US-backed CIPPIC Extends Lessig culture de voleur Agenda in Canada

Canada is at the beginning of “consultations” for an overhaul of their copyright law. (“Consultations” are what we in the US might call “field hearings” or “notice of inquiry” type proceedings.) I’m particularly interested in the Canadian music industry as I lived in Montreal and Toronto for over 5 years and worked with some of the top artists in both English and French Canada (many of whom are now iconic Canadian artists).

Naturally, the US-backed “free culture” types are coming out of the woodwork to advance the Lessig agenda through their Canadian front groups, and none are greater water carriers for those ideas than Michael Geist, often referred to as the “Canadian [Wannabe] Lessig”. The description is more apt than one might think.

For example-Geist continually harps about how he is a proud Canadian and that he looks for a proudly Canadian solution to Canada’s copyright issues—solutions that smack of the very American party line from Lessig, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and the other Lessig front groups. It would be interesting to see a side by side comparison of the “solutions” posed by all these groups (also compared to Google’s litigation strategy).

Geist’s “Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic” appears to be Canadian in name only. The CIPPIC website proudly boasts that its founding was proudly funded by a grant to Geist from Amazon and proudly received further grants from rich Silicon Valley types. Its “external” advisory board includes one EFF, one rich Silicon Valley academic and…big finish…Lester Lawrence Lessig III –well positioned to keep an eye on his boy Geist. 3 out of the 5 are Yanks and the only contributions they talk about are Yankee dollars.

Talk about your Uncle Dudley. A dedicated follower of Lessig.

Yet–at the outset of these copyright consultations, Geist goes for his reliable wedge politics–Canada shouldn’t yield to outside political pressure. The country that is the source of that political pressure is not named, but those of us who follow Geist know he’s talking about guess who?

Yanks Under the Bed.

The Yanks Under the Bed are easy to find this time. Geist should start by looking under his own bed which was paid for with Yankee greenbacks and is well-populated with Yanks.

The truth, of course, is that Geist‘s problem is not just with the Yanks-it’s with every country that values its culture and is trying to preserve that culture against the onslaught of the culture de voleur, from Japan to the UK, from Germany to France, even China is beginning to come around.

When you read Geist’s “concerns” about copyright, you could just as easily be reading from Charles Nesson’s briefs in the Tenenbaum case, the EFF’s “deep thoughts” blog, or Free Culture. All these US “copyright reform” advocates want essentially the same thing: Cut back artist rights, put up more roadblocks, confuse the rights environment even more than it is already, and make it more difficult for songwriters, recording artists, illustrators, film makers, photographers–creators in general–to survive without a day job. And that is what you should hear when you hear the “copyright reform” dog whistle from Geist and his US-backed thought leaders. As Fred von Lohmann of the EFF told me, “artists just need to learn to get along on less money.”

The “access” mantra of the culture de voleur is that they want copyright–but their way, which is copyright “over, under, sideways, down” as little copyright as possible. Their way means a major disruption in the international laws that have allowed artists an opportunity to succeed for generations. Their way always involves a major cutback in artists’ rights and incomes. Their way would give the final kick to the destruction of the economic and human rights of creators and excuse the cruel theft of labor value that is the hallmark of the Internet’s history to date.

In the words of the Latin American economist Hernando de Soto: “Imagine a country where the law that governs property rights is so deficient that nobody can easily identify who owns what, addresses cannot be systematically verified, and people cannot be made to pay their debts.”

That is a very apt description of the Internet’s collision with the creative community with the shining exceptions of iTunes, Myspace Music, Hulu and a few others. These exceptions have generated billions in revenue for the creative community, respect rights, negotiate agreements and make payments. And they all started with the premise that artist rights should be respected and paid for.

Geist does nothing to advocate a system of property rights that would allow these rights respecting companies and the artists they compensate to flourish–in fact, he spends most of his time looking for Yanks Under the Bed chasing lock pickers.