interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

Broadband Power for the People?

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 18, 2011

No Usage Based Billing

The Internet Billing Upheaval in Canada

By Arthur Czuma

CRTC logo
The year 2011 appears destined for revolutions. As Egyptians, Libyans, and others demonstrate across the Middle East and North Africa, Canadians are unleashing a quieter storm of their own. Hundreds of thousands have signed an online petition that calls for rescinding a new Internet billing policy that would eliminate price caps and bring usage-based charges. Striking the policy would help protect the interests of Canadian consumers – and the government seems to be listening. A senior government official indicated that if the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) does not reverse its controversial ruling, then the Cabinet would do so.

New Per-Gigabyte Charges

The policy, which would take effect on March 31, centers on the amount of data that consumers can view or download and for what expense. Not surprisingly, it’s the bigger ISPs that support the new fees supported by the policy. Many have already been charging users in accordance with how much data they access – and now, the new law would have smaller ISPs do the same. That’s because smaller ISPs lease bandwidth from larger telecommunications firms such as Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, and Shaw Communications. Despite their small size, the lesser-known ISPs (Internet service providers) have typically been providing both greater bandwidth and lower fees than have the bigger ISPs such as Bell and TELUS.

Small ISPs Scoff at “Wholesale” Rate

Netflix logo
The larger telecom firms are mandated by government to lease their bandwidth to smaller ISPs and resellers. However, until now, they were prohibited from passing per-gigabyte fees on to these customers. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has attempted to placate small providers by granting them a 15% discount on cable and telecom companies’ retail rates – but the small ISPs are less than impressed with this wholesale rate. In fact, many regard it as just another retail price. From the perspective of small business, the discount is hardly compensation for the new power imbalance: it merely slows the journey toward an Internet oligopoly or monopoly.

The large companies, in turn, cite their right to manage their networks – and they claim that flat-rate Internet pricing is no longer viable. Bell Canada raised the issue in 2009 as iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, and other online video and video game providers contributed to rapid growth in online traffic. But that’s a hard argument to swallow: according to the CRTC’s own data, just as some large providers have been charging for “excessive” traffic for years, smaller ISPs have offered plans with literally hundreds of times the bandwidth, if not unlimited service, at a lower cost.

Tony Clement

Minister of Industry, Tony Clement

Canadians Take Action

The question of exactly what is the just balance between fostering competition and granting corporate rights will always be up for debate. For now, however, it seems that Canadians have drawn a line in the sand. In addition to more than 465,000 having signed a “Mind the Cap” petition online, tens of thousands have written to the Minister of Industry to protest the imposition of usage-billed Internet billing. And as back-up, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, a group of more than 20 ISPs, is considering its legal options if the Conservative government does not revoke the CRTC ruling. A senior official acknowledged that the billing is “a bread-and-butter issue” and would be treated as such.

Canadian Flag

The Numbers

Many Canadians currently have Internet plans that charge for using an excess of 25 gigabytes per month. That’s equivalent to watching about five Netflix movies or downloading about six video games. It’s certainly not enough for many people’s entertainment needs, nor is it sufficient to help get a small business established or draw innovative services. For instance, a data cap would stymie the expansion of Netflix, the online video company that recently started offering unlimited movie rentals for about C$8 per month.

A Contagious Revolution?

By striking down the decision, the government will enable the small ISPs to remain competitive and thereby help bring a variety of affordable Internet options to Canadians. At the same time, eliminating caps will help attract innovative digital entrepreneurs to the Canadian economy. It’s inspirational – and if US Americans would pay attention, perhaps the Canadian revolution could spread stateside. Regardless of their political stripes, fair Internet pricing is something that just about every consumer can stand for.



Distributel logo
About the author

Arthur Czuma is a writer and consultant for several Ontario-based businesses including Distributel, a local ISP.



It’s not over yet.

Usage Based Billing has NOT been cancelled, only postponed.

The CRTC is not doing their job, but rather doing a disservice to Canada.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 15027 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 not only Canadians, but our Economy.

http://dissolvethecrtc.ca/

You can also call or write your MP, MP postal code look-up

Heritage Minister James Moore – email: Moore.J@parl.gc.ca

Industry Minister Tony Clement – email: Clemet1@parl.gc.ca

Prime Minister Stephen Harper – email: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

After all, they work for us, don’t they?

STOP Usage Based Billing

STOP Usage Based Billing



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Posted in Changing the World | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

UBB vs. Small Business

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on June 8, 2010

No Usage Based BillingI’ve heard it said that UBB won’t have a negative impact on Canadian businesses, because businesses have business accounts, and business accounts won’t be affected by Usage Based Billing.

But Usage Based Billing will certainly have a huge impact on many small Canadian Businesses. Big corporations like Bell Canada might have “money to burn” but small businesses almost always operate on tight budgets.

Red Maple Leaf graphic

New Business

Private start-ups and “on the side” businesses are likely to enter the Internet via personal internet accounts, not business accounts. Many small businesses start out as hobbies or spare time projects with no bank loans or investors.  There is no outside capitalization; often just an idea or a dream begun as a personal project or a hobby financially supported by the entrepreneur’s “day job”. That’s exactly how almost all those eBay sellers go into business.

A good number of these businesses are created by students.  Or at-home parents. Others are begun by people re-entering the workforce after parenting or other hiatuses or perhaps after being “downsized” (before or during the recession). The clear advantage of setting up a business in this way is that a minimal cash outlay allows you to determine if there is even a market for the business you want to launch. It isn’t necessary to go into personal debt or apply for government grants or subsidies to get a business started this way.

