Archive for the ‘copyright’ Category
This is the first anniversary of the day the Internet went dark.
All kinds of big powerful important websites went dark to protest two dreadful bits of American legislation, SOPA and PIPA. Amazingly, it worked, and the laws were withdrawn.
It wasn’t just American websites. The Internet doesn’t stop at any border, so web sites around the world went dark in solidarity.
And it wasn’t just big.
Plenty of ordinary people made their blogs go dark too. And I have to tell you, it’s a lot harder for us little people who have to figure out the tech to make our blogs go dark (and then turn them on again afterward!) Free Press has a petition Declaration of Internet Freedom petition for Americans.
A lot of the big organizations like the EFF are putting on celebretory events today. But many of us ordinary people scattered around the globe will be celebrating the way we do every day… by trying to keep the Internet free and open, engaging in citizen journalism, sharing, blogging, denting, tweeting, tumbling…
Aaron Swartz was one of the people leading that fight against SOPA, because Aaron knew how important it was that the Internet remain free. But now he’s dead, the rest of us have to pick up the slack.
No one should ever go to jail over copyright law.
It is inconceivable to me that anyone should ever die over it. Now someone has.
Aaron Swartz killed himself on Friday. He was 26. A legend in the tech community, probably a dotcom millionaire. He could have lounged around poolside sipping designer martinis for the rest of his days.
Instead he worked for the public good, fighting the copyfight, defending the internet and the public domain.
Sometimes people of principle feel the need to challenge unjust laws. And like many reformers before him, Aaron Swartz ran afoul of the law in trying to change the world.
A murderer might have to serve as many as seven years for taking a life.
But 26 year old Aaron Swartz faced perhaps more than 35 years in jail. Over copyright.
Lawrence Lessig characterized it as bullying.
I seem to spend an awful lot of time writing about what’s wrong with copyright law. Since I started looking at copyright with new eyes, I can’t seem to avoid seeing the harm that it does.
Copyright law isn’t a right, its a government backed monopoly that supposedly promotes innovation. Aaron Swartz was certainly an innovator. He, too, was disturbed by the harm copyright does, and so he tried to push against it. But copyright law pushed back, and made sure he will innovate no more.
There is a great outpouring of agony across the Internet. Having myself struggled with the demons of depression, Cory Doctorow’s eulogy makes me weep. Depression can seem interminable; I can’t imagine how much worse would it be looking at potential decades of imprisonment.
But what gets me is this comment made by someone I’ve never met on Lawrence Lessig’s blog:
No amount of IP will ever be worth a human life. I don’t care how you justify it. Putting Aaron away for 35yrs may be legally justifiable, just as sending slaves back to slave owners from non slave states once was. I however cannot begin to align the life of any human with imaginary property.”
Aaron was only a little older than my own bright and principled child. My heart aches for Aaron, and his family. No family should have to endure this. This is simply beyond acceptable. There is no harm greater than this.
Aaron Swartz, released under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication by Cory Doctorow
CLAIM: Copyright Protects Creators Work
REALITY: Not true for most creators.
We have this idea that copyright provides some kind of magic protection to the work we write, draw, film or compose. Yet the reality is that the only way for creators to assert our “rights” under the copyright monopoly, is by going to court.
Which can become very expensive.
When I began writing, I learned that all Canadian creative work was automatically covered by copyright. A standard practice to prove ownership and provide documentation was to mail a copy of the work to yourself, and keep it in the sealed envelope against the day you might need to assert your copyright in the work. The sealed envelope was supposed to prove the work existed on the date verified by the government postmark.
Of course, nowadays I don’t know how successful that would actually be, since postal automation means that a lot of mail doesn’t actually get postmarked, or if it is, not legibly. Worse, these days Canada Post doesn’t offer any reasonably priced shipping options.
