The Web and Society

Post ImageThe second keynote of the morning is with Rob Hyndman and Dr. Michael Geist, who will be chatting about the web and society. Here are my notes, with my comments again in italics. I think Michael looks a little like Billy Crystal.

  • Oooh a slidedeck! Michael Geist is opening with a presentation, and he’s using pictures on slides just like we saw at Northern Voice. Seems to be a popular format. He’s talking about Sam Bulte and the copyright fiasco that happened over the holidays. He’s an excellent speaker. I guess the bloggers defeated Bulte in the last election. Or did they?
  • Three lessons we can draw: new voices, new stakeholders, new copyright.
  • There is a tendency at times to focus on the negativity of what’s taking place (spam, porn, etc). There is some remarkable stuff taking place: content creation, content sharing, good news story.
  • Readership of papers is flat in Canada, in decline in the US.
  • Canadian retail sales of books remain constant. Records for vide games. Declines for music.
  • “What is more long tail than Canadian content?”
  • Michael’s question is what’s the policy to ensure this great stuff continues, and in fact, to encourage it?

Now we’re getting to the conversation.

  • Rob says “after hearing Michael speak, I feel like going out to run a marathon, the world is gonna be okay.” Agreed.
  • We’re looking at new legislation being introduced probably this fall. Michael says that US-style law is protection for things like DRM. The tools and laws don’t work.
  • What about iTunes, it requires DRM, doesn’t that tell us something? Michael says it tells us something about the labels, only willing to do it when DRM came around. It will be unfortunate if we end up in a world with only iTunes.
  • Where is the Canadian content? Apple doesn’t need to negotiate deals with the smaller companies, so these things are missing.
  • We saw some movment in France to try and rollback DRM, are there signs that there is some flexibility? Michael says users already have control over content, the question is whether we’re going to lock them up for it. A growing number of countries are recognizing that policies put into place in the 1990s are outdated, and don’t reflect the current state of the web.
  • We’re seeing a move to a more collaborative method of content creation. What does this tell us about the ideal model of intellectual property protection? Rob says he isn’t anti-copyright, but we need to understand that some of the reforms are not about copyright, but protecting markets. DVD region encoding, for example, has nothing to do with copyright.
  • Question from the floor: do we need new copyright policy in Canada or not? Michael says the starting point is “do no harm.” There are some opportunities: we have a fairly limited fair use right, which is stifling to new business, for example. There is an opportunity to do good, but we can do a lot of harm along the way.
  • What is the current political reality? The Canadian Recording Industry is about as good a lobbying group as there is. When musicians finally speak out, it’s a breath of fresh air, but you can’t undo twenty years of lobbying in two weeks. Matthew Good and the Barenaked Ladies are leaders in this space. There’s a new coalition of artists.
  • Question about the SOCAN levies: Michael says their vision of levies really went to liabilities. It’s unlikely we’ll see a lot of people push in that direction.
  • Another question: Do you see young people getting more politically active if their fun is limited? Michael says it is tough to say, but if there is an issue, this is it. More and more people are starting to see this as their issue, for example, the musicians.
  • Michael says there will unquestionably be infringements, but that’s why we have a system, so that we have a set of rules and we have certain abilities when someone clearly violates. This may be a very smart room, but none of us is smart enough to see what the world will look like in a few years. But I would argue that all of us is smart enough, the wisdom of crowds!
  • This is not just a copyright issue, net neutrality plays a big role. Michael says it is absolutely an issue here in Canada, for example, what happened with Telus during the lockout. If you have economic incentive to block content, and no laws in place to say you can’t use market power to do that, then we’ve got problems.
  • Michael says we need to rethink policies that are developed with the idea that everyone will want incentive (say getting paid for blogging).

3 thoughts on “The Web and Society

  1. The US has fair use rights. Canada and England (with similar laws) have ‘fair dealings’, i.e. things that won’t be an infringement, rather than being a right.

    I dare say, if more people actually knew that they were infringing on copyright, they’d be more of a public push to make things ‘fairer’.

  2. I think you’re right. I’ve seen it with podcasting. People simply do not know what fair use is, or when they are infringing on something.

    I think these two topics, fair use and copyright, need to be taught in high school, or perhaps even earlier. I don’t remember them being mentioned at all, except for the whole "don’t cheat" paranoia that usually surrounds a learning institution.

  3. I’ve seen an over emphasis on the consequences of plaguarism in high schools recently, but nothing about why anyone should respect copyright or the business models that rely on it.

    How many people running or entering a small retail outlet realise that playing a radio in the background can be an infringement of the copyright owner’s right to perform a work, without payment of an available license? Business owners actually get fined for that in the UK – it’s just so rare that most people don’t even know about it. There’s even a license to cover music in the workplace. A central agency (rather than several in the US) collects fees and distributes them to artists.

    How many people watching hockey in a bar know of the extra hoops/fees the venue owner has to deal with to be able to do that? Ever wondered why restaurants sometimes have a video playing, but they play the sounds from something else instead of the TV sound?

    See http://www.prs.co.uk/subsites/router/5/default.asp to see how UK licensing of public performances works, esp. the first item about playing music on business premises. It’s a minefield of fees, and the relevant Act even seems to state that someone can be infringing even if they are not aware of it, i.e. ignorance is not an excuse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s