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(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘copyright consultation’

Stacking the digEcon Deck

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on July 22, 2010

[My digEcon problems are covered in this three part series, first, digEcon Backstory (Bill C-32) is in the wind, the second, digEcon scandals in Oh! Canada and the conclusion here in StopUBB]

Canadian Flag

The two month public Canadian Digital Economy Consultation ended last week. Canadians were asked for input on how we want our Government to proceed with Digital Economy policy.

Weren’t we?

The Digital Economy Homepage seems pleased so many Canadians participated:

“Between May 10 and July 13, more than 2000 Canadian individuals and organizations registered

to share their ideas and submissions. You can read their contributions — and the comments from other users — in the Submissions Area and the Idea Forum.”
digitaleconomy.gc.ca

Sounds great.

Until you contrast that figure with the more than eight thousand Canadians who made submissions to last year’s Copyright Consultation.

What happened? Why was there so little participation for this public consultation?

Probably the single biggest turnoff to citizen participation– the thing that kept Canadians away from the Government’s Digital Economy Consultation in droves– was Bill C-32. When this so called “Copyright Modernization” legislation was introduced in the house of Commons, it’s similarity to the American DMCA made it instantly clear that this Government chose to ignore the majority of citizen input from the Copyright Consultation. As a result, the prevailing feeling among Canadians seemed to be “why bother?”

Making it Hard to be Heard

The complexity of the Digital Economy Consultation leads me to the conclusion that it wasn’t put together in a day, rather it had been in the works for quite a while.   Yet I didn’t see any publicity build up.   It was announced and launched with lightning speed.   By the Federal Government.

Was the timing a deliberate attempt to to distract Canadians from our outrage about “Bill C-32: the Copyright Modernization Act” ?

NO Canadian DMCA

The Digital Economy Consultation made it emphatically clear that copyright would not be considered a valid topic. People who used the discussion forums complained that any copyright discussions were quickly shut down.

This position would have been perfectly reasonable if the Government kept of copyright and the digital technology issues separate. But the Government’s own draft copyright legislation Bill C-32 strayed from the realm of copyright into the world of digital locks– and in fact subjugates all copyright to DRM/TRM. First the Government dissolved the division between the two areas and then they refused to allow discussion of the ramifications. Clearly copyright should have been an acceptable topic for discussion in the Digital Consultation. Disallowing it resulted in a credibility loss.

After all, the magnificent response to the Copyright Consultation was not what the Government wanted to hear. Certainly they didn’t want to hear it all again in the Digital Economy Consultation. Did they set out to make this Digital Economy Consultation deliberately difficult, precisely to discourage ordinary Canadian citizens from speaking up? Certainly the Government raised barriers to participation for the Digital Economy Consultation.

First Barrier: almost no lead time.

The Digital Economy Website was announced and then it was underway.

Second Barrier: Quantities of prerequisite reading.

A lot to read onsite, beginning with the Consultation Paper Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity. Copied into Open Office it ran 32 pages. The digitaleconomy.gc.ca site was bursting with links to reference material (much of it government web pages). It listed rules and regulations, defined the terms of the consultation, provided News, FAQ’s and forums, although I never saw them since there just wasn’t enough time.

There was a fair bit to read and think about before participating in the online forums or making a submission. Which would have been fine except for the time limit.   Either the consultation period should have been substantially longer, or the reference and background material should have been made available online for at least a couple of weeks before the Consultation even began.

Third Barrier

The last problem was the submission form itself. Unlike the Copyright Consultation where you could answer all the questions in one submission, the Digital Economy Consultation was segregated into different categories. You had to choose one category or another. Some people made submissions in more than one category, and some answered questions for all the categories in one submission. Either way the very process was awkward, and more difficult than it had to be.

Did they actually want submissions?

The Submissions Page

My submission was the first posted after the extension. I could have made it in under the wire– there was an hour left to submit when I finished– but once I saw the Consultation had been extended I chose to take the time to proof read.

When my submission was posted it was disappointing to see my summary wasn’t included. Instead a portion of the submission was extracted. So I uploaded it a second time. When my resubmission appeared it was added to the submission page without replacing the original.

Multiple drafts of the same submission appear to be separate submissions. A few submissions were made in both official languages, and both these appear as individual submissions to a casual perusal, again making it look as though there were more submissions.

Wayback Machine Screenshot

It took quite a bit of effort just to separate the organizations from the individuals. Initially I thought it would be a simple matter to scroll through the submissions page. In many cases the extract didn’t clearly indicate if the submission was on behalf of an individual or an organization, making it necessary to read the entire summary, or even the submission. And even then there were some I still wasn’t entirely sure of.

When I noticed new submissions being added, I was curious if any submissions had been expunged, so I ran the URL through archive.org’s the WayBack Machine. This is an excellent online tool that makes digital snapshots of the web for safekeeping, and allowing for web searches into the past. But it seems the Canadian Government doesn’t allow this kind of oversight since they’ve elected to disallow robot searches.

