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Copyright debate gets dirty

By Op-Ed Editor | January 16, 2006

Canadian copyright policy is suddenly the focus of dirty smear politics, the kind developed by those Republican American lobbyists who are now beginning to face criminal charges for their US operations.

The target of the smear is Toronto MP Sarmite Bulte. Sam Bulte has worked in theatre and the arts all her life. Anyone working for the arts knows Sam has been one of our best resources in Ottawa since she became a Liberal MP in 1997. She was parliamentary secretary to Sheila Copps and closely involved in the International Cultural Diversity initiative to support Canadian and other smaller cultures, including indigenous cultures, in the global marketplace. She’s long been a strong voice for Canadian culture and the arts in the House Heritage Committee.

She’s also a strong voice for copyright. She understands the link between copyright and creativity, between copyright and creators’ incomes. There are strong forces in Ottawa that would sell out creators rights just to pump content into the digital pipeline. Sam has always advocated for the rights of the creators who bring that content into being.

Now the website boingboing.net is flooding cyberspace with crude claims that Sam Bulte is a copyright extremist, a sellout to American corporate interests. It’s crazy and false, but mud often sticks. The piracy lobby has been harassing Sam in her riding until The Toronto Star, Maclean’s and national media have begun repeating the smear campaign.

Sam’s no newby. She knows people fight dirty in politics, and she can defend herself. She knows the copyright issues, and she knows creators need to be rewarded for digital uses of their works. On the issues of the arts and creators’ rights, she will win. What a shame to see her (and the whole political process) subjected to crude smears about money and foreign interests. Particularly when they come from the American lobby group Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is rich but ignorant of Canadian issues, and by the Canadian creators’ most implacable foes, the academic apologists for piracy.

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