Stop Bill C-51

STOP BILL C-51
Sauron Says Stop Bill C-51
Yesterday I reblogged 33 other bloggers posts here, even though they are probably not free culture.  Although I try to keep Canadian politics in the  Whoa! Canada blog, limiting political articles on this blog to issues around copyright and free culture, Bill C-51 has crossed the line.  This law the Harper Government is planning to pass, (maybe today, probably this week) in the face of strong opposition from a clear majority of Canadians, will certainly have a devastating effect on Canadian Culture.  The removal of free speech protections will cause a massive chilling effect ~ self censorship ~ on all Canadian culture.

Some brave souls will continue to publish their art, just as the stubborn ones did in the early days of the Third Reich.  I realize many of you will think this hyperbole, but the parallels between then and now are striking.  I can tell you that I am not a brave soul, that’s why I am doing everything I can to stop this now.  I don’t want to see Canadian civil rights undermined to the point of meaninglessness, not just for myself, but for my family, and all the generations that will come after.

But if my little voice, in concert with all the other Canadian voices goes unheeded, although it will surely break my heart, I will continue to do as I always have; I will continue to follow the law.

But it isn’t law yet, so today I will share and reshare as much as I can manage.   Because I care.  Because it matters.

canadaflagbannerstopbillc51

 

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Arresting Images at The Waterloo Museum

Arresting Images poster

As an author of crime fiction, I’ve been trying to get to the City of Waterloo Museum to see the to see their true crime exhibit “Arresting Images: Mug shots from The OPP Museum.”

The tiny museum gallery is housed in Conestoga Mall, with an entrance from the food court, as well as exterior entrance.

Admission is free, and the exhibits I’ve attended have been well worth it.

This exhibition includes 100 framed reproductions of mug shots selected from the from the OPP collection of spanning the late 19th and early 20th century people arrested, as well as selected blowups of what are essentially portrait photographs taken by the same professional portrait photographers who photographed our law abiding ancestors.

There is a post card circulated to identify a suspect,and mug shots not only from Ontario, but including suspects from cities in nearby New York.

The origins of the mug shot

The mug shot as we know it, had it’s beginnings in the early days of photography. In 1841, just two years after the invention of the daguerreotype, the Paris Police began to include daguerreotype portraits in their criminal files. In England, the Bristol gaol staff adopted the practice of photographing prisoners in 1848. American and Canadian police and detective agencies were quick to follow suit. The mug shot was born

23 year old Lillie Williams arrested on "Suspicion"

In order to display both the front (photograph) and back (arresting information) of the images, faithful reproductions of both sides of 100 mug shot cards have framed for the exhibit.

19th century handcuffs

The exhibit also includes physical memorabilia, so visitors can see early handcuff styles, a section devoted to Waterloo policing, as well as an interactive area where children of all ages can experiment with disguises, find out how big a jail cell was, or take your own mug shot.

Early 20th century Waterloo Police Chief's hat

My favorite part was the informative display covering early photographic methods. I was surprised to see just how small actual daguerreotypes were.

camera display

Since visiting the exhibit, I have a couple of questions, so I might just pop in again before the exhibit closes, on Friday (May 9, 2014).

<hr>

I’ve posted a few more photos from the show on my Tumblog, GrandSocial, Twitter and techDITZ.

My Open Letter to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium

[Suggested by “Tell the W3C “No DRM” this letter was first published on techDITZ then mirrorred on visual laurel. Future articles relating to the topic will be posted here.]
connectivity (cc by laurelruswurm)

Dear Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium:

Re: Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal

As a middle aged mother, I’ve been learning (and sharing what I’ve learned) about net neutrality, the importance of free software, free culture, nd an open Internet, ever since I began hand coding my own HTML web pages and participating on the Internet in 2009. As a creator from a creative family, as well as publishing my own content online, I run a blog for my eighty three year old father. I have come to consider myself a netizen.

One reason DRM is dangerous is that it can hide all manner of spyware and malware from users. Another is that most people don’t even know what it is, or if they do, how to recognize it. While governments have allowed large corporations and media conglomerates to cripple digital products with DRM, there is no requirement anywhere in the world to to inform customers or computer users of such application.

I have avoided DRM wherever possible, but even with the absurd extension of copyright laws, I have been certain that free culture will win out eventually. But that confidence presupposes a free market.

In Canada where I live, our new Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent DRM for any reason at all, even if the the circumvention is allowed under our “fair dealing” exemptions, or if the DRM is applied inappropriately. I consider the application of DRM to freely licensed or public domain creative works to be inappropriate.