The Government’s decision to lock out the Wayback Machine means Canadians have no way to tell if submissions have been quietly removed. Or not.

Even so, you don’t have to be a statistical analyst to see that there weren’t very many submissions at all.

Looking at the Submissions

Discounting duplicates, only 52 submissions were submitted before the original deadline.

Which sounds like an excellent reason to extend the deadline. After all, over 8,000 Submissions were made to the Copyright Consultation.

At the eleventh hour, the Government extended the deadline for four days.

During those four days another 206 submissions were made, bringing the grand total up to 258 submissions.

Before the deadline, individuals made 18 of the submissions while organizations made 34. Around half.

After the deadline extension, individuals made an additional 18 submissions, while organizations made an additional 188 submissions. That’s a stunningly different ratio, with only ten percent of post deadline submissions being made by individuals.

extension

Four days was an odd amount of time to choose for an extension. Last year’s Copyright Consultation announced a 48 hour “grace period” to allow all the submissions to get in. Of course, the government site was being overwhelmed by the volume of last day submissions which resulted in an enormous backlog.

In a perfect world I would have liked a week to make the best submission possible, because I think it would probably have taken a week — full time — to do it properly.

So four days wasn’t really enough time for most people to come up with a comprehensive full fledged submission from scratch. But four days might be just enough time for a team.

Clearly this isn’t the case for organizations because they can spread the work around. I have to wonder why so many of these organizations came in after the initial deadline. Is it possible that some organizations didn’t even start a submission before the deadline?

Was the deadline extension to allow entities government friendly entities an opportunity to whip up quick submissions to slant the results of the Digital Economy Consultation in the direction the Government always intended to go?

Or perhaps some submissions came in deliberately too late for discussion in the idea forum? The Digital Economy Idea-Forum on the website was shut down at the same time as the submissions deadline, leaving no official place for discussion of these late submissions. Perhaps some of the late submitters hoped to avoid public scrutiny.

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I am curious. Was this consultation doomed from the beginning by stacking the deck?

Stacking the deck?

A small trickle of additional submissions are being added. A new one today. There was one yesterday, none the day before, one the day before that. Why are submissions being added after the Consultation closed?

This is the digEcon, not the copycon. It isn’t like the government is snowed in under the response– far from it. The amount of digEcon registrants was a quarter the number of submissions made for the copycon.

Not only that, the copycon didn’t post submissions locked in PDFs (with the exception of the SOCAN submission, which asked for and received special treatment), they converted them to html so they could be easily read by anyone online without forcing citizens to use the proprietary Adobe reader. (And although PDF is quasi-open source, only the proprietary Adobe reader reads Adobe PDFs properly.)

It was plausible that it would take some time to get all of the copycon submissions online. That is certainly not true here.

If these submissions were actually submitted before the (extended!) deadline, there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate rationale as to why it’s taking so long to include them. Particularly as submissions were accepted via the digEcon site’s online form.

What possible justification is there for these submissions to be posted one at a time? The most reasonable supposition is that they are still being submitted. Is it possible that some organizations made these late submissions because the Government asked them to?

If submissions are closed they should be closed to everyone. If the consultation is open, it should be open to all. Doing it this way at the very least gives the appearance of impropriety: it appears that submissions are closed unless they says what the government wants to hear.

This simply further undermines any credibility of the consultation may have had.

Shuffling the Deck

Going back to the digEcon submissions page again tonight (Thursday 22, July, 2010) things have again changed. Duplicate submissions– or at least some of them, including my initial submission — have been removed.

I can’t say either way if there are more or fewer submissions, but my numbers seem a wee bit off. There are also menu options at the top of the submissions list which allows selection of a listing of submissions by Individual or Organization as well as by “most recent”, which may or may not have been there before. It would have been extraordinarily helpful had it been there/had I noticed before.

At this time I don’t have any more time to sink into this article, so I think it’s time to cut to the chase.

Who submitted?

The strangest submission I looked at was this: The Minister of Industry’s Advisory Committee on Assistive Devices for Persons with Disabilities, or ACAD. The digEcon is supposed to be a public consultation, but this submission was made by an Minister of Industry’s Advisory Committee. Don’t they already have access?   Even more troubling, this Government Committee didn’t actually write the submission, it was made by an outside PR firm. What’s up with that?

My vote for the most incredible submission made by a corporation is the one made by Adobe Systems Canada Inc.. This submission caught my eye as one of the very few submissions made in plain text rather than sealed into an Adobe PDF requiring the use of the proprietary Adobe reader. It seems Adobe knows when it is appropriate to use PDFs.

Of the small number of submissions that were made, there does seem to be some variety.

Individuals made submissions.

Online News Media, Educational Institutions and Library Associations made submissions.

