Introducing a New Voice in Canada on Internet Rights – Online Rights Canada

“There’s no shortage of issues to deal with on the Internet in Canada.” That’s according to Ren Bucholz, the Policy Coordinator of a new online rights group known as Online Rights Canada (ORC).

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

Slyck spoke with Ren to discuss the new organization.

There are many issues surrounding Canada. It only seems fitting as Canada is a large place. Take the issue of bill C-60, Canada’s Copyright reform act that died along with the government’s vote of non-confidence.

Of course, that means the battle on the issue of online rights is just getting fired up. “I think we are winning because the issues are being debated. Content holders didn’t have to defend their abuses on copyright laws. Today with the advances of technology, everyone can be a content producer and make studio quality work.” Ren explains.

This can create conflicts between consumers and major labels legally and even morally. “It begs a question where fair use ends and copy restrictions begin,” he added.

So what is Online rights Canada? “ORC is a joint project between CIPPIC and EFF. When EFF sent me up into Canada, I immediately started trying to find out ways of helping Canadians. We found out that Canada lacked a grassroots arm. So now, we have a group of online activists, lawyers, open source activists and other groups working in their own worlds within the group to help push the positive cause. We were talking about this and we decided to focus on various policies (that’s going on right now in Canada)”

Of course, Online Rights Canada isn’t the only group starting up. There’s also Open Rights Group of the UK and Digital Rights Ireland that have recently initiated.

“We are amidst a boom [of online rights activism.] There is a trend towards the general public to become educated on the issues. The general public is becoming more and more technologically sophisticated on these issues. It’s almost disheartening in a way (to see many other groups also starting up).” Ren continued, “[With all of these groups starting up] it’s more of an organic development. The neat thing is that other groups are all generally philosophically in line to tailor to the local population, much like our group. It’s not actually a larger governing council.”

Ren reflected on how things run in different groups, “Some have a greater depth of issues. We plan on getting involved in issues where the public is under-represented. An example of this is NTP vs. Rim. When the issues (of Copyright Reform and Lawful Access) come back, there are a couple of issues like giving the people the tools so people’s voices are heard. Some of the tools are on what the bills mean and the technical aspects on how to contact government directly.”

One thing is for certain, ORC wastes no time. When they opened, they also went after Bill C-74. “Bill C-74 is a vitally important issue. It will likely be brought up in the next parliamentary session and we will address this issue. We will package the momentum we have gained and bring that package into parliament. We want MP’s to be speaking in a way that (the issues) won’t get lost in the shuffle.” Of course, the people talking about these issues is of interest to them. “One MP may get a dozen letters on these issues, but overall, parliament may get several thousand letters on these issues.”

Indeed, many of these issues don’t just affect the ongoings in Canada. It has implications around the world. “Copyright reform has many domestic implications. At this point in time, the rest of the world is watching very closely on this. Bill C-60 will be in next session. We will try to fix the bad things (in things such as the DMCA and the WIPO treaty).”

“Right now, our general mandate is balancing policy and mandate. We’ll certainly stay flexible and agile as things arise. When stuff arises, we should get involved (and deal with it as best as we can).”

Of course, starting any sort of group takes a lot of work. “I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was going,” Ren expressed. “There was no technical difficulties and several hundred people joined the mailing list already. We even sent in a petition. We are also setting up legal support. All in all, I’d say it has gone suspiciously well.”

With the giant steps ORC has taken in such a short period of time, it is likely that they will be heard from again to address these pressing issues. Slyck would like to thank Ren Bucholz for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk about his new organization.

There is little doubt these issues will be brought up when a new government is formed. There will be a need for a voice to counter the lobbying pressures of major businesses. One can take comfort in the fact that there is a much stronger voice fighting for consumer’s rights and basic freedoms.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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