Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Replying to: words and their power

Replying to: johndegen.com: words and their power


You can go ahead and name names in my case. I participate in these forums under my real name as I stand by my comments, and will continue to fight for creators rights and free speech rights against ideas (and sometimes persons) that I feel are harming these rights.

I am the (or one) person who is saying that if filtering is happening by someone that is not an authority, government or otherwise, then that filtering is not censorship. Having your SPAM filters too high, or deleting messages you don't like for any reason from a private forum you administrate, is not censorship.

We are both disturbed by each others comments. I find it disturbing to see someone (ab)use the word censorship in this manner as, in my mind, it belittles victims of actual censorship. I have been fighting for free speech likely as long as you have (given we are about the same age), possibly longer online (just because I'm a geek that got online as early as I could).

My line for free speech is further on the unfiltered side than most, given I think that our current hate speech and defamation laws are a bit too strong. I've been critical of the Canadian Human Rights Commission for its desire to censor (see -- authority, with power of the state) speech. I may find the speech they wish to filter disgusting, and I am not personally interested to be subjected to it, but that doesn't mean I believe it should be censored. In fact, I wish there was a government funded body whose mandate it was to "correct the record" on such hateful speech, rather than giving the speech more power by attempting to censor it.

I don't have the agree with the reasons for the filtering by any given proprietor of a forum. In this case, I don't as I could have guessed you would have used the filtering in your ongoing desire to discredit anyone associated with the Fair Copyright for Canada label. You see, FCFC isn't a group with leadership, but a label used by people who have a relatively compatible philosophy on copyright. While Michael Geist is seen as coining the term (I attribute it to Laura Murray), that's the extent of it -- he is not a "leader" in the management sense, only a thought leader.

It's clear you don't share that philosophy, and label nearly every creator associated with that label as "copy left" (Meaning "Other, not like me"). That’s fine for me, and I'm used to the people who call themselves the "copy right" to be trying to label me as something other than a creators' rights advocate. I may feel constantly insulted by this incorrect labelling, but I'm not going to personally filter based on that.

I think Jason lashed out at Michael because Michael didn't back the decision to use filters in the York Region forum. In my case I did back the decision, not because I thought the specific filtering was something I would have done personally, but because I will fight for the right of forum proprietors to make that decision for themselves. As I indicated, I don't need proof that the decision was justified: I just support the right or proprietors of forums to make that decision.

Unlike you and I who have become used to disagreeing with fellow creators, including ones we consider to be quite insulting at times (we feel that of each other), Jason didn't see the point in continuing to be a target. While the two of us learn about our own positions by having ongoing conversations with people we disagree with, and continue despite family and friends telling us to get out, Jason took a different path.

But lets chat for a moment about the mixed message I keep hearing about Michael Geist from those who self-identify as the "copy right". I hear often that Michael is somehow associated with "pirates" and "thieves" because he allows comments on his blog from people with certain ideas. I suspect the whole "users rights" advocate label doesn't come from things that Michael says, but the fact that people with "users rights" views dominate the unfiltered comments on his blog.

I then hear Michael accused of being a co-censor because some group using the Fair Copyright for Canada meme in their title filtered some comments. Your whole slew of messages on twitter and this blog started with a false accusation against Michael.

So, which is it: Does Michael not filter enough or does he filter too much?

Personally, I think he filters far less than I would be willing to. In the forums I host/administrate I don't allow anonymous postings. At the bare minimum a contributor must sign up and have an email address verified. While my preference is real names and real people, the system allows pseudonymous.

On Blogger I let these pseudonymous postings go up right away, but with an email notification. I allow any registered user to comment (including OpenID).

On digital-copyright.ca I wait until I've seen a few useful comments before I allow messages to be posted right away from a contributor rather than going into a moderation queue. Accounts can be OpenID accounts or accounts created specifically on digital-copyright.ca.

I really don't support anonymous comments as it encourages a form of "road rage" on the series of tubes -- err information superhighway. Because of this I tend to ignore the comments on sites like Michael's or most of the mainstream media.

Comments may not always be friendly or agree with a world view I agree with, but I respect comments that are expressed by a real person who is willing to stand behind those comments.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Traditional definitions in the copyright debate.

On social issues I consider myself a pretty liberal parson, and am OK with people being whoever they want to be. My limits come when those activities harm others: your right to swing your cane ends at my nose, and all that.

After being told I represented the "copyleft" so often by folks associated with Access Copyright, I decided to do some thinking (and writing) on that. Far from being a redefinition of an existing term, it is a new term that turns out to be useful for understanding some of the conflicts between creators in the copyright debate.

One thing I get frustrated with, however, is when people abuse language by redefining terms to fit their temporary purposes. There are terms that are very heavily loaded that should be used in their dictionary meaning, or not at all. One of those terms that is all too loosely abused is calling people anti-Semitic, often levelled at people who think the country of Israel should be treated as and critiqued like any other, and who ignore the non-secular nature of that country.

During the G20 protests I ended up hearing another abuse, but not from someone associated with those protests. John Degen discovered after many months he had been barred from the Fair Copyright for Canada (York Region Chapter) by the administrator for that forum, Independent Journalist Jason Koblovsky.