Industry Associations, Professional Organizations, Citizen Lobby Groups, Special Interest Groups, Corporations and Content Creators made submissions.

Carrier/ISPs and Independent ISPs

Carrier/ISPs

The Internet “backbone” is made up of “Carriers”, or the companies that control the wire that the Internet travels across, namely telephone and cable wire. Internet Service Provers, or ISPs connect to the Internet through the carriers.

Some ISPs are branches of the same companies that are carriers. In addition to being Internet carriers and ISPs, many if not all of these corporations are involved in other businesses as cell phone providers, broadcasters and content creators. This certainly seems to be a recipe for anti-competitive practices at the very least, and certainly is Canada’s largest barrier to net neutrality.

Bell in particular is appears to be many different companies on paper, but in reality these are a family of Bell companies, who share similar if not the same goals. I’ve included CTVglobemedia in the Bell/Telus group since Bell is a major shareholder.


Bell/Telus Submissions

Cogeco Submission

Rogers Submission

Shaw Submission

Videotron Submission


Independent Internet Service Providers

Independent ISPs acquire Internet access through the same carriers and the same wire as the carrier ISPs. The Independent ISPs compete directly with the carrier/ISPs.

Independent Internet Service Provider Submissions

Canadian Association of Internet Providers

MTS Allstream Inc.

TekSavvy Solutions Inc.

Xittel The Coalition of Internet Service Providers inc. (CISP): The future of telecommunications competition in Canada


Total Bell related submissions: 8
Total Carrier/ISP submissions: 12

The disproportionately large volume of input from the Bell/Telus group in particular worries me.

No Usage Based Billing

Currently, Canadian Internet users are living under the threat of Bell introduction of Usage Based Billing. Although not yet implemented, UBB has been approved by the CRTC with the specific intent of discouraging Canadian Internet use. The CRTC approved this as a way for Bell the carrier to practice Internet “traffic management”. The CRTC approved Usage Based Billing because Bell Canada convinced them that the best way to manage the Internet was to curb customer use by imposing caps and high prices

Because Bell thinks decreased Canadian Internet participation is a good idea.

This seems like the absolute worst thing that Canada could possibly do in terms of growing a Digital Economy. Any proposal on how the Canadian Government should manage Canada’s Digital Economy from a corporate entity that believes reducing Canadian Internet participation is a good thing makes me very nervous indeed.



Back to digEcon scandalsBack Navigational Arrow



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10897 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm both Canadians and our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

#digicon

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on May 21, 2010

was #copycon futile?

No Usage Based Billing
Last year the Canadian Government held a Copyright Consultation to ask Canadians what we thought was important for Canadian copyright law. More than 8,000 Canadians from all across Canada made #copycon submissions. We have yet to see if we were heard, although rumour has it that the legislature will be seeing a new Canadian Copyright bill soon… possibly for June 2010. Many of us have serious concerns about whether it was an exercise in futility or not.

No.

From my perspective, even if the government does not listen and learn from the #copycon, I know I have learned an enormous amount about copyright and how we think from other Canadians who made submissions. From things I’ve read and learned from the #copycon, if I were to make a copyright submission today it would be very different. But that’s another post.

Canadians are talking about copyright, and understanding the forces at play much better. The conversation is far from over, and we need to get a handle on things and come to a consensus about before law is made.

What was said by Canadians in the formal Copyright Consultation submissions has laid the foundation of a valuable resource for all Canadians. A reference primer of “What Canadians Want”.

we don’t want bad law

But the law may be made anyway. Rumours that the government will try to push through a Canadian DMCA (a Bill C61 clone) have many citizens worried. But sometimes that happens, bad laws get passed.

Probably one of the biggest exercises in lawmaking futility was the American 1919 Volstead Act which we know more familiarly as Prohibition. God fearing law abiding solid citizens— people who wouldn’t have so much as dreamt of jay walking before Prohibition— instantly transformed into criminals frequenting speakeasies when the American law outlawing alcoholic beverages went into effect. The roaring twenties came and went before Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Because prohibition favored the goals of a special interest group over society’s mores it just couldn’t work. Aside from fostering near universal flagrant contempt for the law among citizens, a serious byproduct was the support this bad law gave to the growth of organized crime. Before American Prohibition, the mafia was just some petty disorganized criminals. After Prohibition gangsters became rock stars. How many books, articles, movies and even musicals have grown up out of the gangster mystique. Canada’s own gangster wannabes in The Boyd Gang seem to have hatched out of the gangster mythology. Folk heroes even.

Friar Tuck and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, Robin In The Hood Festival

Hundreds of years later we still idolize Robin Hood

What I know of history has shown that when bad laws are passed the populace initially chafes and suffers. Although the government passing the bad law hopes that people will put up with it, one thing that they never seem to expect is that bad laws provide their opponents with points of commonality.

