of Internet to the Old West is only accurate if there were no marshals and the mobs wore sheets.

The consequences of standing up against the mob was made clear early on in the commercial life of the Internet in a process that has become a set piece of how the consumer electronics industry plays politics. Some of the names have changed—now Google is a major player with its multimillion dollar global lobbying budget and ex-EFF lawyers, for example—but the methods haven’t.

Until last year.

Lily Allen got the mob treatment when she stood up for independent artists—the mob did not even want her speaking for others. And of course Lily got the most vile, sexist attacks because no one can be as vicious to a woman as a dateless fanboy in his PJs—particularly from under his sheets.

But then a curious thing happened—the Featured Artist Coalition formed in the UK–an exercise of the fundamental human right of freedom of association. The FAC made a joint statement supporting Lily Allen’s views on file stealing. The artists organized and spoke in one voice. UK Music was formed, a first time alliance of all elements of the creative economy in the UK—and elected an artist to lead them. And now there is the beginning of justice forming in Britain with the Digital Economy Act. Lily Allen is not quite Norma Rae, but she’s not that far off, either. I would not make too much of the causal interconnectedness of these events, but it is definitely a trend.

And now that the Canadian government has introduced a comprehensive revision to their copyright act (called Bill C-32), it should come as no surprise that any attempt by the Canadian creative community to organize in support of those elements of the bill that they want to support and oppose should be met by an online mob of digital natives and their demagogues.

The Empire Strikes Back

No one in Canada has more consistently shown himself to be an opponent of creator rights recognized by the international community than Michael Geist (aka “he who shall not be named,” according to a prominent Canadian artist). Not only is he a consistent opponent of creator rights, he is a long-time opponent of Canada’s implementation of agreements of the international community (such as the WIPO Copyright Treaty) which Canada has negotiated and agreed to but never enacted into law—for over a decade, and a critical decade in the evolution of the worldwide theft of the work product of creators. (Not to mention his obsessive attack on ACTA, but that is another story.)

If you don’t know the name, Geist is an academic and advisor to the U.S.-backed Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, the Alcan of intellectual property, and the paid consultant to Industry Canada. SG-CIPPIC‘s external advisory board includes the American EFF legal director, the American director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the American academics Lester Lawrence “Ace” Lessig III and Pamela Samuelson (the Samuelson of Samuelson-Glushko), the latter of whom in typical Silicon Valley style is also a board member of EPIC and the EFF. Very cozy. (See also Lessig’s “The Starving Artist Canard”.)

And this is the same EFF whose lawyers have been called out as helping Limewire perfect its thieving and advises companies to “obfuscate” their paper trail to avoid liability (see EFF, Best Practices for Online Service Providers http://www.eff.org/files/eff-ospbp-whitepaper.pdf). This is the same EFF lawyer who told me that “artists will just have to learn to get along on less money” due to file stealing—and who has now dropped all pretense and gone to work for Google. There’s little doubt whose side they are on—and it’s not the side of “balanced copyright”.

Given Geist’s many American benefactors in the “consumer” movement, it is not surprising that he is frequently referred to as a “consumer” advocate. This mix of “consumer advocacy” and cyberlawyering business is shadowy stuff—Ralph Nader it ain’t. As we have discussed here before, this toxic brew aligns Geist with the consumer electronics industry that would like to sell consumers the devices or services that violate the rights of creators, and not align with the creators themselves. No wonder that the Consumer Electronics Association lobbyists in Washington pointedly recommend that everyone read Geist’s blog—he is clearly their advocate and no friend to professional creators.

And yet with all these Yanks integrated into his life—including selling the naming rights to the former CIPPIC to the organization controlled by Professor Samuelson and Professor Robert Glushko, her rich Silicon Valley technologist husband (which is how CIPPIC became SG-CIPPIC), Geist is the first to go on the jingo whenever the government proposes changes to Canada’s copyright laws. Yanks under the bed, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper is a puppet of Hollywood, and so on, and so on, and so on. Actually—the Yanks aren’t under Geist’s bed, they are in it. It’s just a different set of Yanks.