This is a huge concern for me, both as a cultural consumer and as a self publishing author. Existing copyright law has prevented me from even seeing the finished production of one of my own works.

Independent creators and Internet users are already at a huge disadvantage, because the large media special interests have the wherewithal to successfully lobby governments around the world into maximizing copyright laws and the attendant copyright monopoly to their own great benefit, at our expense.

These large and powerful special interest groups have long had a seat at the W3C table. But where is there representation for Internet users?

Most of the public does not even know W3C exists, let alone how to comment on an issue such as this. Although I am passionately interested in the subject, until I read Harry Halpin’s Guardian article last week, I had no idea there was any way for Internet users or creators to express our dismay beyond signing the Defective By Design’s “Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal” Petition. But Mr. Halpin pretty much implies that petition wasn’t enough.

Although Canada has been a world leader in Internet adoption, most Canadians are still not online. For most of those who are, participation on Facebook signifies the height of technical prowess. Certainly most Canadians haven’t even heard of the Guardian, and so will not have even read the article.

Mr. Halpin essentially gave me the weekend to get the word out. This weekend Identi.ca, the social network of choice for a great many people who are aware of these issues, is undergoing a massive migration from a backend of StatusNet to pump.io software. Many users like myself have been consumed in setting up our own federated status net instances. As well, those of us with privacy concerns have been caught up in the NSA Prism news story. For myself, I’ve had two major family happenings this weekend in addition to those online issues.

Maybe a few people who understand the issue will have read the blog post I wrote, but a weekend is not much time. Especially considering that the special interests that want DRM written into the Web Standard have been at the table for so very much longer.

Until the W3C holds a widely publicized meaningful consultation process, that Free Software Petition must be given at least as much weight as the opinions of any other group of stakeholders. Perhaps more, since the inclusion of DRM in the standard panders to the direct benefit of a specific special interest lobby group. Internet Users are easily the largest group of stakeholders, and our exclusion from the process means that the W3C must look out for the public good.

Keeping even a whiff of DRM out of the Web Standard will not harm the corporate special interests who lobby so effectively for it. They can just continue on as they have been, locking their own content behind DRM. Allowing the DRM toehold EME provides will lead to DRM becoming the default.

DRM exists to break interoperability. If DRM is allowed into the W3C Standard, it will become the W3C Standard. If W3C supports this, it will sacrifice the free and open Internet, not just for us, but for generations to come.

Please don’t do this.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

The Third of May

Laurel holds a "Free to Blog" sign with the hashtags #WPFD and #PressFreedomUnesco‘s “World Press Freedom Day 2013” is promoting the idea that people need to be able to use social media for freedom of expression, whether it’s on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Vkontakte, Tencent, Identi.ca, or blogs.  Many people don’t know that they should be free and safe to blog, to upload pictures, to watch online video., or that the freedom to receive & impart information & ideas through any media is promised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As the western free press buckles under the control and demands of powerful special interests, the Internet has made citizen journalism possible just when we need it most. Unfortunately, sometimes people engaging in social media are targeted by repressive regimes.

In Canada, Byron Sonne’s Charter rights were violated by police, and charges were laid against him for posting photographs on Flickr and tweeting concerns about the billion dollar “security theatre” being staged in Toronto for the Toronto G20.  He was punitively denied bail for almost a year, and when finally granted bail it was under onerous conditions, so he was effectively a political prisoner for nearly two years.

In Syria, Internet activist Bassel Khartabil has been unjustly detained for over a year, without trial or any legal charges being brought against him.

Since March 15, 2012, our colleague and friend Bassel Khartabil has been in prison in Syria, held without charges and not allowed legal representation. Bassel is an open-source coder and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons program. He believes in the open Internet, and has spent the last ten years using open technologies to improve the lives of Syrians. Not only did Bassel build the CC program in his country; he worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.”

Catherine Casserly

Bassel needs to be #FreeToBlog again... Syrian Free Culture advocate has been held for more than a year without charges.
Syrian Free Culture advocate Bassel needs to be free to blog, not imprisoned without charges.

Around the world, we’re seeing increased restrictions on free speech as the breadth of copyright laws have been expanded to allow censorship, and we face an unending barrage of laws like SOPA and CISPA that allow government and corporate incusrions into our personal privacy, and trade agreements like ACTA and CETA.

Unesco is promoting the free exchange of ideas & knowledge that is possible with social media, and wants everyone to have a voice and be able to speak freely and in safety, no matter where they are in the world.