A wide array of online services like eBay.ca, Amazon.ca, Elance, CreateSpace, Twitter, Identi.ca, MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, WordPress, Craigslist and Kijiji.ca have sprung up to serve the explosion of online entrepreneurs with little or no cash outlay.

But Canadians will be far less likely to embark on these small business ventures if they can’t afford to launch due to the inflationary cost of Usage Based Billing.

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Old Business

A decade ago the Internet was a luxury item; a time waster for most small businesses. That is no longer the case.

In the beginning small businesses without a computer or Internet component didn’t have to be on the Internet. If they had an owner or employee with the ability to learn how, or the budget for training, they may have put together a web page. Or spent money to hire someone to make a web page for them. Many companies started web pages or blogs, and once they were online, they remained exactly the same. Because maintaining, adding to and changing web pages is expensive.

But it is hard for a small business to justify contracting out or using employee man-hours to create web pages because most web pages don’t generate any income at all.

Big businesses like Bell Canada may have a budget for branding but small businesses usually don’t.

Many blogs and websites are undertaken by people without expectation of recompense. People create nonprofit informational or public service websites to educate and inform people about their area of expertise or subjects close to their hearts. These sites or blogs are in essence avocations or hobbies, although they often add to the reputation of the person or business behind it. They are not income creating websites. It is reasonable and even acceptable for these websites and blogs to be conducted under non-commercial accounts.

Canadian experts may think twice in future before taking on this type of web commitment once Usage Based Billing is implemented. It’s one thing to offer your expertise gratis, but something else to have to have to pay an unwarranted price for the privilege.

Canadians have led the world in embracing the Internet which means that in today’s world small Canadian businesses must have a web presence. It isn’t enough to just have a web page, it is important to continually add content of some kind in order to draw web traffic. Because if no one goes to your web page you don’t have a web presence.

If you are a photographer or an artist, you might want to show off your work.    If you’re a fine artist, you might use your website to show techniques and features of how art is made, educating your readers using your art as examples. If you’re a cake artisan, you will want to show a gallery of your creations. If you’re a card maker you’ll want to put your catalogue onlline. If you’re a musician, you’ll want to sell your music online. If you are an actor, you might undertake a project to do 100 Jobs. If you’re a geek, you might get together with other geeks and put together a website to tell people about interesting stuff.

Taking your existing business “online” may enhance your business, or maybe only allow it to hold it’s own. Not being able to will be detrimental to your business.   Small Canadian businesses running close to the bone will certainly be penalized by these sky-high Usage Based Billing price increases, and may well have to give up their attempts at establishing a web presence as a direct result.

The exorbitant cost of Usage Based Billing may well stop many small Canadian businesses from being able to compete.

Quartzlab Ubuntu Lynx Picture disk open on an aged IBM Thinkpad running Ubuntu

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Computer Business

An unexpected movement has been happening in the computer world. It’s called FLOSS, which stands for Free Libre Open Source Software. As incredible as it may sound to those of us who grew up in the 20th Century, people whose day jobs computing devote a great deal of their spare time working with others from around the world to create and share software. For free. Both free as in speech and free as in beer.

These people often communicate and work together exclusively though the Internet. And by working together they have created such things as GNU/Linux, the operating system used by most of the world’s supercomputers (like the ones at the University of Toronto), as well as a growing number of personal computers. (I don’t know about you, but I think freeing people from the tyranny of Microsoft and Apple is a good thing.) Wikipedia is another bit of altruism that could never have come to exist were it not for people working together for the good of all. The Internet allows people to come together to accomplish these things to benefit all.

Canadians who participate in these non-commercial ventures will now be penalized by the inflationary Usage Based Billing.

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Cultural Business

Like Vincent Van Gogh, who was unable to make a living selling his art in his lifetime (although his paintings are worth something today), artists create their art regardless of whether or not it is profitable. A tagline on a talented Canadian singer/songwriter/musician/recording artist’s website reads:

“Why music?” “Why breathing?”

Allison Crowe website

For half a century the Canadian Music Industry was been almost entirely controlled by the CRIA, a very small handful of very powerful branch plants of American recording companies. By virtue of their exclusive control of the distribution network they were able to force Canadian artists to sign contracts that were terribly beneficial for the record companies, but more akin to indentured servitude to the recording artists, who generally had to give up some or all of the copyright to their own work in exchange to have their music recorded, promoted and distributed.

Shirley Russwurm, Stompin' Tom Connors, Lynn Russwurm, Lena Connors

Pretty much the only notable exception to this regime was Canadian troubadour Stompin’ Tom Connors. But if you read his autobiographies you will see just what was involved in becoming an Independent recording star in a world dominated by the CRIA.

For most creators just being able to get their work before an audience is the most important thing. The Internet gives Canadian creators unprecedented opportunity to be heard. For the first time in history the Internet has given Canadian creators relatively easy and affordable access to the entire world to disseminate their art and find an audience. Canadian culture is thriving in a way it hasn’t been able to since the 1950’s now that artists can distribute their music yet still retain their copyright and control over their art. Many Canadian artists who might not otherwise been able to get established are able to make a living with their art.

Some will succeed and be able to do business, and some will never become viable propositions. But at least they can take their shot, which is why 30% of the Canadian recording industry is now independent of the CRIA. The horizons of our cultural smorgasboard have expanded. But like anything else, until creators begin generating income, it is reasonable for them to use a non-commercial internet access. Yet this is precisely the type of Internet connection that will at least double if Usage Based Billing is implemented.

