Group submissions to C-11 committee : CBA submission in context.

A small group of lawyers have publicly disagreed with the submission to the Bill C-32 committee (the predecessor to the current C-11 committee) from the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), an association of approximately 37,000 members that 26 of them are members of. Given the publicity this group has been able to receive, I think it is interesting to look at group submissions in general.

It is not unusual for a subset of the membership of a group who has submitted to these committees to disagree. In fact, that is the norm. This frustrates many people when these associations go into committee and list their membership numbers as if all the members were in agreement with -- or were even made aware of the policy positions of -- the person sitting as witness in committee.

Other than the individuals who clearly submitted and/or were witnesses representing themselves, or a small number who had specific surveys or petitions they could reference numbers from, nearly all group submissions had a small core of people who created the submission based on their beliefs -- sometimes mistaken -- of what the majority of the group would agree with.

Some of the lawyers who signed the letter disagreeing with the CBA submission have themselves made submissions on behalf of associations which used a far less rigorous drafting process. One has to wonder if those lawyers would agree that if the CBA submissions should be retracted, their submissions should also being retracted, along with any other group submission that did not have some sort of unanimous support by its membership. If all it takes is 1 in 1000 members to disagree, very few group submissions would remain and very few of the witnesses before committee would have been allowed. We would be left primarily with individual citizens who offered a very different view on copyright than the specific associations represented the the lawyers/lobbiests who signed the open letter to CBA.

Note: I am the policy coordinator for CLUE, and we created policy documents based on specific policies we were able to achieve consensus on with the executive and membership. My brief to C-32 committee, my being a witness, and my brief to C-11 committee was all as a individual.

The letter to the CBA tried to make a false analogy between the CBA submission and a Conference Board of Canada study which was shown to include passages from the International Intellectual Property Alliance. There is a large difference between a submission that documents the various controversies within a bill as the CBA did, and a document that reported to be a "study" that included as unattributed input various already controversial and non-peer-reviewed lobbying material. While the IIPA and the lawyers who signed the letter (with many overlapping associations) express very narrow views on the subject matter of bill C-11, the CBA submission offered a balanced view that included (not excluded) the fact that a wide variety of viewpoints exist on some of the more controversial policies.

It should not be surprising that these lawyers focused on technological measures in their attempt to falsely claim that Mr. Geist's work had been "plagiarized". This is an area where many of these lawyers have their own "facts", and appear to claim that people who disagree with their "facts" are somehow plagiarizing from each other. These are lawyers who are trying to abuse copyright law to legally protect infringements of other peoples rights (See my brief to C-11 committee), and appear willing to put into question the reputation of the CBA and the legal profession itself in Canada in order to score cheap political points.

Many of the policies which the signatories disagreed with were based on their own policy laundering of views of current and previous IIPA staff, including Dr. Mihály Ficsor who appears to be the primary source of the claim that the 1996 WIPO treaties demand "access controls", or prohibitions on circumvention tools or services. It is unfortunate that, possibly based on this misinformation, bill C-11 currently includes "access controls" and prohibitions on tools and services, something that any unbiased look at the 1996 WIPO treaties would reveal are not required. This policy laundered misinformation from these lawyers is being abused to claim that bill C-11's technological measures provisions can not be fixed to minimize the infringements of other peoples rights, the very infringements which these lawyers have been lobbying to legalize.

This week the committee is doing the clause-by-clause study of the bill, and this is the time when amendments will be discussed. The timing from these lawyers was very deliberate, given they wanted to create false controversy about balanced submissions in order to inflate the relevance of their own submissions. Hopefully committee members will see through this dirty tricks campaign, and recognize these lobbying efforts for what they are.