One could say that this is all fine, one can take money from Americans, pump up big American consumer electronics corporations, and still criticize your own government as being American puppets—but I think this time with Bill C-32 Geist’s jingo is overplayed.

So while he’s getting Yankee greenbacks into SG-CIPPIC on the one hand, Geist also has consistently taken money from Industry Canada—well over $1 million if you count his academic grants, but still tens of thousands if you only count the money he had paid to him personally through a front corporation (Lawbytes, Inc.). Now he summons the mob to support Industry Canada in a bureaucratic struggle between Industry Canada and another government department over the fate of Bill C-32. So I guess it is possible to take money from one master while criticizing your master’s enemy. The interests are clearly aligned.

I don’t mind that Geist goes jingo on America while SG-CIPPIC takes money from Americans, I don’t mind that Geist stumps for the modchip makers in the CCER, and I don’t even mind that he does some blocking and tackling for his benefactors in the Industry Canada bureaucracy in their internal fight against the Canadian government (clearly outlined by Geist himself). That’s for Canadians to criticize or lionize as they see fit. I don’t like it, but there are a lot of things I don’t like.

But what I do mind—a lot–is that he does it at the expense of the creative community—and not just Canadian artists who can speak for themselves if they are allowed. When he tries to make Canada into a Temporary Autonomous Zone for thieves like Isohunt, then he affects the world, and then he has overplayed his jingo. The professor has no clothes this time.

John L. Sullivan from the Union Meets “El Qwazo” from CCER

Back Stateside, I would suggest that like the formation of the FAC and UK Music, the most important political event of the last year is the alliance of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the American Federation of Musicians, the Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Screen Actors Guild. This alliance of the creative workers raised its collective voice—summed up nicely in this excerpt from their joint letter to Victoria Espinel, the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at the White House:

“Together, our entertainment guilds and unions represent over 300,000 individual workers whose livelihoods depend on the enforcement of this country’s copyright laws to prevent theft of their creative output. At stake are not just our members’ jobs and well‐being, but also the well‐being of their families, and hundreds of thousands of ancillary jobs in communities across the country where our members live and work….That is why it is so critical to protect their creativity in the digital age, which has given rise to the rampant theft of movies, television programming and sound recordings. [We understand] full well the disastrous impact of unchecked online theft and illegal Internet activity on our members—and on young people who aspire to work in our business….”

The Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the United States unequivocally supported these working people against rampant theft, and they exercised their rights to speak out against the largely anonymous posters (who likely repost under various screen names) who post comments under phony names in an attempt to silence working people.

These workers from the AFL-CIO do not mince words—we have come a long way from the time that counsel for creators was silenced by a Ninth Circuit federal appeals court judge in open court for referring to the Grokster and Morpheus file stealing companies for what they were—thieves. Thieves who were attempting to profit from “obfuscation.” That outburst didn’t work out so well for those judges—summarily reversed in the landmark Grokster case.

Of course the union movement was born and tested in a cauldron of solidarity. There was nothing anonymous about Harry Miner and John L. Sullivan or the Central Labor Union. There were anonymous goons sent to beat them in an attempt to shut them up and break them down—so workers have seen the mob switch thrown before. And they know that solidarity is the only reason that they are respected, and the reason that the Obama administration backs their positions on IP.

So when the U.S. Trade Representative is critical of Canada, the USTR is, among other things, taking into account the plight of working people in the labor movement.

The Mob Switch

So it should come as no surprise that Geist threw the mob switch against a website called Balanced Copyright for Canada like he was riding the Cheshire Hunt in sheets. I haven’t spent a lot of time on the site, but a quick review of Balanced Copyright suggests that it’s exactly what its name implies—an organizing effort to advocate balance in Canada’s new proposed copyright law that takes into account creator rights.