Under the old music business model, the best way for a recording artist to become known was through radio airplay. This was such a crucial component of success that a huge scandal erupted when it became known that representatives for the big American record companies had been engaging in “Payola” which was the fine art of bribing Disk Jockeys to play records. After all, no one was likely to go out and buy records of music they had never heard.

One of the chief marketing methods of modern Independent recording artists is to make their music available to their potential audience, by offering the opportunity to listen to it on the artist’s website or download it. Recording artists may well give away digital copies of their recordings freely under creative commons licenses. If the website is in Canada, and the website traffic increases as the music becomes well known, Bell Canada’s Usage Based Billing may well put many Independent recording artists out of business — right at the point they are about to become a viable business.

Many Canadian creators may find Usage Based Billing makes access to the Internet prohibitively expensive.

canadian paper money - photo by laurelrusswurm

Coming and Going

Every private Canadian who has chosen to host their own website and paid extra for a domain name– even those who have paid a premium to be get a CIRA dotCA domain name– these Canadians who create content on their own will be hit both ways: they will be charged Usage Based Billing when they upload content to their websites as well as when others visit their site and view it.

What this means is that the more successful the site is, the more expensive it will be to host.

If you are a recording artist, it often takes a while to build a following. Being able to cover the costs of your recording session is not the same thing as being able to make a living from your art. It takes time to get established in any artistic endeavor. And now it will be more difficult as creators will need to pay Bell’s inflationary Usage Based Billing during the difficult early days.

The only way to avoid being penalized for our success will be to make the painful but economically sound decision to put our primary content on commercial sites. A trade-off of exclusive control of our own creations in order to be able to participate on the Internet.

What does that mean exactly?

Canadian paper money, photo by laurelrusswurm

Certainly everyone is aware of the Facebook privacy issues. When Facebook first began their default privacy settings offered users a very high level of privacy, and over the years they have summarily changed them, leaving the onus on their users to scramble to understand and try to re-protect their private information. So that’s the first thing: when your content is hosted on someone else’s site, they can change the rules without your consent.

Another issue is that most of these sites are physically housed in the USA. and so fall under the terms of American law, not Canadian. The United States has had the DMCA for twelve years now, and under this law it only takes is an allegation of copyright infringement before your content would be taken down by American hosts like YouTube. This is an allegation understand, facts don’t have to enter into it. Brit Rocker Edwyn Collins had his own music to which he was the rights holder pulled from his MySpace page after his former label alleged he was infringing copyright. So when Canadians put our content on American web pages we are placing it under the jurisdiction of American Law, in particular the DMCA, even before our own Bill C-32 is passed. That’s something else to consider.

But economic constraints may in fact force Canadian creators to place their own content under the control of others and outside Canadian legal jurisdiction because of extortionate Usage Based Billing costs.

Usage Based Billing will punish Canadian creators for their very success.

The Flip Side

The CRTC accepted Bell Canada’s application to apply Usage Based Billing to the customers of the Independent ISPs as a means of “traffic management”. The intent is to force Canadians to use the Internet less.

This will impact not just on small businesses but big businesses too, because Canadians will use the Internet less because using it the way we do today will cost us more. Since most of us don’t have the first idea of how much bandwidth we are actually using, we will simply cut back on anything non-essential. Instead of casually using the Internet for everything at the drop of a hat as we do now, Canadian Internet traffic will go down. It isn’t just small businesses that will feel this crunch. We are still in a recession after all.

Usage Based Billing will mean that all Canadian Internet traffic to all Canadian businesses will go down.

The first time we met Cody.

#1 Cody on the Deck...Original Size 18.5KB

Bell Canada’s Bandwidth Estimator?

Clearly Canadians don’t know how much bandwidth we are using. Most us us don’t understand what Bandwidth is.

That this estimator is even necessary is a good indication why Usage Based Billing is an incredibly bad idea.

If we don’t understand what our usage is, how can we be expected to budget for it?

Or pay for it?

As far as we know. they will be making it up as they go along. Certainly without understanding how our bandwidth consumption is even being measured we will be unable to effectively budget our usage.

Because I’ve been taking digital photographs for quite a while, let’s take a look at measuring digital photographs.

On the Bell Canada’s Estimator virtual gauge I’ll select 40 photographs as my monthly usage. The Bell estimator tells me that this would be an Estimated Total Monthly Usage of 0.30 GB

I have spent most of my life as a mathphobe. That said, even I can see a serious problem with the Bell Estimator page which is supposed to tell Canadians how much bandwidth what we do online will consume. It’s quite simple really.

All photos are not created equal.

Cody in a Field original size 141KB

#2 Cody in a Field original size 141KB

This is the part that doesn’t make sense. To demonstrate, let’s look at this sequence of photos of my dog Cody.

#1. Cody on the Deck: This image was 18.5 kilobytes. To use 40 photos this size would be = 740 kilobytes

#2. Cody in the Field: This image was 141 kilobytes. 40 photos this size would be = 5,640 kilobytes

#3. Cody on the Beach: This image was 1918 kilobytes. 40 photos this size would be = 76,720 kilobytes

#4. Cody at Soccer: This image of him was 4241 kilobytes. To use 40 photos this size would be = 169,640 kilobytes

Because my photo sizes are in kilobytes, first I’ll convert 0.30 GB which would be 300,000 kilobytes.

Forty copies of my smallest images adds up to a mere seven hundred and forty kilobytes.

Two hundred times that amount would give you a mere one hundred and forty eight thousand kilobytes, again half of the three hundred thousand kilobytes that Bell estimates would be the bandwidth needed for 40 photos.

The largest of my images is Cody at Soccer.