When I began writing spec television scripts, and submitting them to American television production companies, I took the precaution of first registering them with the Writers Guild of America. Canada Post then offered a service called “return receipt requested”, which meant a bright pink postcard was added to the exterior of the package. When the package was delivered, someone had to sign the postcard, which then went back through the mail to me. An ingenious system that provided a nice physical receipt. In the event I wanted to issue a copyright challenge, I would have a chain of evidence.
Of course, it could get awfully expensive for a haiku poet or a short story writer. Or any creator, really. Fifty dollars is a lot when publishers still mostly pay pennies a word. There is no doubt in my mind that most Canadian creators don’t register their copyright in light of CIPO’s high fees. Why bother, when everything we create is automatically protected by copyright anyway. Yet CIPO gets registrations.
I am quite sure they get copyright registrations from publishing companies. From record labels. And from film and video production companies. Just not much from the people who actually created the works. Unlike most creators, these companies have money to spend… money earned from copyright.
…you think George Lucas copied Star Wars from the script you sent him? If you do, copyright law won’t magically hand over a 2 billion dollar cheque. First, you have to hire a lawyer, and then you have to prove it in court. You must have evidence that (a) George actually opened your envelope and (b) actually read your idea. Even if you could prove this, how long would it take in court?
Copyright only works the way we think it works for those creators who can afford to use the court system. Americans can prosecute a lawsuit in the United States if they convince a lawyer the claim has merit and the lawyer is willing to take the case on spec in exchange for a hefty chunk of the settlement. So if your American Lawyer believes your lawsuit might be winnable, s/he may take it on for the twenty or thirty years that George’s lawyers would be able to stall.
However, lawsuits work a little differently in Canada. Canadians have to pay our lawyers every step of the way, so lawyers don’t take cases on spec. It makes no difference if you are in the right, if you run out of money the case is closed.
It stands to reason that if $50 was too steep a price to pay to register your script, paying legal fees over decades will be too costly for most Canadian creators. Because most Canadian creators don’t make a living from our creative work; we need day jobs to pay the rent.
Copyright law is not magic, the only way it “protects” writers is by allowing us to sue anyone who infringes our copyright. Would I sue a company I’d sent my work to if I thought they had infringed my copyright?
If I did, I might get a wildly lucrative settlement. But would it be enough to live on for the rest of my life? Because the very real effect of any such suit would be that no other production company would ever dare risk opening an unsolicited manuscript from me ever again. Lawsuits are sometimes seen as quick and easy way to make money, but it’s never a good business to sue your potential market. Not if you expect to make a living from your work. So even with my copyright proof or WGA registration in hand, I very much doubt any provocation would have made me sue.
Creators who still believe copyright protects them should consider what would happen if they had to assert their copyright in court. If it comes to a copyright challenge, will the court believe you when you present your bedraggled postmarked envelope you claim to have mailed to yourself? Or will the court be dazzled by the signed and sealed CIPO copyright registration made by the glamorous Movie Company you allege infringed your copright? After all, there are opportunists everywhere. Envelopes have been steamed open before … and who can even say that what is in the envelope is what was mailed on the postmarked day?
Will the court believe the no-name writer or the brand name Corporation backed up by the authority of a goverment agency?
court is always a gamble
Even if you go to court, there are no guarantees you’ll come out of it with what you want. Sometimes vindication carries a hefty price tag, as can be seen by Howard Knopf’s EXCESS COPYRIGHT: A Cautionary Tale of Costly Copyright Litigation Consequences: How to Win a Little and Lose a Lot
who can afford copyright remedies?
The few creators who can afford to use copyright to protect their work are those few creators rich and powerful enough to take on the handful of powerful media companies that control the mainstream market. That lets most of us out.
And, of course, the handful of multinational media companies that control the media industry can afford copyright remedies. That is, of course, why copyright law keeps getting longer and wider.
what do you want to spend your life doing
While lawyers may prefer to spend their days in court, me, I would rather spend my days writing. Because I’m a writer.