Often people who are ideologically incapable of co-operating are galvanized into finding a way to work together when a bad law is passed. The bad law itself becomes a visible rallying point, a specific dragon to slay.

But one of the most compelling things that any bad law provides to its detractors are the martyrs.

Although I talked about this story as an example of what to expect if the secret A.C.T.A. treaty is passed, it is a real life demonstration of what is happening right now in the US under the existing American DMCA. A young woman went to jail for the crime of recording her sister’s birthday party.

And although history shows that bad laws tend to be overturned in time, I still think it’s better not to have bad laws in the first place.

In the case of copyright, the people who will be most harmed by bad copyright law are the younger generation, many of whom have not attained voting age. As a mother, this special interest group is important to me, because I don’t want to see bad things happen to our best and brightest.

As a student of history I do know that there will very soon be a time when this generation will not only be able to vote but, may well be able to form a government. When I was a teenager we thought running for student council was a big deal. Today Canada’s newest political party has been formed largely by people barely old enough to vote.

Digital Economy Consultation

In the meantime the Canadian government has again asked us for our input.

This time it is for a Digital Economy Consultation. How the Canadian Government reacts to the changes caused by the digital world will have a huge impact on our future. Our economy.

A long time ago Canada had climbed to the forefront of the world of technology with the Avro Arrow. Yet an incredibly short sighted government pulled the plug on that and well and truly killed the project. Naturally it triggered a “brain drain”, as many of Canada’s best and brightest migrated to the United States to work at NASA. Surely we don’t want to go that route again.

Acryllic on Illustration board painting by Aviation Artist Lance Russwurm

Once Canada led the world in technology...

We certainly don’t want to end up in a legislative shambles the way the United Kingdom has. Their ill advised Digital Economy Bill (know to Twitterati as #DEBill) which was rushed through the legislative procedure without proper scrutiny resulted in a hung parliament and the fall of a Prime Minister. Surely Canada doesn’t want to go that route either.

All Canadians should try to participate…

…even if we say what we think and what we want, and they choose not to hear, the ideas will still be out there floating in the ether.

Judging by the quantity and passion of the comments I’ve been reading in online articles to do with weighty issues like UBB and copyright, many of us have thought about this and have a lot of good ideas. This is a good place to put them. And what better time to be heard than when we are lucky enough to have a minority government. At times like this, governments at least try to give the appearance of listening.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but as a mom I can tell you, when you ask your kid to pretend to go to sleep, before long he really is asleep. Maybe if our government starts out by appearing to listen to our submissions they will accidentally find themselves actually listening.

It’s worth a shot.

#digicon

I think that the #digicon will be just as valuable for Canadians as the #copycon was. The process isn’t quite the same as the earlier consultation. As I understand it, off topic comments (such as talking about copyright reform) are likely to be moderated out of the forums.

Read the #digicon Consultation Paper
Participate in the digicon forums – see what other people have to say
DENT about #digicon
tweet about #digicon.
Talk about it on your wall.
Then write your own submission.
**Note: They want a 250 – 500 word summary of the submission as well. I assume to make it easier to sort the piles.

the process

It seems that although the 40 page Submission Guidelines can be downloaded as a PDF, they are also available in clear HTML on the website. Yay! I love that they are asking for submissions in

“text-only format or as a document upload (e.g., Word, RTF or WordPerfect formats”

http://de-en.gc.ca/submissions/

Sounds like they’d rather not get stuck in the PDF morass they had for copycon. Deconstructing all the PDF submissions is probably the chief reason why it took so long for all the submissions to be posted online.
(I hate PDFs!)

time limit

As of today, there are 49 days to make a submission. But there’s a lot to think about, so don’t leave it until the last minute (as so many of us did with #copycon)

Things you might say today may help someone else develop a brilliant strategy that would benefit us all. (Hint: that’s why re:mixing is such a good idea)

back-up

I read a comment yesterday from someone who was concerned that the comment or link they’d posted to the #digicon page had been subsequently removed (or moved somewhere else).

If you’re concerned that may happen to your comments or links, or if you’ve something you want to say about the Canadian Digital Economy Consultation that you feel may not survive their moderation, feel free to put it in the #digicon links & comments
My only rules: no spam, no personal attacks/hate mongering.

Similarly, if you have pertinent links you think may help answer questions or examine the issues, feel free to include them. If they start to pile up, when I have a minute I’ll list them under #digicon links in the sidebar.

insurance

Because some Canadians are a bit cynical, we not only submitted our formal #copycon submission to the government, we also posted it on our blogs or websites as (ahem) insurance.

As any emerging artist knows, the wider you can disseminate your art the more people will have the opportunity to become a fan. Or in this case, the more people who can see and read the argument, the more can understand the argument.

to blog or not to blog

If you don’t have one, you can get a free blog from various sources; personally I’d recommend WordPress.
If you don’t want a blog, but want to be heard, I’m willing to post submissions on the Oh! Canada blog as a guest post.