4241 kilobytes is quite a large photograph, yet forty images this size falls short of 300,000 kilobytes, only makes one hundred and sixty nine thousand six hundred and forty kilobytes. Yet Bell says I will be using three hundred thousand kilobytes, or almost twice as many kilobytes as forty copies of my large images would add up to.

Cody at the Beach original size 1918KB

#3 Cody at the Beach original size 1918KB

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the measurement of download speed, measured in how many bits per second you can download.
Bandwidth has also come to refer to the transfer cap being placed on Canadian internet users, which is measured in gigabytes.

Put another way, bandwidth is a data transfer measurement of
(a) how fast you can go at any given time – your rate of speed, or
(b) how how far you can go in any given month – your allowed capacity.”

Usage Based Billing: A Glossary

Since we are talking here about allowed capacity, I can’t begin to imagine what the measurement of usage is based on if not on the physical size of the photograph.

Then if we look at the difference in the size if the large and small images. Forty copies of the largest photo are much bigger than the smaller images. More than two hundred times greater in size. Yet Bell’s Estimator makes no such distinction. Bell says Forty pictures = .30GB = 300,000 kilobytes

Cody at Soccer Original size 4241KB

#4. Cody at Soccer Original size 4241KB

But in my world Forty pictures = (size 4) 4241 kilobytes = (size 3) 169,640 kilobytes = (size 2) 76,720 kilobytes = size (2) 740 kilobytes.

That’s quite a size range.

The kilobytes sizes I’m talking about are the physical size of my digital images. But even forty of the largest images only adds up to half the number the estimator says are necessary for 40 photos. How can that be? What is the bandwidth Bell is talking about?

I’ve also read somewhere that there was a considerable difference of opinion between Bell Canada and the Independent Internet Service Providers in respect of bandwidth measurement. As much as 800% discrepancy. So how will these usage figures to be determined? Will Bell Canada pulling figures out of a hat?

If Bell’s photo guideline is so vague as to be useless, even nonsensical, how can Canadians possibly be expected to keep track of our usage?

At least back in the days when AOL charged by the minute, Canadians could budget our internet use accordingly. We understood minutes.

Red Maple Leaf graphic

Cut to the Chase

Start-ups and trial sites ventured on personal web accounts will be less likely to use the internet as much or as freely — if at all — when Usage Based Billing is added to the cost. Doubling (or more) the cost to slow down Internet use will work. Canadians will be less inclined to use the Internet.

This will be bad for all Canadian business.

Bell Canada Logo

Oh wait: there is ONE Canadian Business that this won’t be bad for: Bell Canada.

Unlike businesses that have to function in a free market, Bell doesn’t have to trouble itself with reinvestment to improve the aging infrastructure.

Bell now has CRTC permission to charge whatever it likes, not only for their own customers, but for their competitors. I have no doubt that Bell Canada is happy that they will be able to double their rates without even having to improve the service. Sounds like a dream business plan to me.

Any corporation trying such a thing in a free market would shortly find themselves out of business. That really doesn’t sound very healthy for Canada’s economic future.



If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are only 10848 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Parody: Downfall

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 23, 2010

Canadian Copyright

Johnny Wayne holds a brush under his nose to compliment his Hitler Hairdo as Frank Shuster reads from the script at a CBC microphone

the past

Growing up in Canada, had I thought about it at all, it would never have occurred to me that parody was not protected under Canadian copyright law. After all, parody has long been a major staple of Canadian comedy. Who could forget the classic CBC comedy specials featuring the famed Canadian comic duo Wayne and Shuster?

Wayne and Shuster were parody. Generations of Canadians grew up laughing at their comedy.

Who could possibly forget Johnny Wayne in Spock ears…?

Or a a bald Frank Shuster captaining the Love Boat…?

Wayne and Schuster satirized, lampooned and parodied anything and everything over the course of their career which spanned decades. In those days, producers of the American television programs that Wayne and Shuster parodied probably had no idea that Canadian copyright law was any different than American copyright law which does allow parody. It would never have occurred to any of them that they could have sued the CBC on the basis of Wayne and Shuster content. In those days the big media companies were just happy Wayne and Shuster gave them such great free publicity.

It is absurd that parody is NOT protected under Canadian copyright law

Canadians have contributed a vast amount to the world of humour over the years. The fact that parody is not protected in Canada is probably one reason why so many Canadians in the funny business have emigrated south. Yet Canadians are always willing to laugh at ourselves and our foibles through parody. Parody helps us let off steam so we don’t take to the streets and storm the Bastille.

Yet in today’s world Canadians reckless enough to who commit parody in Canada expose themselves to legal penalties for copyright infringement.

“the” parody meme

There is a powerful scene in a 2004 German movie called Der Untergang in the original German, more familiarly known to English speakers the world over under the name Downfall. This one scene from this film is quite probably the single most re-mixed bit of video in the history of the world.

The first time I saw a Downfall parody re:mix it was lampooning ill advised Canadian government activities.   But that was not the last time I saw a Downfall (Der Untergang) parody. There have been many many more.

I had never even heard of Constantin Film or Downfall (Der Untergang) before the subtitled parodies of began surfacing on YouTube a couple of years ago. I think that’s probably true for most of the world’s population outside of Germany.

But over the last couple of years this one Downfall scene has been subtitled, and subtitled, and subtitled again, and uploaded to YouTube, to illustrate a wide variety of issues and causes. Some are political minefields, while others are purely frivolous, like this anti Comic MS font Downfall parody.

But even though parody has been protected under American law for many years, the American DMCA allows take down notices on the basis of mere allegations. Contrary to the body of law that came before, this reversal puts the onus of defense on the accused, and allegations of infringement are treated as proof, and it YouTube seems to pull videos at any rights holder request, whether under DMCA or not.

