The Parliament Hillbillies in Ottawa "podcast"

I just listened to the first two episodes of The Parliament Hillbillies in Ottawa. They are numbered starting from #0, something technical people will appreciate. I found out about the BLOG because "Jeremy" posted a comment on this BLOG.

Who are Alex and Jeremy, the people who put together the BLOG? No idea, and I hope that this is something that they will better document on their website in the future.

A few thoughts that came to mind while listening.

Episode #0

When discussing the controversial images of Mohammed it was said that "Freedom of Speech" is not under threat, and that there is nothing to gain by defending it in this situation. As someone who has spent much of my life defending Free Speech from various threats, including from excessive controls justified by "copyright", I disagree. Our belief in freedom of speech is not measured by our support of people saying things we agree with, but our support of people saying things which we find morally reprehensible.

I have shared that desire to self-censor myself on this specific story. I realize that many people are getting upset, and I was one of them. My initial reaction was to feel appalled by what I saw as the blatant attacks of Muslims, suggesting that if similar things were being said of Jewish people that it would be being called "hate speech" and not "free speech" (Especially in Canada which has strong "hate speech" laws, and a politically strong community that exposes whatever they consider to be "hateful").

In a discussion about this I was asked if I had seen the pictures. Without seeing the pictures it was hypocritical of me to be so upset, so I viewed them on one of the many archives (Note: Don't go to this link if you don't want to see the images).

A surprising thing happened: I was calmed. Seeing the pictures calmed me.

The most offensive was an image depicting Mohammed with a bomb on his head. I thought that this could be seen as more a political commentary about western misconceptions about Muslims being suicide bombers. than as anything negative about Muslims being suggested by the cartoonist.

I have also been hearing about more and more Muslims coming out with a "not in my name" type of reaction to that minority who have adopted extreme approaches to this issue (such as violence and vandalism). As harmful as this issue may seem in the short term, it may have the effect of dragging out that "silent majority" of every faith that are not extremists. With this majority out in the open and working together, the harmful effects that we've seen from extremists of many faiths may be diminished.

I hope this is more than just wishful thinking.

Episode #1

In this episode there was talk about Heritage Minister Bev Oda and two issues: the CBC and Copyright reform. There was talk about how these Bloggers were happy that Sam "anti-User Zealot" Bulte did not keep her seat and did not become the Heritage Minister.

It was reported during the election that Ms. Oda was also taking money from incumbent industry associations, although much quieter than Ms. Bulte who seemed proud of her support for narrow special interest groups.

While I had a chance to talk to Ms. Oda in person when she was in opposition, I have to admit that I have no idea where she will stand on copyright issues. When we spoke she was in disagreement when I said that new information technologies made it cheaper to produce and distribute content. She is of the belief that the costs of producing movies and television has only been going up.

If you only look at the outputs of the major studios and broadcasters, what she says is probably true. The lower cost of production and distribution has meant that there is more competition, including from amateurs, driving the major studios further and further up the market to more expensive productions. This isn't a new phenomena, and incumbents being driven into more and more expensive markets is discussed in The Innovators Dilemma and other books by
other publications by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen.

I'm a fan of "podcasts", regularly listening to Cory Doctorow, 2600 magazines Off the Hook/Off The Wall, Lullabot's Drupal Podcast and will now likely be adding The Parliament Hillbillies in Ottawa. The more I listen to these, the less time I am spending listening to radio (I only listened to CBC Radio 1 in Ottawa anyway, already not having the time for commercial radio) or watching television. As these webcasts move to video, and include more amateur science fiction and comedy, I can envision a time when the only thing I regularly watch on television is CPAC.

Ms. Oda is a broadcasting executive, communication consultant, teacher. If she aggressively defends the existing broadcasting sector from disruptive change, we will see very little difference between her and the potential Liberal Heritage Minister candidate. I am not saying that this is the case, and the very fact that I had a meeting with her suggests that she is far more open minded than Bulte was, but we shouldn't be assuming that she will be on the side of the next generation of Creative Canadians (IE: competitors to the incumbents).

The most critical debate in Copyright today comes down to a simple idea. New information technologies have been put into the hands of average citizens who are then able to produce and distribute content cheaper. Bits of information is cheaper to record, manipulate and distribute than ever before in our history. Any technology that allows a creative person to record, manipulate and distribute their own content can also be used to infringe the content of others, and contrary to the snake-oil salesman it is impossible for a technology to ever know the difference between creativity and infringement as they are identical from a purely technical point of view.

The reaction to this change from the incumbent content and media industries is to try to go back in time and make bits of information more expensive to record, manipulate and distribute. They do this in a variety of ways, including direct regulation of technology and the increasing length and complexity of copyright and related rules such that only the largest players with the most expensive lawyers can navigate and benefit from copyright law.

The technological regulations are extreme. The theory is that the limited temporary monopoly over who is legally allowed to copy and distribute works of the mind should be extended to be a monopoly over who is allowed to create technologies *capable* of copying works of the mind. In this way the current generation of major studios and major media companies can never face competitive threats given all competition is declared illegal.

We need to make use of our BLOGS, Webcasts and "podcasts" while we can to expose this issue. While the highly controversial 1996 WIPO treaties that will be on the table for the new Conservative government may not look "that bad", it is understood as the thin edge of the wedge to get the incumbents what they want -- which is the legal rules to turn back the clock and make bits of information more expensive (or illegal) to record, manipulate and distribute.

While Alex and Jeremy wait for parliament to return I believe they can do more than just report on what the mainstream media is saying, but also start to discuss some of these policy issues ahead of time. Maybe they would like to do a show talking about Bill C-60 from the past parliament and bring people up-to-speed on the legislative process up to the election? Knowing the past will give people a better understanding of what the current Conservative government will be continuing.