There is a growing awareness that ensuring freedom of expression must also necessarily extend to safety online. World Press Freedom Day 2013 focuses on the theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media” and puts the spotlight, in particular, on the issues of safety of journalists, combating impunity for crimes against freedom of expression, and securing a free and open Internet as the precondition for online safety.”

Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media

Which dovetails nicely with the fact today is also the International Day Against DRM.  If DRM becomes a built in part of the HTML5, any hope of a free and open Internet will be lost.

Banner that can be used on facebook

DRM restricts the public’s freedom, even beyond what overzealous copyright law requires, to the perceived benefit of this privileged, powerful few.”

Letter to the W3C

DRM is “Digital Rights Management” or “Digital Restrictions Management” ~ either way it is “Technological Protection Measures” employed in the proprietary software and hardware we purchase.  DRM controls how we can use our digital media and devices.

This year the W3C is in the process of hammering out the new standard for HTML5, the language that the Internet is written in.  Some of the biggest, most powerful Internet corporations are trying to pressure the W3C to write DRM into the specifications. Adding DRM to HTML would cause a host of problems for freedom and interoperability on the Web, and we need to build the grassroots movement against it. Nobody except these big corporations want this change to the core of the Web, but most of the Web users that it would affect don’t know about the issue yet.”

Defective By Design: We Oppose DRM

Any DVD player would be able to play any DVD in the world but for region encoding, one example of DRM.  If you move to a different region, don’t plan on bringing along your DVD collection, because it won’t play there.  DRM is often employed to “protect” digital copies that are under copyright.

Corporations like DRM because it can be used to tie us in to their proprietary products — we need to buy this type of game machine to continue to use the games we’ve already purchased — or buy ink cartridges even though the ones in the printer aren’t actually empty but because the DRM says the ink is past it’s best-before date — or purchase the same music over and over again as digital media wears out or the device is declared obsolete.

A specification designed to help companies run secret code on users’ computers to restrict what they do on the Web would severely undermine that trust. ”

Letter to the W3C

Nothing is stopping these big companies from deploying DRM on their websites now, with the exception of consumer choice.  But if DRM is written into the HTML5 Specifications, DRM will become the default, and consumers will lose the few choices we have now.  It will become harder to free our devices and ourselves from the shackles of DRM.  And I rather expect it will have the unfortunate side effect of breaking the Internet.

No DRM for the Internet

You’re welcome to use my Day Against DRM Facebook Cover, my Day Against DRM Twitter Banner or the square “Don’t DRM the Internet” avatar.


Image Credits
Bassel Khartabil by Kristina Alexanderson released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License

Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License

Both social media banners, Day Against DRM Facebook cover and Day Against DRM Twitter Banner incorporate the Opte Project Internet Map, tand so are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) License

Copyright Fallacy #5

A Maple leaf enclosed in the copyright symbol

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.

registration

Like the United States, Canada also has a Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and you can register your work there for a $50 or $65 fee. It isn’t very much, right?

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.

what if…

…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.

recourse

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:

Owning A Copy Does Not Confer Copyright

Photograph
William Lyon Mackenzie King and friend on railway platform, Montreal, QC, about 1930
Anonyme – Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on glass – Gelatin dry plate process
12 x 17 cm
Purchase from Napoleon Antiques
MP-1978.107.216
© McCord Museum



An anonymous person took this vintage photograph, which found its way to Napoleon Antiques.

Because one of the subjects of the photograph was a Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the photograph has some instrinsic value. It certainly isn’t a Karsh portrait, but either the photographer or the person who commissioned the photograph would be the copyright holder under Canadian law.

The fact we don’t know who that was makes this an “orphan work”.

When this photograph was sold to the McCord Museum, the antique shop had the right to sell the physical property of the photograph, but did not own the copyright.

The fact that the photograph wound up in an antique shop suggests an estate sale, so there is reason to believe the work may be in the public domain. 1930 was over eighty years ago, after all.

Clearly, though, Napoleon Antiques would have bought the physical photograph. The name of the photographer would most certainly been known had there been an assignment of copyright. And in 1930, Canadian copyright terms were much shorter than they are now.

Wikipedia tells us that the Canadian copyright term:

“For anonymous works, 50 years from publication
or 75 years from creation,
whichever is shorter.”

So how does the McCord Museum come to own copyright in this work? Clearly a photograph taken by an anonymous photographer in 1930 would be in the public domain now, so the McCord Museum can’t own the copyright.