What is unique about the Balanced Copyright site is that it is asking Canadians—including the creative community–to get involved with their copyright law and the source is clearly someone other than Geist or someone who he has influenced. This is, I think, a first, or at least a near first for Canada. Compared to the controversial letter writing wizard that Geist apparently helped to game, the site seems to be consistent with good practices in grass roots organizing.

Most importantly, Balanced Copyright is not directed at non-Canadians—which is more than you can say about the the controversial modchip wizard as Canadian lawyer Richard Owens has discussed in detail. And despite some good old obfuscation to the contrary, the primary issue that Owens complained about was that Geist was driving non-Canadians to the modchip wizard and my primary beef with the modchip wizard was the Industry Canada renegades were making special accommodations for a form letter of extraordinary dubious origins. I don’t see anyone from the Canadian creative community posting on Torrentfreak or Billboard.biz to drive traffic to Balanced Copyright.

And Geist is now bashing Canadian artist and Balanced Copyright advisory board member Loreena McKennitt because she happened to have a business relationship with a pro-copyright music business exec and testified at the same time as a music business trade association at a Heritage Canada hearing.

The Man 2.0 really hates it when you organize.

Guidance from Minister Moore

Balanced—meaning that the law balances the interests of many interested parties. I think this is actually what the government of Canada said it wanted to see in the law that it drafted despite the bureaucratic struggle by Geist’s benefactors Industry Canada. Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore reiterated that view as recently as today. Minister Moore also said that he’s tired of “babyish” approaches to solving Canada’s copyright issues by people who pretend to care about copyright but do not at all. (It would appear that Geist thinks this was directed at him, or he at least sees a media opportunity if he can get Minister Moore to debate him.)

Moore said: “Those people who are out there who’re saying copyright legislation/copyright reform is not good, these are people who are dressing up the fact that they don’t believe in copyright reform at all. There’s people out there who don’t believe in copyright at all. They just say well Bill C-61, the old copyright legislation, we disagree with these specific revisions. Well, Bill C-32 we have these specific amendments. Don’t fool yourself. These voices that are out there, there’s people out there who pretend to experts that the media cites all the time, they don’t believe in any copyright reform whatsoever. They will find any excuse to oppose this bill to drum up fear to mislead to misdirect and to push people in the wrong direction and to undermine what has been a meaningful comprehensive year-long effort to get something right.”

Geist of course has every right to be heard on this, and judging by the talk around Ottawa that he uses his press credentials to give interviews to actual reporters at media-only briefings, I’m sure he will be heard. (Although I guess that’s better than flying to New Zealand to get his picture taken—on somebody’s dime, maybe public money?) Getting press attention has never been a problem for him—in fact some reporters will tell you privately that he calls them up and lambastes them if they write an article on a topic he is interested in and they don’t call him for a quote. “Media floozy” wasn’t the exact phrase, but this is a family show and I’m sure you can read between the lines.

Apparently Geist and his amen chorus called up the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists and the Canadian office of the AFM wanting to know if they had created the Balanced Copyright website. Apparently these creator unions did not claim credit.

Given the efforts of AFL-CIO and the creative unions in the U.S. to protect the rights of all workers in U.S. law, I imagine that that the Canadian unions would be only too happy to reciprocate in the fullness of time, and I’m pleased to see Canadian artist and entrepreneur Loreena McKennett stepping up and showing leadership. Given the long history of union solidarity from Detroit to the Lenin Shipyards, I’m sure the unions will support her.

The only way that the labor movement was able to form and survive was through solidarity. Their latest life and death struggle against massive online theft is no less an existential fight against an attack on workers by big business—the Gargantuan consumer electronics industry against creators.

So when Geist attacks the Balanced Copyright site, what he is attacking is the right of like minded people to organize—and his attack is no surprise, of course, because just like the union busters of the past, organizing workers drives them crazy. I can understand the lack of critical coverage of Geist by the Canadian press. He’s obviously a powerful guy with a lot of influence in major parts of the Canadian government bureaucracy. Just look at all the money he has managed to make in “untendered” consulting agreements with Industry Canada. Only someone with a lot of juice could pull that off—every time Geist gets one of his many Industry Canada untendered payments somebody is running the risk that they’ll get their ticket punched. And yet they inexplicably do it anyway.