Consultation Questions

Innovation Using Digital Technologies

  • Should Canada focus on increasing innovation in some key sectors or focus on providing the foundation for innovation across the economy?
  • Which conditions best incent and promote adoption of ICT by Canadian business?
  • What would a successful digital strategy look like for your firm or sector? What are the barriers to implementation?
  • Once copyright, anti-spam and data breach/privacy amendments are in place, are their other legislative or policy changes needed to deal with emerging issues?
  • How can Canada use its regulatory and policy regime to promote Canada as a favourable environment for e-commerce?

Digital Infrastructure

  • What speeds and other service characteristics are needed by users (e.g., consumers, businesses, public sector bodies) and how should Canada set goals for next generation networks?
  • What steps must be taken to meet these goals? Are the current regulatory and legislative frameworks conducive to incenting investment and competition? What are the appropriate roles of stakeholders in the public and private sectors?
  • What steps should be taken to ensure there is sufficient radio spectrum available to support advanced infrastructure development?
  • How best can we ensure that rural and remote communities are not left behind in terms of access to advanced networks and what are the priority areas for attention in these regions?

Growing the ICT Industry

  • Do our current investments in R&D effectively lead to innovation, and the creation of new businesses, products and services? Should we promote investments in small start-ups to expand our innovation capacity?
  • What is needed to innovate and grow the size of the ICT industry including the number of large ICT firms headquartered in Canada?
  • What would best position Canada as a destination of choice for venture capital and investments in global research and development mandates?
  • What efforts are needed to address the talent needs in the coming years?

Canada’s Digital Content

  • What does creating Canada’s digital content advantage mean to you?
  • What elements do you want to see in Canada’s marketplace framework for digital media and content?
  • How do you see digital content contributing to Canada’s prosperity?
  • What kinds of infrastructure investments do you foresee making in the future? What kinds of infrastructure will you need in the future to be successful at home and abroad?
  • How can stakeholders encourage investment, particularly early stage investment, in the development of innovative digital media and content?

Building Digital Skills

  • What do you see as the most critical challenges in skills development for a digital economy?
  • What is the best way to address these challenges?
  • What can we do to ensure that labour market entrants have digital skills?
  • What is the best way to ensure the current workforce gets the continuous upskilling required to remain competitive in the digital economy? Are different tactics required for SMEs versus large enterprises?
  • How will the digital economy impact the learning system in Canada? How we teach? How we learn?
  • What strategies could be employed to address the digital divide?

Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage

  • Should we set targets for our made-in-Canada digital strategy? And if so, what should those targets be?
  • What should the timelines be to reach these targets?

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves


There are a lot of questions. After reading the material, listening and/or participating in the forum discussions, chatting with co-workers around the water cooler or the oil rig, or the kids in your youth group, or with your e-friends on Identi,ca, Twitter or Facebook…

Say what you think.

Our government is asking us for input. Let’s give it to them.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[Digital Economy Simulpost: Since this will affect all Canadians, I'm posting the same post in all three of my blogs, Oh! Canada, StopUBB, and in the wind]



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10796 signatures.

If you have already signed, who else should you be asking to sign?

That’s easy: anyone who uses the Internet.

Because Usage Based Billing will harm both Canadians and our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

D: BitTorrent

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 24, 2009

No Usage Based Billing
No Usage Based Billing

[The First Part of this series was <<A: Open Source. The second installment of the Stop Usage Based Billing alphabet series was <<B: Packets and the Internet. The third installment was <a href="<<C: Deep Packet Inspection, and the final installment will be E: Open Source Deep Packet Inspection]

What is BitTorrent Anyway??

“BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol used for distributing large amounts of data. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and it has been estimated that it accounts for approximately 27-55% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009.”

Wikipedia on BitTorrent

BitTorrent is an extremely fast and efficient means of uploading and downloading. BitTorrent is an excellent way to distribute large materials to many people via the internet.

Radical Ideas

Like so many of the radical new ways to do things that technology and the internet have made possible, BitTorrent can only work through co-operation. BitTorrent requires a network of “peers”, or other people’s computers who are willing to share the file. This is referred to as “peer to peer” or “p2p.

If I have a large file I want to transfer, the first step is to “seed” the file, transferring portions of the file to multiple members of the p2p network.

BitTorrent begins seeding portions of the file for transfer

Diagram 1: Seeding

It only takes a small fraction of the file to be passed along before the process speeds up enormously.

Seeding continues, but peers have begun exchanging data

Diagram 2: Seeding and Sharing

Once I have a small portion, i pass it along at the same time as I’m receiving new bits of the same file, either from the original seed source of another peer.

uploading and downloading

Diagram 3: Upload + Download = Speed

With many participants (peers) uploading and downloading at the same time, large files can be distributed very quickly indeed.