To try to rally the troops for those who support his particular political philosophy (See the "copy left" discussion and you'll see John represents a conservative creators' rights philosophy), John started to make up a fiction that he had been censored.

I'm getting used to disagreeing with John on policy, and we each seem to believe that the policies that the other one is promoting is harmful to the interests of professional creators. I could not, however, abide by his abuse of the term "censorship" to refer to the manager of a forum not allowing him to participate in that managers forum. While free speech demands that people have a right to say what they want to say, within some limits (such as defamation/etc), there is no right to say this wherever you want. The managers of discussions forums are within their right to manage membership in their forums any way they want, and they don't need to have a reason at all to disallow anyone from participating. In this case the manager even offered to let John back in if he wanted, with the request that John behave.

So, rather than behaving, John posts a few articles to his BLOG and tries to draw attention to government officials of his non-censorship.

Frist, he posts how fair is Fair? how balanced is Balanced?.

In this rant he includes some things I have said about him: "a non-techie who doesn’t understand software, a copyright maximalist," ... ", a “creator of the past,”"

These are of course taken out of context, and if put into context it would be hard for John to disagree.

The first is an observation: that while many of us in the debate have decades of technical experience, including as software authors, John is not one of them. That is not an insult, and in this observation he is in the majority of citizens who are not technical people who have spent the time to understand cryptography and other such technologies. Most people who don't understand something will find trusted experts to rely on. While I am clearly not trusted by John, I am an experienced professional in this area.

The second is also an observation, not an insult. I have heard John say many things over the years that essentially amount to: some copyright is good, so more must be better. Making copyright "stronger", meaning tilted more in favour of existing copyright holders, does not automatically help creators. Those who believe that stronger copyright is better copyright are quite accurately called "copyright maximalists". I'll let John decide if he wants to respond and say that he doesn't agree that "stronger copyright is better copyright", given this is the essence of the policies he has promoted over the years I have known him.

The third comment is in the context of Lawrence Lessig's s presentation from 2002 where he said:

  • Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
  • The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
  • Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
  • Ours is less and less a free society.

If one looks at the policies that John promotes, it is clear that he's more focused on policies that would benefit existing copyright holders rather than those that would most benefit new copyright holders building on that past creativity. This is tied to the "copyright maximalist" observation, given more copyright favours existing copyright, while more creator-focused limitations and exceptions (fair dealings for follow-on creators) benefit the next generation of creators.

But, he wants to try to turn these observations of the different viewpoints in this political debate into insults: anyone who disagrees with his political philosophy are doing so not because they want to protect the rights of creators, but because they want to insult John.

As he tries to attack the credibility of Fair Copyright for Canada which includes a near full spectrum of creators and non-creators interests in copyright, he is also trying to promote the Balanced Copyright for Canada group that only represents a narrow potion of the conservative side of the copyright debate. (Please read Is there a copy left vs copy right?. I don't mean conservative in the same way as the Conservative party, or social conservative, or fiscal conservative. Conservatism in the copyright debate is a different thing).

So, we have one group that is bottom-up organised and includes the centrists and the left of the political debate, and another group that is top-down organised primarily by the incumbent record labels that represent the remaining minority political philosophy in copyright. And John, who seems to have self-identified himself with that far-right conservative copyright philosophy was removed from a forum because the manager thought he was part of a smear campaign against that larger set of constituencies (and Michael Geist in particular).

In the article John says, "Consumer advocate and occasional law professor, Michael Geist".

Mr Geist is a law professor who has a centrist creators' rights philosophy. He has gone out of his way to expand his educational roll beyond the classroom and into the general public, trying to educate people about current law and interpretations of proposed laws. He has been a great ally for creators in this debate.

While some adherents to conservative copyright views have rejected him as helping creators, I suspect a majority of fellow creators would disagree with that assessment. In fact, I consider John's usage of that language in his blog to be part of the smear campaign that John often claims he is not participating in.

Why was I not surprised that someone had barred John, or that people were concerned with his motives, given the language he uses to describe people who have different ideas than him on how to protect creators' rights?

The beginning started quite typical for our conversations recently: an accusation by John against others (sometimes Geist, sometimes myself, sometimes someone else entirely), and then my snide remark back. In this case it was Fair Copyright for Canada being attacked, a group that I support even if I'm not an active member (I'm not a big Facebook person, and rarely log on).

John: how fair is Fair Copyright? http://bit.ly/9hTkjr I've been kicked out of a populist copyright discussion group for defending artists 3:46 PM Jun 24th via web.

Me: @jkdegen We will continue to disagree that the policies you are promoting are a defence of the interests of artists.

John: @russellmcormond thanks for your support for my freedom of expression - sheesh

Me: @jkdegen Stating publicly that I disagree with your policies and your smere campaign against Geist doesn't harm your freedoms.

Things turned worse when John tried to claim that his being removed from a chapter forum was somehow censorship. He went further to use @mentions to cabinet ministers Moore and Clement about this fake censorship. Clearly ministers of the government had better things to do that weekend then be distracted by false accusations of censorship, especially since this was during the G8/G20 meetings.

