Copyright Industry Stacks Town Hall Meeting In Their Favour

It was the second of only two town hall meetings, but it appeared that a vast majority of those in the audience were there to shut out non-copyright industry opinions. Some reports are suggesting that the government may have played a role in rigging the whole meeting, but more moderate reports suggest that the industry merely stacked the deck in their favour.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

For those outside of Canada, the thought that a consultation could be rigged by the copyright industry may not be a surprise. For those in Canada, the thought that one group can stack the deck in a town hall meeting so as to shut out any dissenting voices is alarming and disgusting. It has caused many to denounce the town hall meeting a “sham”.

Michael Geist pointed to a video saying that readers could see for themselves, but when we accessed the video, the over 200MB file only showed a still picture that said that the webcast would begin shortly with the seeking disabled. The WMV file was played both in Windows Media Player and VLC to no avail. Judging by the comments of the posting, the video was, at one point, playable, but mysteriously, that is no longer the case from our end.

What has sparked accusations that the government was involved in stacking the deck was an e-mail that was passed out to attendees which was confirmed by several people. It contained the following:

4. In addition to those who registered for the Town Hall through the website, we have invited some individuals and organizations who specialize in copyright issues or can speak on behalf of a large number of Canadians for whom copyright is a significant issue. So that everyone can benefit from a breadth of perspectives, we will also be calling on some of them — again, selected by lottery — to present their points of view.

Other comments suggested that there were three rows that were filled by people involved with Warner – a foreign corporate entity that has been calling for stricter copyright laws.

“It was ironic in hindsight to have heard the moderator tell participants before the actual webcast that they should consider passing on their opportunity to speak (if their number was drawn) if the point they were going to make was already made by another person,” Darryl Moore, a prominent commentator on copyright issues in Canada said, “so as to give other perspectives an opportunity as well. The advice was obviously ignored, as the message coming from the well stacked floor was very much the same through the night.”

It’s one thing to have a number of people arguing for tougher copyright laws, it’s quite another go put forth such an effort to ultimately shut out any voices that disagree with a certain viewpoint. This was evidently the case here. The effort, at least in the public eye, further undermines the legitimacy of the arguments for tougher copyright laws simply because of the effort to remove any other voice from the floor.

As Michael Geist points out, the night had no reflection to what was being said online since a vast majority of the submissions, which are from all walks of life, have been arguing for a loosening on copyright laws – the most prominent way is to broaden fair dealing.

One thing is for sure, the credibility of what went on in that particular town hall meeting has become one of the most questionable events throughout the consultation. For some, it comes as no surprise that the most questionable events also happens to be the event that was most pro-copyright maximalist as well.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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