Freedom to Meme #SavetheMeme

Just so you know, copyright is not a “right”, but a legal fiction that exists because government says so.  Copyright is a government backed monopoly that not only facilitates the control of culture, it allows censorship.

I take photographs of lots of things, but I started going out of my way to photograph politicians after attending a Wikimedia Foundation meeting in Toronto.  This became more mission than hobby when I had trouble getting permission to use the Creative Commons licensed photograph I had chosen to illustrate a blog.  The creator didn’t understand the license she had chosen would allow someone to use of the image in a way she did not approve. Although I could have gone ahead and used the image anyway, I do respect the wishes of other creators, even if I disagree with them.  My own thinking is if the government gives out such monopolies, and worse, allows the force if the law to fall on private citizens (which it never had before) at minimum the government owes it to the public to explain this law to citizens clearly and concisely.  Most people don’t understand copyright issues because no one has.  Every citizen who uses any sort of digital device needs a crash course on these laws, because they law can be used against us.   As a blogger I understand the value in using illustrations in my blogs, but as a free culture advocate, I am very much aware of the ease with which copyright law can be used to silence free speech. Especially political speech (which is, of course, why government is happy to grant this monopoly.

And so I photograph politicians and publish them on Flickr and Wikipedia to make them available as widely as possible.

As a creator, I especially hate what the increasingly onerous copyright regime is doing to culture. Although I’ve been busy working for electoral reform, whenever I can, I use social media to amplify copyright issues. This is one of those times. Apparently the EU is contemplating yet more copyright law to further constrain culture. This little video will give you an idea of just what this means:

This is a heads up to those of you in the EU, it’s time to step up and call your MEP to Save The Meme

Since this might in fact trigger censorship, here’s a plain text breakdown of the video

A new copyright reform is going on in the EU
It proposes to create an all mighty censorship machine
and forces Internet companies to be the Internet Police
Act now to defend your freedom of expression
freedom to educate
freedom to meme
freedom to parody
freedom to remix/mashup
freedom to GIF
Freedom to dance to music
Freedom to wiki
Freedom to quote
Freedom to gameplay
Freedom to play
Freedom to video cosplay
All this user content and many more could disappear
if the #CENSORSHIPMACHINE is created.
We can still prevent this from happening.

We deserve a copyright that respects our RIGHTS and FREEDOMS and doesn’t cripple the Internet
This mashup could also be censored by copyright


Video Credits

Art 13 of the new EU copyright reform threatens our right and freedoms.
Act now to STOP the #CensorshipMachine at:

Mashup video by: Xnet
With the support of: EDRi, EFF, La Quadrature du Net, Bits of Freedom and Open Media.

Music by Revolution Void.



PS: My one quibble in the video:
“We deserve a copyright that respects our RIGHTS and FREEDOMS and doesn’t cripple the Internet.”
As my old friend Crosbie would tell you, there is no such thing. You can have copyright or you can have rights and freedoms, but the former is the antithesis of the latter.

Copyright, Fair Dealing and Paywalls

When the paywall “protected” Blacklock’s Reporter sued the Government of Canada for an alleged copyright violation, the court concluded:

[8] Any reporter with the barest understanding of copyright law could not have reasonably concluded that the Department’s limited use of the subject news articles represented a copyright infringement. Indeed, the fair dealing protection afforded by section 29 of the Copyright Act, RSC, 1985, c C-42, is so obviously applicable to the acknowledged facts of this case that the litigation should never have been commenced let alone carried to trial.

The Honourable Mr. Justice Barnes, Blacklock’s Cost Award 20161221125911759

Howard Knopf summarizes the lawsuit thusly:

“The Attorney General of Canada has achieved a clear victory against Blacklock’s Reporter in the latter’s attempt to collect damages of $17,209.10 based upon its supposed institutional subscription rate because a few public servants in the Department of Finance received, read and distributed two Blacklock’s articles about a file they were closely involved in that had been sent to them by a Blacklock’s subscriber.”

my Canadian copyright symbolCopyright law in Canada is at minimum confusing to most non-lawyers, even those of us involved in content creation. As a self publishing author, and to some extent a citizen journalist, it is important that I have more than the barest understanding of copyright law. Like most self publishing bloggers lacking legal staff, I’d rather be writing than spending time in court, so when in doubt I’m inclined to self censor for my own protection, something known as copyright chill. Since I’ve been actively weighing copyright law as it applies to me and my own work (since Canada’s 2010 Copyright Consultation), I am always interested in how copyright issues play out.