Canada’s majority government passed Bill C-11 in June, 2012, transforming the co-called “Copyright Modernization Act” into “The Copyright Act,” in spite of unprecedented Canadian opposition. The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.
This is the fifth in my Copyright Series:
My NaNoWriMo wordcount was pretty far behind when I came down with a cold.
Naturally, I grumbled about it on Identi.ca, and Ryan Weal kindly shared this home remedy:
As with most recipes, I made a few changes…
substituting Chamomile in tea bags
boil the water
insert chamomile tea bags
steep the tea for 10 minutes
Starting with a chunk of ginger root
my cheese grater produced a tablespoon or two of grated ginger
I used the whole lemon
and all the juice
When the tea is steeped I removed the tea bags and added grated ginger… The first day I just dropped the ginger into the tea, but then I had to contend with floaty bits, which isn’t a lot of fun when you’re sick. The second day I put the ginger in my mesh tea basket. A tea ball would work too.
then I strained the lemon into the tea pot
I left it sit for anothe five to ten minutes, then removed the basket of ginger so I could fasten the lid and keep the tea hot longer. Poured into the cup; add honey to taste.
My cold began with a bad sore throat for two days, but then it hit my nose on the third day. That was the day I made my variation of Ryan’s tea. My tea pot holds a little more than a litre, about 5 cups of water.
I drank the first pot of tea the day I was the sickest, then spent much of the day blowing my nose. In the past, this miserable phase has lasted for 3 days, but with Ryan’s special tea, the worst of that was over in one day.
Maybe it was just a milder head cold, but I think the special tea sped up the process.
The variation to try next time is to substite garlic for ginger. We’ll see.
[and now, back to NaNoWriMo]
Ryan Weal’s original recipe was shared via Kafei Interactif Status to Identi.ca; content and data are available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Thanks Ryan!
When I popped into the mall this morning I discovered today is “Random Act of Kindness Day.”
The Mall is really behind the idea, maybe because it ties in with the good cheer of the approaching festive season… The poster lists a bunch of corporate sponsors, and the places you can get “Random Act of Kindness” cards. [Ahem... Cards?]
The very idea of sponsoring random act of kindness seems odd. I mean, who do you sponsor? I would rather see corporate sponsors get behind solving the very real poverty issues plaguing our community. Our country. There are plenty of good causes that need sponsorship, particularly in this economy.
I didn’t stay for the presentation, but there was a podium set up in the Food Court, and free copies of the local newspaper laid out on most of the tables. And there was even a young woman pushing a cart full of little white cylinders she was handing out to everyone.
Maybe its because I’m a writer, but this really annoys me.
I mean really … random?
1) adj. Having no specific pattern, cause, or objective. Often used in statistics.
Um. It isn’t “random” if you’re supposed to do it on a specific day.
If someone does you a kindness, and tells you to pass it on, any kindness you then do is no longer “random,” because it has in fact been caused by the kindness done to you.
If we are supposed to pass on kindness today, because it is “Random Act of Kindness Day,” we are committing kindness for an objective… because it’s “Random Act of Kindness Day.” Not random.
And every act of kindness committed today is part of the pattern. Which means it is not random at all.
The little cylinders turned out to be rolls of candy. Is that a kindness? Maybe for the dental profession. Parents of small children, or people on diets, or fighting diabetes might disagree.
You might think I’m just being picky. Maybe I’m a grammar nazi writer with her knickers in a twist because the word is being misused. But that’s not my problem.
My problem is that the idea is being misused.
Because it is a beautiful idea. A human idea. The idea we should commit “random acts of kindess” when we can. Whether it’s helping someone who looks lost find their destination, or holding the door for the man with an armload of packages, inviting a neighbor for a walk in the park, or giving half our own sandwich to someone who might be hungry.
Truly random acts of kindness are done because we are human. Random acts of kindness are ways to connect with other people, to help or share with others, because it’s the right thing to do.