Diagram 4: Finish Fast

Bell Canada “Throttles” BitTorrent

Bell Canada

When Bell Canada was first caught “throttling” internet traffic to the Independent ISP customers, Bell Canada’s justification to the CRTC was that the internet was too crowded, and that it was necessary to “manage” the traffic. Bell claimed that they needed to employ Deep Packet Inspection to identify BitTorrent Traffic so that they can “throttle” it.

Mandate:
“The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. ”

CRTC Role, CRTC Website

Amazingly, the CRTC had nothing to say about Bell Canada’s plans to discriminate against particular Canadian internet users.

The CRTC has accepted Bell’s unsubstantiated contention that this discrimination was necessary, and in approving it they have allowed Bell Canada to think that this discrimination is acceptable. In no way does this serve the Canadian public.

You might almost think that the CRTC mandate was to suppress Canadian creativity and the creation of Canadian movies and music. The availability of the technologies that exist to make it easy to create our own movies and music should be welcomed as an opportunity to add to and help grow our Canadian Culture.

Why single out BitTorrent traffic for throttling if it is an efficient use of the available bandwidth?

One of Bell Canada’s arguments for implementation of Usage Based Billing is that Canadian internet bandwidth is in short supply, making it necessary for them to “manage” bandwidth by penalizing heavy users.

So how could anything as efficient as BitTorrent possibly be seen as a bad thing if the Internet is so crowded?

It doesn’t make sense to discriminate against BitTorrent use. There is nothing inherently bad about BitTorrent use or BitTorrent internet traffic. But Bell Canada’s contention is that BitTorrent is bad because people use it to download movies and music.

Which begs the question: how does that make BitTorrent bad?

The Copyright Red Herring

The “Copyright Lobby”, which consists of large media producers and distributors (like Disney), and corporations and organizations (like MPAA), who distribute commercial movies and music, want us to believe that this is a bad thing.

This corporate special interest group has spent a great deal of time, energy and cash trying to promote the “pravda” that any digital copying of copyright works is bad. Making no distinction between commercial bootleggers who distribute illegal copies for profit and legal purchasers who seek to make a back-up copy or digital format shift for personal use, the Copyright Lobby has been pressuring governments the world over to criminalize personal use copying.

The problem for ordinary citizens is that these corporate interests have vast quantities of money to spend and a great deal of media power. This makes it incredibly difficult for governments to stand up to their onslaught. In some parts of the world this persistent advocacy has paid off for the Copyright Lobby, as lawmakers knuckle under and legislate to the detriment of their own citizens by making it illegal even to copy or download movies or music for personal use.

Here in Canada the Copyright Lobby is seeking to influence our lawmakers to criminalize personal use copying. They are trying to make Canadians think that people who make copies for personal use are performing criminal acts, and should be penalized the same as a a bootlegger who films the latest theatrical release off a theatre screen and proceeds to sell hundreds of thousands of bootleg DVDs.

Once again, Channel Four’s hilarious I.T. Crowd puts this question in perspective with this send-up of a video piracy commercial I found on YouTube.

Strong and free?

Strong and free?

Canadian Law says

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, personal use copying is simply not illegal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, use of the BitTorrent file transfer protocol is also perfectly legal.

RIGHT NOW, in Canada, peer to peer (p2p) file sharing is legal; Canadians break no laws simply by joining in a p2p network.

The Copyright Lobby’s smear tactics have gone a long way toward making the world believe that BitTorrent is inherently bad.

Bell Canada has convinced the CRTC that it is acceptable to “throttle” BitTorrent, because of BitTorrent’s reputed connection with possible copyright infringement. So although BitTorrent is perfectly legal, Canadian internet users are paying the price for the success of this Copyright Lobby propaganda.

Myth: All BitTorrent/p2p internet traffic consists of copyright movies and music

The Corporate world doesn’t understand radical ideas like Open Source software and p2p file sharing because these concepts are so different from anything appearing in the old business models. Even more incomprehensible to the outdated business models is the fact that it may or may not generate a direct monetary profit.

International Business Machines

The classic example of corporate myopia is:

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. ”

—attributed to Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines, circa 1943

IBM For many years IBM has taken the rap for this quote whether or not Mr. Watson really did say it. (Most likely not.) Maybe proving it wrong is part of why IBM is such a going concern in the 21st Century. Having weathered the storms of fortune today’s IBM is a world leader by continuing to innovate and adapt alongside evolving attitudes and technologies. IBM has been steadily increasing their participation and involvement with Open Source software in this new century.

The reality is that IBM not only understands the importance of open source, the corporation has actively supported and promoted adoption of Linux and Open Office in the corporate world. And naturally BitTorrent is a part of the equation because it is such an efficient means to distribute large files (like for instance, Canonical’s Ubuntu.)