This puts the accused in the dubious position of guilty until proven innocent. This also means the rights holders can censor parody by saying it copyright infringement.

MIT Free Culture has created an internet research project called YouTomb, to track videos taken down from YouTube for alleged copyright violation. You can see their Constantin Film Produktion GmbH results here.

A few days back UK blogger Glyn Moody passed along an online article warning of that Constantin Film the company that made Downfall decided to take action against these parodies.

“Also, someone really needs to make a video about Hitler being upset that Constantin Film is DCMAing Hitler parodies.”

MG Siegler, Techcrunch: Hitler Is Very Upset That Constantin Film Is Taking Down Hitler Parodies

Of course, in true internet fashion, the reaction to this is, naturally enough, a parody. I learned about this new parody clip, easily the funniest parody version I’ve yet seen, from a Malaysian friend who was heard about it from a New Zealand friend who was ReTweeting the Electronic Freedom Foundation. I hope it stays on YouTube as long as possible. Because not only is it funny, it makes some excellent points about copyright. In the interim, by linking to it here I may help a few more folks see it: The Downfall Parody in response to the Downfall Parody take-down notices

I can certainly understand that the film makers who crafted this ultra serious historical film Der Untergang might have a hard time accepting the fact that what is probably one of the most powerful scenes in the film has been transformed into a re:mix parody meme. At the same time, this has enormously raised the visibility of both the film and the film company on an international level. I know at least one person who intends to purchase a copy of Downfall (Der Untergang) specifically because the scene that has been parodied so many times is clearly so well done.

Another other notable copyright reform parody was created by E.F.F. director Brad Templeton, whose parody Hitler, as “Downfall” producer, orders a DMCA takedown promoting parody and the Electronic Freedom Foundation was actually taken down, but is now back online. You can read all about it in his blog Brad Ideas. At the end of Brad’s film he gives a link to the E.F.F. Fair Use page

I hope that Constantin Film decides to change their position on this issue. Clearly, they have a name that is now known around the world because of this much parodied film clip. And although some factions of the American Government are pushing for A.C.T.A., United States copyright law does clearly protect parody. Should this go to court, not only will Constantin Films have alienated a vast potential audience, but they are likely to spend a fair bit of money prosecuting an un-winnable court case.

what could Constantin Film do?

special features text graphic

The best idea I’ve heard for a  Constantin Film solution was Canadian Bob Jonkman‘s suggestion to release a Downfall YouTube Special Edition. Naturally this DVD set would contain the original film in German, with subtitles in all appropriate languages. The special features would include all the YouTube parodies.

Perhaps Constantin Film could even put together a special interactive “make your own captions” feature that would allow you to caption your own and upload it to YouTube. I’m not sure if that would be technically feasible, but if it was I’d guess it would be a huge moneymaker.

The beauty of a strategy like this is that it would not alienate a potential global audience, but would instead sell them a lot of DVDs.   Once people have bought the DVD, they are rather likely to watch the actual film.

Win-Win, don’t you think?

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Cat Joke: Making Light of A.C.T.A.

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on March 12, 2010

No Usage Based BillingThe following cautionary cat tale was found in one of the Pirate Party of Canada’s forums.

Pirate Party of Canada logo

Hindgrinder
Re: ACTA Task Force

3 Canadians and 1 American were sitting together watching the Mens Gold Medal Game in Vancouver bragging about how smart their cats were.

The first man was an Internet Service Provider,
the second man was a Copyright Law Professor,
the third man was a New Democrat Member of Parliment, and
the fourth man was a US Corporate Lobbyist.

To show off, the Internet Service Provider called his cat, “Broadband”, do your stuff.”

Broadband pranced over to the computer, logged in as admin and started downloading the entire internet.

Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.

But the Copyright Law Professor said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, “Public Domain, do your stuff.”

Public Domain went over to the computer, instantly sorted all of what Broadband was downloading and printed off a fair copyright royalties due spreadsheet.

Everyone agreed that was good.

But the New Democrat M.P. said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, “Parlimentarian, do your stuff.”

“Parlimentarian got up slowly to the computer, created a Facebook page, linked it to Broadband and Public Domain, drafted a dozen emails and bill 398, made a YouTube video meowing for transparency from ACTA cat and meowed an indian war dance song.
Everyone agreed that was pretty good.

Then the three men turned to the US Corporate Lobbyist and said, “What can your cat do?”

The US Corporate Lobbyist called his cat and said, “ACTA, do your stuff.”

ACTA jumped to his feet…….

Throttled Broadband’s torrents to a crawl and initiated a lawsuit for copyright infringement against both Broadband and Internet Service Provider……..
Scrambled Public Domains online excel sorting rules and shit on the fair royalties due spreadsheet……..
filed an inflated grievance lawsuit for RIAA lost revenue…….
bypassed due process to convict 90% of humans under 40 years old of copyright infringement……
screwed the other three cats and claimed he hurt his back while doing so…….
put in for Corporate Compensation for injury on the job in a foreign country……………and
went home for the rest of the day on paid sick leave…………

Internet Service Provider, Copyright Law Professor and N.D.P. M.P. where last seen pooling their money to buy a dog.

Geist

Angus

Of course, I’m wondering who everyone is…

Copyright Law Professor would have to be Michael Geist.

And it’s more than reasonable to assume that the N.D.P. M.P. would be the most vocal Canadian MP opponent of A.C.T.A. Charlie Angus, but who could the Internet Service Provider be?

talktalk logoIf this was the U.K., it would be talktalk, the brave ISP waging war with the dread Digital Economy Bill (the U.K.’s opening act for A.C.T.A.)

Within the joke, “ISP” couldn’t possibly be Bell Canada or Rogers, since their use of consumer monitoring tools like DPI to help run their empires clearly place them in the pro-A.C.T.A. camp.

MTSallstream logo

So if we’re going to extrapolate the casting for this joke, for Canada the ISP would have to be one of our endangered Independent ISP’s like MTS Allstream or Tek Savvy (you can find a comprehensive listing of Independent Canadian ISPs here).

pseudo FBI Warning

And the U.S. Corporate Lobbyist, well, lobbyists are faceless representatives of the business, or in this case group of businesses in back of a piece of legislation, or in this case a whole body of international legislation.

These businesses have been trying to convince the citizens of the world that we don’t own what we’ve purchased for years. They started by placing supposed FBI warnings on videotapes threatening huge fines for non-commercial infringement. Then the earliest attempts at copy protection (DRM/TPM). Followed by aggressive marketing campaigns directed at the media customer base, in attempts to demonize personal use copying.

Now, in the face of these failed attempts to change global attitudes about copyright and ownership through advertising/propaganda, the copyright lobby seeks to change the laws to force the world to follow their rules.

They’ve been pursuing this war actively on two fronts. First, by lobbying individual countries to criminalize copyright infringement. But lately, this group (dubbed by Michael Geist “The Copyright Lobby”) has gone much further, by convincing the U.S. Government to push the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” which seeks to force the world to change copyright law through this secret treaty on a global scale.

The “Copyright Lobby” is made up of the American led Movie and Music Corporations along with their Interested Associations and Copyright Collectives. Of course this lobby group is attempting to remain faceless. because the real victim in their nefarious activities is their customer base. This is why they are attempting to get governments to do their dirty work, particularly through secret treaties like ACTA. They have the vain belief that they won’t alienate their customers.

The copyright lobby doesn’t have a logo, precisely because the companies they represent are attempting to stay out of the public eye. It’s a thinly veiled secret that the corporation unofficially leading the fight for terrible copyright “reforms” is the same company that once had to be legally compelled to give credit to the animators, actors, writers, musicians, technicians etc. who actually created their movies. Though he hadn’t actually picked up a pencil himself in years, the corporate founder felt that the only name attached to movies made by his corporation should be his own. In those days the law disagreed.

Nearly a century later this same corporation seeks to change the laws of all the world so they can maintain control of a mouse cartoon. Which is why interested parties have created this logo (right) for A.C.T.A.

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A.C.T.A. is BAD

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on December 7, 2009

Hollywood taught me about Democracy

Jesse Brown reported a very scary story How do you say “clueless” in Italian? on his Search Engine site.

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

Four Google execs may face jail terms because they didn’t pull an offensive video from their site BEFORE anyone complained about it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be a very big story, yet it is a perfect illustration of the incredible danger facing the internet. There is no way that large busy websites or the ISPs that host them can possibly monitor all of the material that is uploaded to the internet without seriously curtailing what is being uploaded to the internet.

For instance, when logging into Flickr I am told:

“There were 2,710 uploads in the last minute ”

Thousands of people upload images to Flickr every minute. It would take thousands of people to screen those images. If Flickr was forced to hire thousands of people to police the images members upload to the site, suddenly what Clay Shirky calls “ the transaction cost” would stop being nearly nil because the cost to maintain Flickr would skyrocket. It is doubtful that Flickr or YouTube or any other wildly successful website could cope with this without going bust.

Wikipedia, for example, has many people all over the world contributing articles and changing other people’s articles all the time. You would think that this would result in all kinds of internet vandalism happening.   But it doesn’t.   Sometimes people make mistakes, and the way Wikipedia works is that other people can fix those mistakes, And they do. And Wikipedia users also correct deliberate misinformation or vandalism.   So even if someone attempts to do a bad thing and vandalize wikipedia articles or disseminate misinformation on Wikipedia, Wikipedia is policed by its own editor/users.

As soon as anyone complains to Google, or YouTube, or Flickr about offensive content, the content is taken down. Now, I have to tell you, even though I am not by any means a young pup, in terms of understanding the internet, “I am only an Egg.” The internet we know today didn’t exist twenty years ago.

Like most people, I’ve been busy, so I wasn’t paying very much attention. Every now and then some new toy or gizmo having to do with computers would pop up — like iphones or ebooks or blackberrys. Or some new uber-cool thing like blogging or facebook or twitter or VOIP would suddenly be everywhere. And we can’t forget endless tales and dreams of dot com millionaires. The way the wold works has been changing very very fast. Six months ago I had no idea what Usage Based Billing was. About two months ago I started writing a simple little article explaining the mechanics of how the internet works. It turned out to be incredibly difficult to learn, let alone explain and mushroomed into “the alphabet series”. Simple? No, and the more I learn the more important I realize Net Neutrality is.

So I do understand why most people don’t even realize that this stuff is going on, or even that it matters. But the thing is that the internet has been slowly growing up and becoming more important in the world, and at the same time a much larger force for change. Which is why it is so important that there be Net Neutrality. Because the internet has come so far so fast it is especially important that it not be turned against it’s users.

Alongside Net Neutrality people in this brave new world are also talking about file sharing, “3 Strikes laws” and ACTA. Terms like piracy and theft are being hurled around and “copyright infringement” has been elevated to a near executable offense.

Why now?

It is no secret that governments around the world have been lobbied long and hard by the “copyright lobby” large media corporations, music and movie companies who are attempting to legislate prograss back into the twentieth century and change the way we think. They have been turning their media might into a propoaganda tool of epic proportions. Because of the incredible power that they can bring to bear, copyright laws around the world are being changed to appease these lobbyists.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad.

Hollywood taught me spying on citizens is bad

Copyright law “improvements” enrich the lives of Americans

An inflammatory Chicago Sun Times headline reads Woman arrested for trying to record ‘Twilight’ on digital camera. The article recounts a story about a young woman who is being criminally charged– to the same extent and in the the same way a professional bootlegger would be charged– for recording scenes of her sister’s birthday party at the movies. The video picked up about 4 minutes of movie fragments. This is the equivalent of charging a teenager with one joint as a drug dealer, or the child who swiped a tempting lollipop from the grocery store with grand theft. It is simply not reasonable.

I’ve taken photographs of family and friends on special occasion trips to the movies. I’ve made videotapes of birthday parties. If you make a video of a child’s birthday party and a movie or video game was playing on the TV in the background, you too could be criminally charged. Under ACTA what will happen when you email a copy of this copyright infringing video to Grannie in England? Will she be fined or jailed or will you?

These laws are already absurd. And then… here comes ACTA.

All of the citizens of the world are being deliberately excuded from all ACTA negotiations. President Obama, so recently praised for his commitment to Net Neutrality, believes this to be a matter of National Security.

There is a huge difference between “personal use copying” and “commercial bootlegging” which the copyright lobby is lumping together as “piracy”. This is all a wrongheaded attempt to legislate away progress. Instead of trying to adapt with the technology, the copyright lobby has chosen to pour millions (billions?) into lobbying for this legislation that will not in fact do anything to stop commercial bootlegging. To give the appearance of doing something they instead choose to criminalize the mostly young citizens who are not harming this special interest group. Personally, I would rather see the best and brightest of Canada’s younger generation find themselves in universities rather than jail.

ACTA is bad. Very Very Bad.

Hollywood Influences

Growing up I learned a lot from “Hollywood”.

Like most Canadians of my generation TV and Movies gave me a better understanding of the American legal system than the Canadian.

Hollywood taught me that:

  • free enterprise is admirable.
  • free speech is important
  • individuals have rights
  • democracy is good, and good government is responsive to the wishes of the citizens
  • communism is bad, because the government spies on its citizens
  • a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty

BUT.

Hollywood taught me "innocent until proven guilty"

Apparently that was all just “content”.  ACTA makes it pretty clear that Hollywood’s true objective is for governments around the world to:

  • suppress free speech,
  • shackle their competitors,
  • dismantle democracy,
  • spy on citizens and
  • throw out the rule of law to punish people on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations.

The saddest part is that it isn’t for some misguided ideological reason that they think will improve the world. This is pure greed.

ACTA links

“Canada and its international trading partners each have distinct copyright policies, laws and approaches for addressing the challenges and opportunities of the internet. Canada’s current framework provides strong intellectual property protections and our copyright laws apply in the digital context, including on the internet. Moreover, Canada’s regime for

the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights is fully consistent with its international obligations.”

The Honourable Tony Clement, The Hill Times – Canada’s Politics and Government Newsweekly

YET.

Somehow Canada continues to participate in the secret ACTA treaty negotiations.

“Secret ACTA negotiations would criminalize Canadian internet use” says New Democrat Digital Issues Critic Charlie Angus, who demanded that Tony Clement reveal the ACTA negotiation mandate letter. Tony Clement Responds To Concerns That ACTA Will Circumvent Canadian Copyright Law

Ambassador Kirk: People would be “walking away from the table” if the ACTA text is made public . Maybe that is what should be happening.

Russell McOrmond tells us about:

Word manipulation, hypocrisy, and the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in it world.

Bytestyle TV’s Shelly Roche tells us a few things about ACTA, including the fact that it is being undertaken as an executive order, and therefore will not require ratification by the U.S. Congress. If it’s any consolation, American citizens are being kept just as much in the dark as Canadians, and, well, every other country in the world. ACTA: Internet Users Guilty Until Proven Innocent and ACTA: Will Corporate-Run US Government Destroy the Internet?

The Electronic Freedom Foundation Senator Bayh Responds on ACTA illustrates just how badly informed Americans (including Senators) are about ACTA.

Fortunately all Senators weren’t created equal. Senators blast Obama’s secret trade talks as Fox head calls for ‘3 strikes’

Michael Geist brings us: EU ACTA Analysis Leaks: Confirms Plans For Global DMCA, Encourage 3 Strikes Model

Where Paolo Brini passed along the news that the ACTA “negotiations now are not compliant with the Lisbon Treaty, which has come into force the 1st of December” EU negotiators show too many incompatibilities between ACTA and EU laws and Telecoms Package: 3-strikes forbidden in Europe He says further that “The agreement between the Council and the Parliament led to a new amendment which clearly forbids 3-strikes, in the sense meant by ACTA, and restrictions to fundamental rights without following very precise parameters (not respected by ACTA).”

Jamie Love’s blast from the past: Seven Secret ACTA documents from 2008 which includes the link to a PDF of the “Canada Non-Paper on institutional issues under the Agreement” is then discussed in Howard Knopf’s EXCESS COPYRIGHT: Canadian Proposal for ACTA Secretariat

Wired Magazine weighs in with the Threat Level column: Privacy, Crime and Security Online Report: U.S. Fears Public Scrutiny Would Scuttle IP Treaty Talks

New Zealand would like to know: Dunne: What are we signing up to, Mr Power? – 4 December 2009

Last week on BoingBoing Cory Doctorow passed along Javier “Barrapunto” Candeira’s information on the Spanish activists issue manifesto on the rights of Internet users which was created to battle the proposed suspension of due process “in the name of ‘safeguarding Intellectual Property Laws against Internet Piracy.”

1 .- Copyright should not be placed above citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy, security, presumption of innocence, effective judicial protection and freedom of expression.

2 .- Suspension of fundamental rights is and must remain an exclusive competence of judges. This blueprint, contrary to the provisions of Article 20.5 of the Spanish Constitution, places in the hands of the executive the power to keep Spanish citizens from accessing certain websites.

3 .- The proposed laws would create legal uncertainty across Spanish IT companies, damaging one of the few areas of development and future of our economy, hindering the creation of startups, introducing barriers to competition and slowing down its international projection.

4 .- The proposed laws threaten creativity and hinder cultural development. The Internet and new technologies have democratized the creation and publication of all types of content, which no longer depends on an old small industry but on multiple and different sources.

5 .- Authors, like all workers, are entitled to live out of their creative ideas, business models and activities linked to their creations. Trying to hold an obsolete industry with legislative changes is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model was based on controlling copies of any creation and this is not possible any more on the Internet, they should look for a new business model.

6 .- We believe that cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and affordable alternatives to survive. They also need to adapt to new social practices.

7 .- The Internet should be free and not have any interference from groups that seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and stop the free flow of human knowledge.

8 .- We ask the Government to guarantee net neutrality in Spain, as it will act as a framework in which a sustainable economy may develop.

9 .- We propose a real reform of intellectual property rights in order to ensure a society of knowledge, promote the public domain and limit abuses from copyright organizations.

10 .- In a democracy, laws and their amendments should only be adopted after a timely public debate and consultation with all involved parties. Legislative changes affecting fundamental rights can only be made in a Constitutional law.

The Spanish government withdrew the draft law that would have legalized punishment without due process.

Spanish Blogroll:

[this is only a smattering of the websites bearing the manifesto… a Google search shows “de aproximadamente 351,000 de manifiesto en defensa de los derechos fundamentales en internet”]

and the list goes on….

Bravo Spain.

Talk about this.

And please, contact your MP, Prime Minister Harper as well as the Honourable Ministers Clement and Moore.

Because ACTA is bad. Very very bad.

STOP Usage Based Billing

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IGF2009: The Internet Governance Forum Blues

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on November 16, 2009

Access Controlled poster

Access Controlled poster

This morning Michael Geist tweeted about BBC’s article “UN slated for stifling net debate”, detailing the incident causing the hue and cry which has sprung up about the censorship of the poster at the Internet Governance Forum in Egypt.

The poster was promotional material for the OpenNet Inititiative‘s academic book “Access Comtrolled” on display at the reception held by two of the book’s authors, Ron Deibert and Rafal Rohozinksi at the Internet Governance Forum in Egypt. Apparently “complaints” were made about “The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China’s famous ‘Great Firewall of China’ is one of the first national Internet filtering systems.”

The book is a global project from the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a collaboration of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and the SecDev Group.

Global Voices Advocacy: IGF2009: #UNfail? by Renata Avila

“1. We were told that the banner had to be removed because of the reference to China. This was repeated on several occasions, in front of about two dozen witnesses and officials, including the UN Special Rapporteur For Human Rights, who asked that I send in a formal letter of complaint.

2. Earlier, the same officials asked us to stop circulating a small invite to the event because it contained a mention of Tibet. They even underlined it in showing it to me. Because the event was just about to start, we said that we would not be distributing any more of these invitations so it was a moot point.

3. We asked repeatedly to see any rules or regulations governing this act. They did not give us any, only referring to the “objections of a member state.”

4. There were in fact many posters and banners in many of the rooms that I attended, including others in our own. The video itself shows us, at one point, taking one of the other posters we have and offering to cover up the original one. They objected to that and told us this banner must be removed.

On another matter of clarification:

The UN officials did not throw the banner on the ground. They asked us to remove it and one of our staff placed it on the ground for us to consider what to do. That’s where we had the discussion. When we refused to remove it, their security guards bundled it up and took it away.

Hope this helps to clarify.
Ron”

–Ron Deibert’s account of the incident, posted in boingboing comments

My favorite was this comment from Cory Doctorow’s boingboing page:

Antinous / Moderator | #9 | 15:10 on Sun, Nov.15

Why pick Egypt as the venue for a convention on internet governance? Was Mordor booked?

In a statement Reporters Without Borders said: “”It is astonishing that a government that is openly hostile to internet users is assigned the organization of an international meeting on the internet’s future.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8354824.stm

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

[Mordor’s reach was spreading toward the Shire, which was in fact why Frodo and Sam had to head off to fight it. Freedom is always worth fighting for.]

Although it would be breathtakingly easy to point to Egypt as a country where suppression of free speech is endemic, I have to wonder is Canada really any better? The eagerness Canada’s British Columbia government is showing in suppression of free speech in and around the upcoming Vancouver Olympics makes me think it really wouldn’t matter where the Internet Governance Forum was held.

The technological changes to the world brought about by the internet threatens those who forsee an erosion of their power to dominate others. The real problem for them is that the internet makes both supression of free speech and repression of civil liberties more difficult. It’s easier to do bad stuff out of the light of public scrutiny as shown by the flurry of video, articles and blogs about this incident.

This is precisely why net neutrality is so important.

It’s also why Usage Based Billing must not be implemented, since one of the worst things UBB will do to Canada is make the internet less affordable for most Canadian citizens, but even worse, unaffordable for many. Talk about disenfranchisement.

Large version of the Access Controlled poster

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