In 2009, the Open Society Institute funded a short book entitled “Winning the Web”, a series of case studies on the “intellectual property reform” movement. Reminiscent of “Rules for Radicals,” the case studies were used to demonstrate certain organizing principles for anti-copyright groups in the form of a handbook. According to the Open Society Institute, “[i]t is hoped that these lessons spread across the broadening global network of IP reform activists, ensuring a strong, sustainable and ultimately successful global movement for IP reform well into the future.”
Number One case study? Fair Copyright for Canada and Michael Geist—he of the Information Program Sub-Board of the Open Society Institute (see http://www.soros.org/initiatives/information ), advisory board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who also figure largely in other of the OSI case studies), academic and The Most Quoted Man in English Canada on intellectual property topics.
The handbook discloses certain details of relatively big events in the IP world that demonstrated good work from the perspective of the Open Society Institute (see Soros.org). Not just good work, but admirable work, work that was to be emulated. For those who follow these things, the level of detail added by the handbook helps shine a light into a murky world where things seem to happen with what can only be attributed to foreknowledge of events that should likely not have been known or knowable to any of the participants.
The “Fair Copyright” case study concerns Geist’s activities around Bill C-61, which was the last effort (circa 2007) by the Government of Canada to implement the WIPO Internet Treaties in Canada (we have discussed the current Bill C-32 which has gotten farther than any other Canadian copyright legislation in 15 years). At the outset, we are told by the Open Society handbook that “[Geist] was reliably informed that Canada’s new Industry Minister, Jim Prentice, was likely to put forward a bill that did not take into account the concerns of IP reformists [including the Open Society Institute, apparently].”
How might Geist have been “reliably informed”? OSI goes on to tell us that: “Geist was in a uniquely good position to head-up the Fair Copyright for Canada campaign, given that he had…contacts with a number of insider stakeholders.”
Now this caught my attention. “Stakeholders” usually means businesses or individuals with a stake in the outcome. Given that Geist goes out of his way to bash the creative community, especially LOBBYISTS for record companies, music publishers and film studios, that reference to “stakeholders” is unlikely to mean any of them. Who’s left? It would be odd to refer to the government bureaucrats as “stakeholders”. So who does that leave?
Open Society Institute tells us that “[t]he success of the Fair Copyright for Canada campaign relied to some extent on inside information Geist was able to get from his stakeholder contacts. Geist identifies government relations officers for major corporations as good sources of information.”
Wow—NOT THE FLYING MONKEYS!!!
Yes, it appears that the hated LOBBYISTS were giving Geist what the Open Society Institute describes as “inside information”—without which, Geist’s efforts might have failed in OSI’s view. In fact, it almost sounds like Geist was chosen to head Fair Copyright because of his access to “inside information.” Yes, the case study summary tells would-be “reformers” that they should wanna be like Mike– “know what’s going on inside government”—presumably by cozying up to the hated LOBBYISTS.
So the question then becomes—who’s zooming who?
Do you think that lobbyists who were providing Geist with inside information did it because they liked his hair? Because they enjoyed his sparkling conversation and witty repartee? Or did they do it for another reason?
Perhaps because they could use him and his Facebook group to try to manipulate the Canadian Parliament? Which is—after all—what the hated LOBBYISTS get paid to do.
So which of the FLYING MONKEYS got to him? Or which did he get to? And who was doing the lobbying? It’s all so confusing.
Perhaps—broadcasters? “With the powerful Canadian broadcasting community speaking out against [Bill C-61], the list of opponents and concerned parties gets longer every week as it now includes consumers, education groups, retailers such as [Creative Commons contributor] Best Buy, telecommunications companies such as Telus, musician groups, artists groups, privacy groups, and more than 40,000 Canadians on the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group.” (Geist, “Broadcasters Claim Copyright At Breaking Point”). (Aside, Geist has no way of knowing whether the “40,000 Canadians” are in fact Canadians or Americans or someone else—given the debacle of the email submissions he promoted in the Canadian copyright act consultations which clearly came in part from other countries, history does not favor him on this subject—see Canadian lawyer Richard Owens research on the subject.)
And then according to ACTRA’s National Director, Geist currently supports eliminating the broadcast mechanical tariff payable to songwriters and publishers for reproducing songs onto station servers under the current copyright reform effort in Canada. (Recall that broadcasters battled against the tariff—which would have required the end of Life As We Know It, just like the NAB is fighting the Performance Rights Act in the US). And Bill C-32 as drafted would eliminate this important revenue stream for songwriters—who are the hardest hit of all creators by massive online theft.
Oh, the powerful “broadcasting community”. Of FLYING MONKEYS!! Who still seem to be in the Geist network of “government relations” officers.
Maybe the ISPs? At the time of C-61’s introduction, Geist wrote about an organization called the Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright, and their position paper on C-61 bears a striking resemblance to Geist work product. (See Geist, “Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright Speaks Out Against Canadian DMCA”.)
However, the document’s author is a “Suzanne Morin” according to the Adobe properties metadata in my copy that I downloaded from Geist’s website. There is a Suzanne Morin who is Assistant General Counsel of Bell Canada–an ISP. So we must wonder—is she the source of Geist’s inside information that OSI is crowing about?
It certainly seems like Geist’s “government relations officer” contacts for “inside information” from a “major corporation” must have been somebody big, powerful and connected. Or sombodies.
But that leaves some unanswered questions—such as who are these LOBBYISTS (in 2007 and today) who the Open Society Institute is going on about and what was the pro quo for the quid?