So I was particularly curious about what Justice Robert Barnes described as the “obviously applicable” fair dealing protection.

(j) What occurred here was no more than the simple act of reading by persons with an immediate interest in the material. The act of reading, by itself, is an exercise that will almost always constitute fair dealing even when it is carried out solely for personal enlightenment or entertainment;

The Honourable Mr. Justice Barnes’ Judgement and Reasons
re: BLACKLOCK’S REPORTER (Plaintiff) and CANADA (Defendant) [download PDF]

In other words reading (or by extension viewing, or listening to) copyrighted material is allowed under Canada’s Fair Dealing provisions, even when such material is locked behind a paywall. Sharing such material is another matter. A large part of the reason the subscriber who shared the articles was not held liable seems to be Blacklock’s failure to adequately spell out in its terms of service what a subscription does or does not allow. Although the judgement draws attention to the fact:

(k) While the public interest is served by the vigilance of the press, copyright should not be a device that serves to protect the press from accountability for its errors and omissions. The Department had a legitimate interest in reading the articles with a view to holding Blacklock’s to account for its questionable reporting.

The Honourable Mr. Justice Barnes’ Judgement and Reasons
 re: BLACKLOCK’S REPORTER (Plaintiff) and CANADA (Defendant) [download PDF]

Excess Copyright tells us:

“…the amount claimed by the Government, which was “$115,702.30, based on 70% of the actual value of professional hours expended in the defence of the claim and including disbursements of $7,020.98.”

Blacklock’s Must Pay $65,000 for Litigation that “should never have been commenced let alone carried to trial”

Although Mr. Knopf views this as a victory, from my perspective it’s not.

Although I am not a lawyer, there seems to be a suggestion that, had the TOS been worded differently, the subscriber’s decision to share the articles– in spite of holding the publisher to account– such an action may well have been construed as illegal copyright infringement, specifically circumventing Technical Protections Management (TPM). The plaintiff sought to make this latter argument, but the Judge didn’t allow it.

To my mind, the biggest problem with copyright law is the court system.  Fighting a copyright claim in court wouldn’t only eat into an independent creator’s time, if it costs $115,702.30, $65,000 or even the two thousand dollar settlement the Government offered would be beyond the means of most.
Court engraved in courthouse wall

It doesn’t matter whether a copyright infringement lawsuit has merit or is spurious. The Government of Canada may have the wherewithal to fight such matters in court, but this is hardly true for the vast majority of citizen journalists, self publishers or bloggers.  Because copyright battles are fought through the legal system, creators, bloggers and self publishers are at an enormous disadvantage to large well funded multinationals or copyright trolls with predatory business models.

There are some websites I access that are partially locked behind paywalls, but publish some articles publicly. I decided a long time ago I don’t want to share links to sites that are locked behind paywalls, or even registration walls, because I don’t want to compel my readers to have to sacrifice their money or privacy to be informed. Because of this, I have made it a point not to subscribe to any paywalled site, simply to ensure I don’t share such links inadvertently.  But now I am wondering, are subscribers aware that sharing information — perhaps even in a quotation — from such sites risks charges of copyright infringement?    If so, it is surely a disincentive to subscriptions.

Holiday Free Culture Fun

Merry Christmas

Looking for something to fill your down time (or keep the kids occupied) on the holidays?

After you’ve watched all your favourite Christmas movies, you will probably be in the mood for a change.  That’s when I’d break out some awesome free culture cartoons.  I love the Dave Fleisher Superman shorts; fortunately for us, they fell into the public domain, this emancipation makes them free to watch, share, copy.  Woo hoo!

[download all the Fleisher Superman films here for better quality]

There are many more, and many more free culture animated shorts to be found in the Internet Archive… like this Roger Ramjet flashback to my childhood:


This one was the cause of a lawsuit by the Fleischer Studios because shirts, coffee mugs and other materials had Betty Boop’s likeness on them. This film is still public domain and the studio lost in court.

Betty Boop: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart:”

As Nina Paley reminds us:

If you haven’t seen Nina’s Sita Sings the Blues, make sure to carve out an hour and a half to watch the most awesome breakup movie ever told:

Find these and more on the pages of Internet Archive’s Animation Shorts
They’ve got a pretty decent collection of Feature Films, too.

Merry Christmas!   Joyeux Noël!   Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi!   Geseënde Kersfees!   عيد ميلاد مجيد  
Frohe Weihnachten!   Gleðileg jól!   Mitho Makosi Kesikansi!  Sretan Božić  
Niibaa’ Anami’egiizhigad & Aabita Biboo
Prettige Feestdagen


Tis the Season for Gift Anxiety

gplusbannerWe’ve been told the economy is in an upturn, but I’m afraid that only means the rich are making profits again. Seems this is largely based on underpaying most people, as so many good jobs with benefits are gone, obliging people to hold down multiple part time jobs instead with raises and bonuses now the stiff of myth. As a result, the retail market is again tanking, since many are not getting gifts at all, while others are reduced to shopping at s is at the dollar store.

mamabearsmallI’ve been making gifts for most of my life, not just because they are economical, but because if I make them myself they aren’t going to fall apart immediately.  If you can sew or knit, you can male personalized gifts like this Teddy Bear I made for my neice decades ago (that her children play with today).

It is late to start making your own, but here are a couple ideas of gifts you can make in a relatively short period of time.


Bake cookies, cakes and Christmas treats etc. and package them in tins, mason jars, whatever you have (note: especially if it is a reuse tin or plastic container, be sure to line with waxed paper)


Burn DVDs of free culture movies (or make a gift card with a link to downloads or places to watch online) like Sita Sings The Blues
Blender Animation
or any of the wonderful old movies are in the public domain available at the Internet Archive movie section.


In Canada blank burnable CDs are more expensive than blank burnable DVDs (thank copyright law for that bit of foolishness), but for the music lover’s in your life that may be just the ticket. One of my absolute favourite musicians is Josh Woodward, who releases all of his music CC by, again, making it easy and legal to download and burn a CD.

Find more free culture music through the Creative Commons search tool here,  at the Free Music Archive, or Internet Archive.

There are lots of free culture books as well that can be found in digital formats at Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg Canada, and Project Gutenberg Australia


Great gifties for grandparents: plaster of paris toddler hand or footprints. Best to use a disposable container for the plaster placque.

1. mix the plaster
2. pour plaster into container
3. Press a pencil or straw into the plaster at the top so the plaque can be hung on the wall
4. cover your child’s hand or foot in vaseline before pressing it into the plaster.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT submerge. The top of the hand or foot needs to be able to lift out cleanly.
5. Paint (or not)

Dead Lightbulb GrinchMake decorations out of bits and pieces around the house. Broken bits of costume jewellery and toys can often be refurbished, or you can paint a Grinch on an old lightbulb.

You can find many “blanks” (plain wood boxes, christmas ornament cutouts, picture frames, clocks) at craft or dollar stores.  You can decoupage pretty pictures cut from magazines, or pictures of your kids on these (modge podge) or you and/or the kids can paint or decorate them.  You can get water based Tempra paint (like they use in elementary school) if your small kids are doing the decorating, more durable (and still water based) is acryllic craft paint available from art, craft, hardware or dollar stores.  A few bottles of primary colours will go a long way.  Crayons or markers can be used as well.

Make your own bakers’s clay ornaments etc. with the recipe at a maker’s space.

You can also make a lot of decorations by hand– paper snowflakes, paper chains, and my absolute favourite: popcorn garland!  Use old colour comics or magazine pages for wrapping.

Hope this helps make the holidays happy!


Strollers vs Walkers

priority-seatingYesterday I got on the bus behind a young woman with a tiny baby in a massive stroller.
The priority seating seat was already folded up to the wall, but she asked the people who were sitting on the forward facing seats to move so she could park the stroller there, and they did. After she got the monster stroller tucked in, she sat on that seat herself, with her knees jutting into the aisle. I ended up sitting way at the back of the bus, and didn’t really pay attention until glancing up to see why one stop was taking so long.

The bus had knelt to allow an elderly woman to board, but she couldn’t get past the mother with the monster stroller. Someone in a wheelchair was sitting in the priority seating spot on the other side of the bus.

