for whom the register tolls.
it must be nice to be the heritage minister. all those powerful, glamourous, short term friends. and they're so generous. it's like being the prettiest flower at the prom. how exciting. how things change.
and now, i digress.
back in the hairspray haze of the 80s, i played in the post-punk basement bars and sleaze pits of southern ontario. good times, served weird. the reagan/thatcher era spawned a vibrant and articulate underground arts opposition. with the advent of micro-tours, indie labels and alternative distribution networks taking root, with the zines and word of mouth buzz, more obscure artists began to find an audience. for a golden moment, before muchmusic, video was a wild new field. the most interesting artists and the most challenging visuals got the most airplay. technology was on the march and things were changing.
used record stores across the country offered a tenuous but promising opportunity to reach new markets and college radio would play cassettes (my band's tape even charted on ckms-fm). with home 4-track recording anybody could take their shot. be a star. and maybe you didn't need warner bros. to do it. it was a great time, full of energy with a sense that anything could happen. though a lot of it was also pretty blurry as i recall. faced with increasingly sophisticated home audio and video recording, the big media industries predictably responded by buying everyone that could be bought and acting like dicks to everyone else. i guess some things don't change so much, after all.
the poor, weeping billionaires got together and hornswoggled the canadian government into levying a tax on all blank media. cassette, dat, vhs, cdr, dvdr, all of it. that tax goes to the big media and rights organizations to compensate the poor kids for all the loot they claim to lose to home recording. that is why it is legal to copy things from one format to another in canada, you paid for the right. their sales pitch and shiny justification? it was to protect the artists. sound familiar?
years pass and millions collect, funny, i've never heard of those blank media funds being disbursed to any artists. and i'm a member of one of the organizations holding the purse. they see you, sitting there reading, as a crook. you are a pirate. and for the sake of the artist (uh huh), big media is looking to get in your business. the riaa and lap dog, branch office proxy cria have brought their considerable weight to bear, lobbying and trying to pay for influence on impending revisions of intellectual property law.
that's why it is so nice to be heritage minister. hell, that's why it is nice to even be in the running for the portfolio. the so called rights holders, international music, movie, videogame and software conglomerates, poured money, celebrities and shmooze into the parkdale riding of liberal sarmite bulte during the last federal election. fundraisers and expensive plates were had by all. well except the artists, the consumers and constituents but the important people were happy.
meanwhile, in the mysterious west, the tinkle of silver coins in a conservative cup. bev oda, touted as the cons choice for the portfolio, also received substantial campaign funding. if you bet on every horse in the race, you always win. bev oda is heritage minister. hooray! we won. thank goodness the millionaires and their stock holders are there to protect the artists. from you.
along the way, while the palm greasers were busy putting the same shoe on the other foot, the artists tried to have their say. the bare naked ladies tried to talk sense to oda and were accorded the equivalent of a photo op and a pat on the head, thanks for coming. but now with these intertube things other people saw what was at stake. private citizens, arts lovers, consumers and privacy advocates began to grumble and the arts community stepped up. the cria (canadian recording industry association)is the front group for sony, bmg, emi and universal music group in canada. the whole cartel. as the shape of potential legislation became clearer the canadian music industry abandoned the cria. nettwork, home to sarah, avril and a roster of international names, anthem, home to rush and max webster and the other major canadian independent labels walked.
artists are fed up with having their fans harassed, threatened and sued. nobody wants to buy broken hardware, malicious software or enter into abusive end user license agreements and non-negotiated contracts. these huge corporations that market cultural materials, failed to adapt to shifts in culture. they are steam engine salesmen trying to insist that internal combustion engines be fitted with boilers and that they should take a cut off the top. if we, as citizens and consumers of cultural products, don't make ourselves heard, we'll have no-one to blame but ourselves.
as a canadian and a working artist, i believe we have a lot to be proud of and a lot that we need to protect. i've always been immensely proud of the nfb. the national film board is a sterling example of the good that can be done with government support of the arts. the nfb is revered around the world for the high quality and integrity of the work, groundbreaking animation, award winning documentaries and a living library of our heritage and cultures. sadly, the nfb is bleeding the work and passion of canadian filmmakers into shadows and dust. documentaries are being pulled from circulation. important works, flickering strips of our spirit and nationhood, disappearing. lost to the expense of rights maintenance.
bev oda is in conflict of interest. she can not honestly claim to represent us, her constituents or the interests of canadian heritage in these matters. we have to decide to protect our existing cultural works and foster the growth of new, original canadian work in all fields of the arts. we need to protect and insist on protection of unfettered access to the net and bandwidth neutrality. we need to secure our data privacy from over reaching business and governmental interests. if we do not act we allow the gates to slam shut on our past and diminish our access to the future. even if you aren't a technophile, your interests, your rights, privacy and security are at risk. all for the greed of a few short sighted monopolists and their paid political lackeys.
if you don't want big media companies, telcos and governments snooping though your hard drives, suing your niece and selling bandwidth and baud rate to the biggest advertiser, write to your member of parliament. demand accountability from bev oda, insist that artists be invited to the table to re-negotiate copyright and intellectual property legislation. how dare these duplication and distribution businesses and their best friend the minister claim to speak on behalf of the artists. large foreign business concerns have enjoyed remarkable access to the offices of the minister. it is only fair that the true rights holders, the artists and creators be heard. it is after all, their work, their passion and their lives that are being bartered over.
maybe we should ask the canadian musical community how their rights should be dealt with. oh that's just silly. what could a bunch of scruffy musicians know about their own best interests?
for more information, please visit boing boing and follow the bouncing oda links. canadian science fiction great, cory doctorow has been tracking bev oda and the copyfight here in canada and works hard to educate. he also leads by example. his works are published under the creative commons. cory has an excellent new collection of short stories called overclocked available. you can read the stories free online. if you like them, you can buy the treeware version or find your own way to share and appreciate what is great work by a canadian author.
michael geist is an ottawa law professor who has been stalwart in tracking the back room deals and dollars flow of the corporate assault on canadian copyright. no one knows the minutiae of the issues better than michael. digital-copyright.ca is another excellent resource.
and finally, bev oda, gives a harper-rific example of that transparency and accountability. $5,500 for limos at the juno awards. your new canadian government, because selfishness and greed aren't partisan.