“Think.”

—Thomas J. Watson, president of International Business Machines

Seems IBM actually does heed their most enduring slogan (which definitely was coined by Mr. Watson). Sadly, this type of foresight is uncommon. Because BitTorrent is such a radical idea, most entrenched corporations simply aren’t capable of understanding it.

There are other uses for BitTorrent that are not only legal, but even perfectly acceptable in polite society.

The Nightingale and the Rose
Probably my favorite use of BitTorrent is the amazing Project Gutenberg. This organization has been digitizing books in the public domain and distributing them freely… via BitTorrent, since this is such an efficient method of digital distribution. After all, BitTorrent is used for transferring very large files like music and movies because it is very efficient.
firefox logo

BitTorrent file sharing is not all movies and music. Like IBM, many people actually use p2p to help distribute open source software like OpenOffice via p2p. There is a growing body of open source software available, for instance my favorite web browser is Mozilla’s Firefox.

In fact, there the awesome SourceForge website which provides a place to find all manner of open source software, or where you can release your own.

When a new distribution of Ubuntu is released, people around the world gather together and have Ubuntu Release Parties making more good use of BitTorrent

And of course the Pirate Party of Canada has established Captain: the Canadian Pirate Tracker, their own BitTorrent site where Recording Artists and Filmmakers (and I imagine novelists, and software creators as well would be welcome to utilize this) to freely distribute their work.

Every bit of music and every movie transferred is not a copyright infringement. If I get to the point where my home made movies may prove marketable, I would certainly be looking at BitTorrent Distribution. In fact it would probably be easier to distribute home movies to family via BitTorrent than it would be to try to burn DVDs. (DRM makes the two commercial movie making software packages I’ve purchased almost unusable. Of course it doesn’t slow down the bootleggers.) If YouTube is an indicator, I’m not the only person who wants to transfer music and movies freely … not as copyright infringements. I have paid levies to the music industry for home movies I have made and burrned to CD for distribution to friends and family. If I choose to transfer them via BitTorrent now I can avoid the levy but instead suffer the added expense of Bell Canada’s deliberate throttling inflation?

Another really good legal use of BitTorrents are the actual commercial websites where people can go to to purchase downloads of music. So far no one seems to have found anything wrong with this practice.

But that’s not all. Canada’s own CBC Television Network tried their own experiment by releasing an episode of their program Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister via BitTorrent. Unfortunately the BitTorrent didn’t work so well because of Bell Canada’s CRTC approved BitTorrent “throttling”.

Geist tweets about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation

Which is not to say it wasn’t a good idea. Not too long ago Michael Geist tweeted about the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation‘s foray into BitTorrent use. All accounts indicate that their experiment was very successful indeed, which is having a big impact in the way they do business.

Ink Poster

The sad tale of a pirated Independent film can be found in this TorrentFreak article Indie Movie Explodes on BitTorrent, Makers Bless Piracy.

I guess it isn’t such a sad story after all.  

Thanks to piracy this Indie film called INK was has been achieving a distribution level that the filmmakers had never dreamed of.  They are of course extraordinarily pleased.

I think what is being called piracy here is BitTorrent p2p personal use sharing. Friends sharing with friends is one of the most effective ways to achieve recognition. They used to call it a “grass roots” movement. This is one of the major issues for the large movie studios. This is the place where they complain of being ripped off. What they don’t seem to realize is that this is a good thing. Exposure garners fans, makes a “name”. Fans buy stuff.

BitTorrent Traffic is not the only thing Bell Canada is Throttling

keys
Rumour has it that there are people who actually work from home.

Time was the government encouraged the idea of people working from home. There are all sorts of advantages to society, like reduced congestion on actual highways, less wear and tear on our roads, a decrease in commuting based pollutants in our environment, a reduction of human depletion of fossil fuels.

But if you work from home, you are probably going to have to transfer files back and forth between your home and workplace. Chances are good that you are going to encrypt this type of traffic for security reasons. Although Bell Canada says they are only “throttling” BitTorrent traffic, in fact there have been instances of Bell throttling encrypted internet traffic on the assumption that if it’s encrypted, it must be BitTorrent traffic.

Bell places the onus on the customer to prove their “innocence” before they will consider stopping throttling.

Since the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to use Deep Packet Inspection to inspect our packets, the only way to ensure that our private information remains private is through encryption. And in Canada any encrypted internet traffic will most likely to be throttled.

Canadian Copyright Consultation

The Canadian Government is looking at updating Canadian copyright law. They held a copyright consultation process this year, traveling around Canada soliciting opinions of stakeholders. Even better, they set up a website where they accepted submissions from any Canadian who wished to contribute. This website was flooded with thousands of submissions. Some are simply a few lines, some are extensive essays covering all sorts of topics, but all I’ve read are heartfelt. Because of the overwhelming response it took a long time to get all the submissions posted. (My own submission finally made online.)