Not because we expect a reward, or adulation. That’s not random, that’s a transaction.
Not because we’re supposed to… that’s not a kindness, that’s an obligation.
When people commit truly random acts of kindness, we feel good inside, because we have connected with another human being. We are social creatures, and random acts of kindness are good for society.
Making it an official “Day” sours it for me.
Instead of feeling good about ourselves — because we have been good neighbors, good citizens, good people — when we have committed a random act of kindness, maybe we are now supposed to feel good about the corporate sponsors who sprang for the free roll of candy that encouraged us to “pass kindness on”.
What happens on the other 364 days of the year? Once we’ve done our obligatory “act of kindness,” we’re off the hook for the rest of the year, right? It’s safe to get back to normal, where we can pretend we don’t see the homeless we hurry past. Where we don’t have to keep an eye out to see if our fellow humans might need their driveway shovelled, or even just a kind word.
It isn’t just “Random Act of Kindness Day” it’s actually “Random Act of Kindness Day®”.
What it means is someone, some organization, corporation or person, legally owns the intellectual property known as “Random Act of Kindness Day®” which gives it/them the right to legally prevent others from using that phrase.
A trade-mark is a word (or words), a design, or a combination of these, used to identify the goods or services of one person or organization.
So it isn’t safe to organize a school fundraiser under that name, because your bake sale proceeds might not go to pay for the books the school library needs because the funds may need to fight off a lawsuit.
You may think nothing like that could ever happen. How could such an important idea… a worthy idea to spread kindness… how could that possibly end up in court? Sadly, it could happen the very same way the idea of honouring our Canadian war dead with the poppy symbol has led to legal challenges by the Canadian Legion.
There is no question that the world could use more kindness. We need to be nicer to each other. We need to co-operate more. Lend a hand where it’s needed. Real kindness isn’t an advertising gimmick, it comes from within us.
So for me, I’m opting out. No random acts of kindness for me today.
That’s what the rest of the year is for.
[Although I still wear a poppy to honour our war dead, I wear it only on November 11th. But it is always an old one, or a home made poppy, because I refuse to support Canadian Legion intellectual property bullying.
And now, back to writing my NaNoWriMo novel]
DEADLINE FOR WRITTEN SUBMISSION TO THE CNSC IS TODAY!
Today is the deadline to submit written testimonies to the CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) regarding the Darlington project. You may have already submitted – if not, don’t worry, you can do it! We need as many people to participate as possible. The deadline is MIDNIGHT TONIGHT – submissions received after that time will not be considered.
Your letter doesn’t have to be terribly long, nor does it need to be formal. What’s important is that you speak not just from your head, but also the heart, about your opposition to the Darlington nuclear expansion.
This is my letter:
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
280 Slater Street PO Box 1046
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5S9
Dear Ms. Levert:
Everything I’ve heard indicates nuclear power costs are at the high end of the spectrum, and is never an economical alternative. Worse, it requires operating at a high threshold, which ends up penalizing Ontarians for conserving energy.
Although nuclear energy may have been necessary at one time, Ontario is currently positioned to be able to switch over to less dangerous power supplies as our aging nuclear generators go off line. The last thing Ontario needs is expansion of the nuclear facilities at Darlington.
Please don’t put our province’s natural environment at further risk with increased nuclear power operation. Green energy is a real viable alternative; there is no need to gamble with our future.
Don’t expand Darlington. Please.
Laurel L. Russwurm
If it will help, please feel free to use any or all of my letter when writing your own letter.
Your letter must be submitted directly to the CNSC by email at:
Greenpeace says citizens will be allowed to participate in the hearings November 13 and 14 in Courtice by making an oral presentation, but you need to request a slot in your letter to the CNSC. If you require any help or information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with your submissions.
If you’re not familiar with the issues, this 32 minute video will bring you up to speed: