Tuesday, September 19, 2006

US entertainment industry buys Canadian MP


I'm sure all of you have heard about the horror stories from down in the States where grandmothers and dead people are being sued by the music companies for supposedly downloading music on the internet. Or the various incidents where someone finds a flaw in a software package, and gets threatened with going to jail if they disclose that vulnerability so that you can avoid it? There are just some of the things that people have suffered due to the Digital Millenium Copyright Acts (DMCA) in the US. It is a nasty piece of legislation that was passed in the United States after over a millions and millions (Some have estimated over a billion) dollars in lobbying and "perks" the US entertainment industry lavished upon those in the US Federal Government.

Well, guess what....they are doing the same here in Canada.

Sam Bulte, the former Liberal Party MP for Parkdale/High Park, and here is a quick summary from WIkipedia:

"2006 federal election, Bulte was criticized by University of Ottawa Law professor Michael Geist, historian Jack Granatstein and blogger Cory Doctorow among others. The criticism centred around an apparent conflict of interest relating to her position as "one of the leading people on copyright policy, possibly even the future Canadian heritage minister" [3] and her stance in favour of stricter copyright laws in the face of substantial campaign contributions from Canadian and American entertainment industries. Geist's colleague David Fewer noted that Bulte did not originally have much interest in copyright law, but has become increasingly vocal on the topic since she started to receive money from the copyright lobbies."

Since they were not able to get Ms. Bulte into office, due to the general malaise of the Liberal Party, and the number of people like Dr. Geist blowing her cover, they have done the same thing with the Conservative Party.

Today, Bev Oda is the Minister of Culture, the post Ms. Bulte was hoping to occupy. A funny thing happened on the way to the election...when it became apparent that Conservative Party was going to win, and that Oda was the heir elective to the Culture Ministry, the floodgates of money poured into her coffers from the entertainment industry. Here is what Dr. Geist says:

"Presumably much of this support came from a May 2005 Oda fundraiser when corporate donations were lawful and Oda was the Heritage critic rather than the Heritage Minister. Even so, the significant financial support does little to instill confidence in the fairness of the copyright reform process. Given that many of the donors did not provide financial support to any other riding association in Canada (with the possible exception of Sam Bulte, whose riding association has yet to file its report), there is little doubt about the motivations behind the decision to back Bev at a time when it looked like the Liberals' fall was imminent." Quoteed from here

So, one way, or another, the entertainment industry has bought an MP, who is willing to do their bidding. The fact that until it looked like Ms. Bulte wasn't going to win that they started pouring money into Ms. Oda's campaign shows that any changes in the copyright laws was bought.

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't like it when big companies influence the way that our country works. And what is worse, most of the companies are AMERICAN. They are seeking to import American culture into Canada by buying Members of Parliament to implement American style laws. And if they are successful in changing Canadian culture by buying Members of Parliament, what will be next?

So, what can I do, some of you are hopefully saying....here are a few that are quoted on BoingBoing.net:

  • Write to your local Member of Parliament. Letters (which are better than email) from just a handful of constituents is enough to get the attention of your local MP. Contact information for all MPs is available here. Online Rights Canada also provides an easy way to write to your local MP.
  • Write to the Prime Minister of Canada. Contact information here.
  • Write to Bev Oda, the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Minister Oda is one of the two ministers responsible for copyright policy in Canada. Prior Canadian Heritage Ministers have been perceived to be close to U.S. copyright lobby groups and copyright collectives. Ministry contact information here. Minister Oda's contact information here.
  • Write to Maxime Bernier, the Minister of Industry. Minister Bernier is responsible for the Copyright Act in Canada. Despite the fact that Minister Bernier is viewed as a strong advocate of reduced government intervention, the rumour mill suggests that he supports DMCA-style reforms. Minister Bernier's contact information here.
  • Ask each political party where it stands on copyright. Copyright policy could prove to be a divisive issue in the months ahead - ask each political party for their views on the issue.
  • Write to Canadian Heritage's Copyright Policy Branch. The Copyright Policy Branch is home to a large contingent of bureaucrats focused on copyright matters. Contact information here.
  • Write to Industry Canada's Intellectual Property Policy Directorate. The IPPD is Industry Canada's counterpart on copyright policy, though it addresses a broader range of IP issues. Contact information here (scroll to the bottom).

    For more info, go here