If owning a physical copy of a work conferred copyright, well, anyone who bought a CD would be able to take down the recording artist’s MySpace page…

I really don’t have any problem with McCord, or any museum, educational facility or even private individual selling copies of historic works that they physically possess. This is an acceptable business model. But I do take issue when they lay claim to copyright of public domain images.

Because work in the public domain belongs to all of us. As our history belongs to all of us.

If McCord actually owned the copyright in these works, then placing a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5) would be reasonable, perhaps even generous.

But the museum does not own the intellectual property in this work. Since the image is in the public domain, placing such a notice is horrendously and unreasonably restrictive, and the McCord has absolutely no legal or moral right to impose such restrictions.

Worse, this is actually a case of copyfraud. I don’t think that is the McCord’s intent, considering that its founder:

“David Ross McCord wanted to make history accessible to all. His dream has become the McCord’s mission – a mission whose importance is reaffirmed each year by thousands of visitors.”

McCord Museum: A Museum for all Montrealers

Locking up our history in copyright, preventing us from using historic works — works in the public domain — whether to create derivative works, or even commercially, is the very antithesis of making history “accessible to all”.

I don’t think David Ross McCord would approve, do you?

You Can’t Copyright the Public Domain

I sent the following email to a museum today. I’ve removed identifying information because I think that the problem is really one of copyright confusion, and I truly hope that they will change their policy.

Your museum sounds quite interesting, and it is creditable to see its commitment to sharing Canadian history online.

I’m writing to inform you of a fairly serious copyright issue. While it is true that [the museum] owns physical copies of the work in its collection, that does not confer copyright ownership. Although I have not looked at your online offerings exhaustively, the one example I looked at closely shows the Museum has licensed at least one public domain work Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5).

This license could be considered liberal if the Museum actually owned the copyright in the work. Since Canadian Copyright Law places anonymous work in the public domain fifty years after publication, this work should clearly be in the public domain. Which makes the Creative Commons license you have chosen not a liberal permission, but rather an extraordinary restriction that effectively locks Canadians out of our own history. Further, the Non-Commercial No-Derivatives restriction prevents Canadian made cultural works.

Creative Commons Zero or Public Domain logo

Utilization of Creative Commons licenses is usually good, because they lift onerous copyright restrictions — but not when they are affixed to works in the public domain. Public domain work should more properly be labelled CC0 or assigned a Public Domain Mark.

If [The Museum] expects branding public domain work © [The Museum] will ensure accreditation, it does not. It is more likely to inspire people to not credit you, for fear of copyright infringement consequences. Case in point: the image that ultimately brought me to your site today was shared online with no accreditation at all beyond the museum’s name stamped on the side.

The only right copyright grants the Museum is the ability to sue people who copy images so designated ~ if they infringe copyright. Of course, whether a court would subsequently uphold any museum claim to copyright of public domain work remains to be seen.

Even if the museum would win a lawsuit suing Canadians for using part of our heritage ~ cultural and historic work that is in the public domain ~ even commercially ~ would hardly endear your organization to the public. Further it may well curtail future donations of historic work to the [The Museum] Collection.

Employing the Creative Commons NoDerivatives clause will prevent Canadians from using [The Museum] Collection work in celebration and sharing of our own history through the creation of our own remixes and art, and the NonCommercial restriction further prohibits the same for commercial uses. Both of these restrictions belie [The Museum’s] stated mission which suggests it “celebrates our past and present life — our history, our people, our communities” but these provisions will instead crush any attempt to use [Museum] works in any “contemporay and interactive” manner.

There is nothing wrong in selling physical copies of collection works in the public domain. If anyone wants to make commercial use of any of the photographs in the museum collection, they would likely still seek out high quality copies or access to the original work. Individuals wanting to frame prints for themselves would similarly prefer the high quality copy that the museum already sells. If I wanted to publish a history book, I would get the best quality copies available.

Creative commons double c enclosed in a circle, with black text at right reading Creative Commons and in red dot CA

Copyright law has become quite complex, and so I would recommend reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture and Jason Mazzone’s book Copyfraud in hopes the Museum will reconsider its policy. Screening the NFB film RiP! A Remix Manifesto would be helpful too. You can also contact Creative Commons Canada directly for more information.

I’m not a lawyer, just a Canadian fiction writer with an interest in history, copyright and free culture, and you should be aware that I will be publishing a version of this email in my blog. As I am hopeful that [the Museum] wants to fulfill its stated objectives, I will first remove identifying references from this article. I do very much hope that your museum rethinks this issue that is so important to us all.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm