The Spy Who Consulted Me Redux: The Consultation of the Mikado

There is much ado about secrecy amongst the anti-copyright crowd these days, power and influence being what it is. Lots of intrigue, mandarins worthy of the great Pooh-Bah himself plotting and scheming to influence the levers of government and tame the great Leviathan. All in the name of consumers, of course.

Michael Geist is certainly no stranger to such intrigue, yet is very critical of secrecy and all things not transparent when it comes to international intellectual property policy. So it would seem that any comings and goings in the halls of power that he might have would surely be activities he would want out in the open for all to see. Particularly with what one might call “covered executive branch officials.” If one were trying to find a name for such folk. And indeed, with a media darling such as Geist, surely all the mandarins know exactly who he is—one member of the professoriate who needs no introduction.

For example, in his repurposed and remixed op-ed/blog “Copyright Lobbying Behind Closed Doors” he sounds like he’s wagging his finger: “As thousands of individual Canadians speak out against [Canadian copyright reform legislation Bill] C-61 this summer, certain groups have obtained special access to Industry Minister Jim Prentice and his political team to make their case.” “Special access.” Whatever could that mean?

And then again Geist admonishes us all about one of his favorite bogeymen, the Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA): “The time has come for Canada to stand up and say that this [the ACTA negotiations] is wrong and that it will not continue with the process until it meets the appropriate standards of transparency.”

Good thing for us consumers, Canada may not be sufficiently transparent for Geist, but there is a Canadian equivalent to what the US calls the Freedom of Information Act—the Access to Information law. It was an “ATIP” request that produced an interesting document that appears to be a draft of a memorandum to be sent to the Canadian Minister of Industry in order to prepare the Minister for a meeting arranged for the Minister by someone at Industry Canada, a meeting with—Geist.

“To assist you, we have attached talking points (see Annex A) and Dr. Geist’s curriculum vitae (see Annex B).” A helpful handwritten note to Annex B says—“see if there is a shorter version.” Those of you who have seen the voluminous CV that Geist posted to his own website will, no doubt, sympathize. A good mandarin would not want to overwhelm their boss with a firehose of that volume of information. Hopefully the CV was edited down to the customary page or two.

There is also a helpful summary of the pending copyright reform bill, which judging by the date was what was to become the ill-fated Bill C-61. The editor has struck out a description of the difference between C-61’s notice and notice and notice and notice and notice and…notice provisions and the U.S. version of “notice and takedown” (equally toothless in the eyes of some critics). The editor seems to want to make it clear to the Minister that Geist will likely support the “sensible derivation” from the U.S. practice.

Now from whose deft hand flowed these helpful handwritten comments? The names on the memo are Boothe, Bincoletto and Dicerni. I’m not quite sure at this point exactly what role these names play in the dramatis personae.

But we can adduce certain assumptions from the form of the memo. The drafter clearly knows the man who needs no introduction. And given Geist’s media heft, wouldn’t the Minister also already know—or at least know of–Geist? The man who needs no introduction? It almost seems that the bureaucrats are trying to be helpful, trying to make sure that the meeting between their friend, perhaps their champion, but by the looks of things their consultant, goes as well as possible. And they want to alert the Minister as to Geist’s views. Why?

Given the deft editorial hand of the grand Pooh-Bah, I can’t wait to see the talking points. But alas—redacted. Every single one. Words forever banished to a cramped file in a dank basement in a gloomy government building. Words never to feel the cleansing light of day, never to revel in that freeing colonic joy of sunlight. Denied eternally the chance to join the dance of all the other free information in the transparent society.

Not only are the words redacted, but the very meeting is shrouded in mystery. The document produced under ATIP appears to have been once classified as—SECRET.

SECRET. One would think the very word would cut Geist to the core, what with him being such a zealous transparency advocate. Yet it appears that all involved intended to keep secret not only the preparation for the meeting, but the meeting itself were it to have occurred. I’ve certainly found no evidence that Geist disclosed it. To the contrary, it seems to have occurred at the very time he was pounding away about transparency, etc., so one would have expected him to reject such terms—assuming he knew that he was trafficking in classified information. And then, of course, there’s the issue of his own security clearance.

Now, why would a draft preparatory memorandum regarding a proposed meeting between Geist and the Minister of Industry be so important as to have the substance of the proposed conversation hidden from the public. Much less—classified.


“As thousands of individual Canadians speak out against C-61 this summer, certain groups have obtained special access to Industry Minister Jim Prentice and his political team to make their case.”

Yes. It would appear that certain groups may have got “special access” courtesy of the bureaucracy. Isn’t that special?

If you think we are worked by strings,
Like a Japanese marionette,
You don’t understand these things:
It is simply Court etiquette.

If You Want to Know Who We Are
from The Mikado
By William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Copyright 1885

Stay tuned.

See also: A handy chart of Lawbytes government contracts

See also: A handy chart of Geist operations

See also: A closer look at Lawbytes, Inc. f/s/o Michael Geist

See also: Fair Copyright Canada and 100,000 Voters Who Don’t Exist