There is no "blame the victim", as John was not a victim of anything. There was no censorship, and John is a very aggressive promoter of his political philosophy who can't claim he is a victim when people respond to his public comments and disagree with his political philosophy.

His interactions with creators' rights activists who have different political philosophies have been dismissive, largely suggesting that his political philosophy helps creators while everyone else is wrong. I've observed him many times partake in the "he who shall not be named" smear campaign against Michael Geist, along with fellow conservative creators.

When someone accused him of being unfriendly towards Fair Copyright for Canada participants, and being part of a smear campaign against Michael Geist, I didn't need to join yet another forum and read new examples of these themes . I had already seen them at Copycamp and other discussion forums for a few years now.

So, John aggressively promotes a political philosophy that creators in Fair Copyright for Canada disagree with, and then he feels he is a victim when people don't just let his views stand idly without comment.


When the above discussed rant didn't go as planned, John then added attack of the tweets - "Fairness" strikes back. I'm not sure what John's intent is here, but I feel the right to respond given he copied some of my tweets into the article.

@jkdegen I am blaming you for belittling the concept of #censorship by abusing the word! @FreeTheInternet @TonyClement_MP @mpjamesmoore

@jkdegen @jkoblovsky @TonyClement_MP @mpjamesmoore And even then you can't tell #censorship from a manager/proprietor asking you to leave?

@jkdegen As you continue to misuse the word #censorship , you only help clarify why you were removed from that forum by its Creator/manager.

Anyone with a dictionary (to look up the word "censorship") and the time to look at the times on the tweet streams will not agree with John's version of events in his blog article. After being as aggressive as he has been, he is now trying to get sympathy. I can only believe it is aimed at fellow conservatives, and is under the hope that they are true conservatives that won't look up the entire discussion and find out what other creators are saying.

I've been asked in private more than once why I still participate in conversations with John given we have so much we disagree with. I believe I learn more by communicating with people I disagree with than those I agree with. I don't want to be stuck in a bubble. Unlike other conservatives in the copyright debate who just like to broadcast their views one-way, John is quite willing to engage in pubic conversation. I have learned from and through him quite a bit about why I believe the things that I do. It is just unfortunate that I often learn what I believe will help Canadian creators by realising that I am disagreeing with John.

My having these conversations in public is also potentially helpful for other creators who hadn't yet thought about what type of political philosophy they subscribe to. They want policies that help creators, and may not have realised that there is not "one true way" to do this. They may also realise that some of the people who conservative creators claim are anti-copyright, "babyish" or "extremists" are in fact centrist or liberal creators' rights advocates who may better represent their views.

Side-note: An irony for those who read this blog. John Degen has been reading and posting quotes from Jaron Lanier's book: You are not a Gadget. Why am I not surprised John and Jaron share ideas? *smile*

Thanks Mike : G-20 on the wrong path.

Mike Nickerson has been one of those friends/acquaintances I've known for a long time, having met fairly early on when I moved to Ottawa in the 1980's. Among other things he runs something called the Sustainability Project - 7th Generation Initiative. While much of my personal policy focus over recent years has been on exclusive rights run amok, something I consider linked to sustainability, I have been a supporter of his project for some time.

It's nice to see some actual policy commentary about the G20, which I read in a message he sent out to his contacts. He suggested sending letters to the editor, but I am just going to reproduce his letter here to what may be a totally different audience in the hopes it will spark others to think about these issues too.

To the Editor:

When the G20 met, there was talk about the need for structural change in the global economy. While this is true, there is little evidence that the world's leaders acknowledge the fundamental change that has rendered the old system obsolete.

Human activity has expanded to the point where the overall size of the global economy is a problem. Supplies of energy, fresh water, soil fertility and rare earth metals, among other resource issues and pollution issues including greenhouse gases, accumulating garbage and toxins trespassing within our bodies are increasingly in the news. These issues are all warnings that humankind is filling our planets capacity to support us.

As economics is presently structured, a 3% growth rate, world wide, is considered healthy, tho not robust. At 3%, human activity would double in 24 years. This means that in the time it takes for a baby to grow up, we could fill another planet, as abundant as Earth, to the point where we were also stretching its limits. This much growth cannot happen on the single planet that we occupy. Is it a wonder that growth falters?

The necessary structural change is like the change that happens when an adolescent reaches physical maturity. Physical growth is replaced by a sense of justice and responsibility. Only when our leaders start talking about structural change that would be fair to all, while respecting our planet's size, can we expect significant improvements in the world's economic outlook and the long-term future of the grandchildren.

Sincerely, Mike Nickerson
Lanark, Ontario

- 30 -

I kinda giggle when I hear someone talking about maturity. I've said for years that our advancement of natural sciences and technology have greatly outstripped our advancement of social sciences, and we are all feeling the costs of this. We have such smart individuals, but as societies we are currently so immature -- and in the social sciences I feel the self-called "developed" nations are the least developed.

Something to think about, the day after the 143'rd Canada Day. We are so young, and have such a long way to go....