I saw the woman with the walker try to get past 3 times, but the device kept catching on something and bouncing back.  Finally the young mother seemed to notice there was a problem, so I thought maybe she would move out, but instead she bent down and lifted the front of the walker over so it could get past.  The elderly lady struggled to the middle of the bus, where she sank into the seat beside the back door.

I can understand why a driver might not want to intervene but s/he should have.

When the bus arrived at the terminal, the young mother and her stroller got out easily.  Meanwhile, the elderly woman had to wait for the people exiting at the rear to get off before she could push her walker back to the front of the bus so she could disembark.

Although my baby is college age, I well remember how much there was to learn with a new baby, so it occurred to me the young mother might not realize she had done anything wrong.  So I hurried to catch up with her. I explained she should have moved her stroller to let the elderly woman sit in the priority seating.

She told me:

  • she could not have moved down the aisle because her stroller wheel base was too large to fit
  • she had helped the woman get past her — the other woman’s walker fit in the aisle, problem solved
  • she couldn’t possibly carry the baby when she was going to be out all day
  • another smaller stroller wouldn’t work because she needed to bring her stuff
  • besides, what was she supposed to do, stay home?

I do remember the challenges in getting around with a baby in a stroller.  Back in the day I had been given an old fashioned baby buggy for my new baby.  It would have been fine to take on walks around the neighborhood, excursions to the park, and such, but it was too big to take on a bus. Twenty some odd years ago, buses didn’t kneel, but even if they had, there would have been no place for a baby buggy because back then there were no accommodations for people with mobility challenges in regular buses.  I used an umbrella stroller.

I know how important it is for a young mom with a baby to get out and about.   But it is just as important for people with mobility challenges.  But priority seating areas are not there for strollers.

Priority Seating

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005) S.O. 2005, c. 11″ requires “Priority Seating” at the front of the bus to be reserved for people of all ages with disabilities and mobility challenges.

No priority-seating-2_115235one minds if a stroller takes that spot if no one with a disability or mobility challenge needs it. But when the space is needed, the able bodied are expected to move. That goes for strollers.  If the stroller is too big to fit down the aisle, the only solution I see is that it needs to disembark and wait for the next bus that can accommodate it.  GRT buses can only accommodate only 2 wheelchairs. If a bus has 2 passengers in wheel chairs aboard, it can’t pick a third passenger waiting at a stop in a wheelchair. That person would have to wait for a bus that can.

The accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act exists because people the person who needs a walker to walk needs a walker to walk.

A person with a baby has choices. S/he can carry the baby in arms. If s/he can’t manage that for long, there are also baby carriers parents can wear.

And while a monster stroller might cost hundreds of dollars, umbrella strollers are very inexpensive. A quick online search turned up one for $29.97 at Walmart and another on sale right now for $15.99 at Babies R Us.

If large strollers displace the passengers for whom priority seating exists, there are only 2 solutions for Grand River Transit that I can think of.

  1. GRT could double the capacity of the priority seating area, or
  2. GRT could train drivers to deal with such situations, or
  3. GRT could ban large strollers.

Public Transit has improved enormously over my lifetime, it is something that ought to work for everyone.  But we all need to remember it is a shared space, and there are rules that need to be followed.  We need to respect other passengers, so we can all get where we’re going.

Postscript:  I just found the bit about strollers in the GRT rules:


Strollers must be able to fit through the front doors and down the aisles in order to board the bus. For the safety of all customers, the aisles must not be blocked.

Customers should know the dimensions of their stroller before attempting to board the bus.

Customers with strollers are required to move to the rear of the bus, lock the wheels of the stroller and remain in firm control of it at all times. If possible, strollers are to be folded when standee conditions apply.

Hold on to the stroller at all times to avoid tipping. Position the stroller so passengers can walk freely down the aisle.

Grand River Transit: Passenger Comfort and Safety


at the farm (that's me at the front on the right!)

Going up to my cousin’s farm was one of my favourite things as a child.  I was in love with their German Shepard dog, Rex, and I liked helping bring the cows in to be milked at night.  It was where I first learned about karma, although I didn’t hear the word for it until many years later.  My sister Lynda wouldn’t let me have a turn holding a piglet, so when he peed on her it was like divine intervention.  I loved talking to the animals, and I loved when a cat sometimes got a squirt of milk from an udder. Or getting to drink warm fresh (unpasteurized!) milk from the big vat.  The earliest visit I remember I was maybe 4 or 5.