Surely reporters are aware of Geist’s many untendered contracts. I’m simply not prepared to believe that conscientious journalists failed to investigate Geist’s background. They must fear that their access might dry up were they to speak truth to power and inform the public of Geist’s untendered payments, for example.And this seems to be the message behind Geist’s immediate attack on the Balanced Copyright site. Don’t cross me, little journalists—look what I can do to the little artists when they try to organize against me! Even the unions fall in line before my mighty floozy!

My Brother’s Keeper

No one songwriter or artist has the resources to take on the Samuelson-Glushko organization—we saw that in the orphan works fight in the U.S. Not to mention Google, the EFF, the Consumer Electronics Association and so on. As we saw today, these are somewhat interchangable, anyway.
These people defy governments-they crush any artist who opposes them. As one songwriter advocate said recently, this is a very different enemy than we have encountered before. It is well funded and international in scope, just like the Samuelson-Glushko enterprise. The bad guys exploit this weakness and it is how the bad guys win. This is why solidarity is vital, as the labor movement teaches.

It is no surprise that Geist and his mob demonize anyone supporting compliance with international norms for creators. As Jaron Lanier cautions, “It’s not crazy to worry that, with millions of people connected through a medium that sometime brings out their worst tendencies, massive, fascist-style mobs could rise up suddenly.”

It is just not fair that any time that the creative community tries to organize themselves with their relatively meager resources (getting more meager by the day thanks to the consumer electronics industry) they are attacked as being tools of “fill in the blank” by demagogues like Geist. But the good news is that we now know who he is and what he is, so we know to keep an eye on him as he tries to extend the reach of the Samuelson-Glushko enterprise beyond the borders of the U.S., just like we keep an eye on the Pirate Bay, Isohunt, Limewire, Google and other bad guys.

Life is not fair. Sometimes you almost throw a perfect game but are denied. The best team does not always win and the gallant effort is rarely rewarded. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t try and it doesn’t mean that you give up. It means you organize. You organize and run your plays, even when the odds are long, even when you throw the Hail Mary, a play that crystallizes why the game is played.

Justice realized is a majestic thing to behold. And sometimes the enemies who beset the righteous are struck down. But God helps those who help themselves.

Time to engage.

See also: A handy chart of government contracts with Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist

See also: A closer look at Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist

See also: The Professor Has No Clothes

See also re undtendered contracts: The Industry Canada Music Study Part I and Part II

See also more about untendered contracts: Only The Shadow Knows Part 1 and Part 2

See also internal document re Industry Canada and CCER letter : A Dedicated Group of Likeminded People

See also: Fair Copyright Canada and 100,000 Voters Who Don’t Exist

See also: What do Canada, Vietnam, China, Russia, Ukraine and Romania have in common? (And, no, it’s not future sites of the Creative Commons Internationale)

See also: Artist rights are human rights

See also: The Spy Who Consulted Me Redux: The Consultation of the Mikado

The Register: More on Berkman Center and Partygaming.com

June 22, 2010 Comments off

The Register has an interesting story today (“Poker Money and the Ethics Professor“) about the rather bizarre connections between the Berkman Center of Harvard Law School, Lawrence Lessig (call sign “Ace”) and Charles “The Gambler” Nesson one the one hand and confessed felon Anurag Dikshit and Partygaming.com.

There is a fairly interesting, if not serious question, as to whether these people were paying illgotten gains to iCommons, Creative Commons and who knows who/what else?

Given the tax-exempt status of the Berkman Center, Creative Commons, GPSTS and other groups connected to the Berkman Center professors, it seems that the organization needs to publicly vet their sources of revenue and lobbying activities particularly given their very tight connections to organized gambling.

Will they? Very doubtful.

Stay tuned.

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