Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Globe and Mail Embarrasses Itself Again

A while back, I asked why the Globe and Mail would lower themselves to printing copyright industry press releases as if they were news. Today the Globe was at it again mindlessly parroting the U.S. copyright bullies who are outraged that Canada's copyright laws aren't as biased in favour of big corporations against the public interest as American ones are (that's a paraphrase).

Apparently, "The time has come for the United States to send a stern warning to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, which has failed to deliver on a promised overhaul of copyright laws and a policing crackdown"

Once again, the Globe article brings no independent information, analysis or dissenting points of view to the table, instead choosing to just recite the statements of a lobby group as if their statements were fact (which they are not). I saw some blog post in the U.S. the other day (don't recall where) telling a humourous 'news' story about how one supposed American journalist turned out to be just a voice activated tape recorder rather than a live human being. The same might be said about the people doing coverage of intellectual property for the Globe and Mail as well - embarassing stuff for a national newspaper.

On the plus side, there is lots of insight in the (215) comments on the Globe site. I think the best was from Sydney Weidman in Winnipeg who wrote,

"WORKS OF THE MIND ARE NOT ANYONE'S PROPERTY, PERIOD. Does that mean I'm against copyright? Not at all. I recognize that granting the "originator" of a particular expression of an idea a temporary, limited monopoly on his or her work encourages the production of something that should eventually be enjoyed freely by all. The words and ideas which are used to frame the debate have a huge influence on what kinds of laws are made. If you assume that ideas are property, then perpetual copyright and an electronic police state to protect works of the mind is entirely in order. It also makes sense to allow creators to charge based on the number of views. Under such assumptions, it is important to minimize fair use, close libraries, remove materials from schools, and generally forbid any use of a work unless the "owner" is paid. That's not how copyright was intended to work, and Canadian judges understand that. If you assume that copyright is nothing more than a convenient incentive system that is intended to eventually fill the public domain with culture that we can share without permission, then one needs to take great care in adding anything new to Canada's copyright regime. All this has been completely lost in the debate about these issues. The entire debate (no matter which side is talking) starts with two assumptions: * ideas are property * if we don't control the exchange of property, nothing will get produced We have completely fallen into the entertainment industry's trap by implicitly accepting this assumption as a given. All their draconian laws and the electronic police state required to enforce it follow naturally from those first principles."

No offense to the Canadian punditocracy, but in the days before blogs and comments on media websites you could probably have waited a decade without seeing anyone get to the heart of the matter that precisely.


  • Is there any evidence at all that copyright protection of any sort (e.g. patents) is beneficial to society? The seems to be something one is supposed to accept, on faith, but are there any data that support the use of IP rights?

    By Anonymous richard, at 3:15 PM  

  • It's a good question. I can't answer it, but it's a good question. I imagine the case for various forms of intellectual property varies depending on the area. For example, I suspect there is a stronger case in the area of pharamceuticals or movies where there are large upfront costs than there is for music, where I suspect we would see just as much if not more quality music produced even if copyright was done away with altogether. I guess one would have to compare different jurisdictions with different copyright regimes and try to control for other variables. I'm sure somebody has done this type of analysis, but I haven't seen it.

    By Blogger Declan, at 6:42 PM  

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