The time I’m writing about was the time I learned the hard truth about where chicken dinners came from.  We were all in the front yard between the house and the barn.  There wasn’t much yard in front, really, it was mostly a dirt parking lot separating house & barn where cars and tractors came and went.

That day a chicken was caught, and like Mary Queen of Scots she was carried to a block of wood.  I didn’t understand what was happening, so when the axe came down on her neck in the blink of an eye I was profoundly shocked.

The head lay still on the chopping block, but the most horrific bit was the headless body running around the yard spraying a geyser of blood into the air.  I remember laughter, but I don’t know whose.  Then the drained animal fell down, spent.  I think everyone was surprised that I didn’t find it funny, but I was a soft hearted city kid.  I got angry at the dog I loved when he ran over to lick the blood from the chopping block.

I was very upset, and then horrified when the women sat down to pluck the dead bird.  That was when I learned that we would be eating the dead bird for dinner.  I vowed I would never, and I spent the afternoon pouting upstairs to my cousin’s room.  And then the smell of roasting chicken wafted up the stairs.  And eventually the smell helped my resolve shatter, and I ate the chicken dinner after all.  I was unhappy about it, and mostly I was disappointed in myself.  It occurs to me now that even though I spent a lot of time there throughout my childhood, I don’t ever remember this happening when I was there again.

After that I knew I was a meat eater, and probably always would be.  We ended up moving out to an old farm house in the country when I was ten, so although I was really still a city kid I learned about country life.  We had three quarters of an acre, with an orchard, and dad put in a mammoth garden, in spite of the fact that the only vegetables he would ever eat were peas carrots and corn.  A large part of the garden was flowers, and there was always rhubarb and musk melons (aka cantaloupe) and a pumpkin patch.  Every year he tried to grow watermelon, but the growing season just wasn’t long enough, although I suspect it is nowadays.

Our farmhouse was the original built for the pig farm next door.  The farmer had separated our land, and with the proceeds he could build a big modern house with a granny suite for his mother upstairs, and a basement shower room so he wouldn’t track the barn smells into the house.  The farmer was also a blacksmith who shod the horses of the local Old Order Mennonite population.  I loved watching him shoe the horses, or visiting the neighbouring farm animals.  That was the first time I saw chickens confines to cages for their entire lives.  The best part of living there was the fact we could have a dog; the worst was that the dog would raid the manure pile and bring home the corpses of aborted piglets. This was hard for me as the kid who was always trying to save injured birds and the like.  Of course I was a big fan of “Black Beauty” and “Charlotte’s Web”.  LincolnsRooster_3396

And I still love animals as “people.”  And now a half century later, although I am still a meat eater, and I know it would be difficult to give it up, that I would have to relearn how to eat if I were to ever become vegetarian. Vegan will never even be a possibility.   And yet one day a few years ago I suddenly couldn’t eat pork any more.

All the same, I’m still a meat eater.  My vegetarian and vegan friends have not actually tried to convince me to switch.  But I am learning from them.  These days I have friends who are not only vegan, but working to change the world. And I’ve been learning about some of the trials faced by animal activists.  Did you know, there are even refuges for farm animals?.   Eating animals is bad enough, but making their whole lives a misery is inhumane.  And as it turns out, unfettered animal based agriculture is damaging to the environment.

So while I am still a meat eater, and probably always will be, I can decrease the amount of meat that I do eat.  And I have.

I thought it would be hard to manage one meatless day a week, and as it happens, I’ve been managing at least one (and sometimes more) meatless day each week for some time now.

And it isn’t that hard.

And now that my farming cousin is retired, his favourite pet is a rooster.

We can all change, and we can change the world.

On Saturday, July 16th, 2016, say “hi” to the PIGS vs RIBS  folk in Victoria Park.  The Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance will be in the vicinity of the Clocktower from 4-7pm.  They’ll be handing out FREE literature and FREE samples of plant meats to showcase the vegan lifestyle as more fun – and delicious – than most animal-eaters would expect. Vegan food needs to shed the rumours of being inferior – today is the day to do so!