This process led a lot of Canadians, including me, to believe that the copycon process might actually mean that our elected representatives were listening to us.

Unfortunately there is currently a lot of pressure on our government to make copying movies, software and music for personal use illegal. The secret ACTA meetings have caused a feeling of dread to settle over most Canadians. There has been deprecating talk about weak Canadian copyright law.

Except it isn’t true.canadian copyright

If anything, Canadian copyright law is probably more robust than is good for us.

The essential problem that the copyright lobby is attempting to overcome the problem of suing their own customers for what they imagine are infringements. They have noticed that fighting personal use copying garners bad publicity. This problem can be neatly solved by passing the responsibility for finding and prosecuting copyright infringement to governments. And of course the only was to get government to take ob the responsibility is to convince them that the copyright infringement is a criminal offense.

Regardless, currently copyright law is imprecise as regards personal use copying. So we’ll just have to wait for an actual law to be passed before it becomes illegal. (This pressure is actually largely from foreign owned interests– like Disney. It will be interesting to see if our government caves to this outside pressure.)

mixed messages


The government mandated levy we pay every time we purchase a blank CD is a tacit governmental admission that it is legal to burn CDs of our own music.

In the pre-Tivo era, Canadian cable networks actively encouraged Canadians to videotape the movies that they showed so we could watch them when it was convenient. They called it “time shifting” in their massive advertising campaigns. But no media giants took our cable companies to court back then. For the same reason artists will lend or give away their work for free when they’re starting out (because they need to build and audience– exactly like the INK producers mentioned above), back then even Disney didn’t have a channel in Canada. So Disney didn’t kick up a fuss even though they had to have known this was happening. They let it go because it was in their best interests to allow time shifting (i.e personal use copying). Disney knew this was in their best interests because it would help the Canadian cable companies build their market.

Of course now Disney doesn’t want us to record their movies for personal use. Disney would be happy if our government decided personal use copying was illegal. They would be happier still if our government spent time and energy searching out and charging people who download Disney movies.

Disney would be happy they no longer had to expend time and energy chasing down copyright infringements. They would be ecstatic if our Mounties were to do it for them. Gratis.

But this precedent indicates copying movies for personal use is also legal in Canada

So even though p2p networks or copying movies and music are not actually illegal in Canada, our friends the CRTC gave Bell Canada permission to “throttle” anyone using BitTorrent transfers. Because the assumption is that even if you’re not technically performing criminal acts, per se, anyone who uses BitTorrent can’t be very nice.

The CRTC, the government body that is supposed to safeguard Canadian telecommunication consumers, gave Bell Canada legal permission to mess with BitTorrent traffic. Its discriminatory for one thing. If there are copyright infringements happening, there are laws to handle them. It isn’t any of Bell Canada’s business. Or the CRTC’s.

[More on copyright in my other blog-- in the wind: Personal Use Copying vs. Bootlegging]

Dudley Do-Right?

Eirik Solheim's metaphorical image of the internet is the best I've seen: The internet is a series of tubes

Even if it were true that Canadian consumers were downloading music or movies, and even if it had been made illegal under Canadian Law, it should not make a whit of difference.

Because Internet Service Providers or Internet Carriers are NOT branches of Canadian law enforcement. They have not been deputized to enforce the law by the RCMP. If Bell Canada was in fact a Law Enforcement entity they would not be allowed to peek in any citizen’s packets without first acquiring a search warrant. Corporations don’t exist to uphold laws, they exist to make money.

The internet has been called dumb pipes, or a series of tubes, or a highway. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, what is most important is access for all.  
The people who control the pipes should not be allowed to discriminate against particular users for ANY reason. Net Neutrality is so important: the internet should be accessible to all.

revolutionary ideas

In the United Kingdom The Times Online Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing? article looked at the benefits of personal use copying applied as peer to peer file sharing with some dramatic results.

Canada’s own ThisMagazine presented this thought provoking article Pay indie artists and break the music monopoly — Legalize Music Piracy which advocates making the law serve the artists and consumers rather than just the corporations.

Further rumblings about changing the way we look at this issue were reported recently by the The Globe and Mail blogs article NDP, Billy Bragg make case for free music


http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/
sign the petition!
10227 signatures

 

STOP Usage Based Billing

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Canadian Copyright Consultation deadline MIDNIGHT

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 13, 2009

Strong and free?

Speak up on Canadian Copyright Consultation

The Canadian government is soliciting Canadian input on how we feel the copyright laws should be updated.

Today is the final day for sumbissions. A couple of great sites to check would be:

http://copyright.econsultation.ca/topics-sujets/show-montrer/18

Submit today (before midnight) Sunday September 13, 2009.

I’m off to put my two bits in. I mean really, how many times does the government ask for our input?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing

[Note: fixed a broken link here too.]

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