When Is Theft OK?

If I never read the Boingsters, I probably would never encounter the “right to take” as a great new idea. But two recent posts point out something of the hypocrisy and the case-by-case arbitrary judgement that really is at the core of the arguments against respect for authorship – let’s call them the “anti-authorship” group – who call themselves “copyfighters” and part of the “remix” culture:

  • On June 29, 2005 Boing confirms that big Nike stole little rock band’s imagery without payment. The taking of the stuff of others wrong.
  • On July 6, 2005 Boing praises an essay in Wired which states that the new era of takery is here:

The remix is the very nature of the digital. Today, an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product (another antique term?). To say that this poses a threat to the record industry is simply comic. The record industry, though it may not know it yet, has gone the way of the record. Instead, the recombinant (the bootleg, the remix, the mash-up) has become the characteristic pivot at the turn of our two centuries.

So because it now can be done, it must be ok…except when we like the band and the company that takes is big. The sad thing is that people by what Boingsters like Cory Doctorow and Wired and they say about the appropriation of copyrighted material because he has successfully leveraged status rather than successfully argued the point. It is a tyranny of the self-described cool, which is a very weird tyranny. Sadder still is that there may be good arguments for specific accommodations of digital media which are lost through this broad and craptastic “remix culture” pap that sounds so neato…until it is your website layout, your icon, your text, your music and your art that is taken.

Russia v. Green Bay

Beer teaches. At least in the sense that you learn a few things when hunting for beer stories. Consider this latest decree from Vlad Putin:

A ban on consumption of beer in public places came into effect in Russia this month, but no one knows how effectively it can be enforced. President Vladimir Putin ordered the ban following months of parliamentary debates. Supporters of the ban, coming shortly before World Health Day Apr. 7, argue it could help rising alcoholism and indiscipline, particularly among the young. The new law bans consumption of beer in places like recreational parks, sports buildings, educational establishments, medical institutions and public transport. The fine for violation would be the equivalent of 3.50 dollars. Legislation passed in August last year had banned advertisement of beer. But consumption of beer, considered by many to be a soft drink, continues to soar.

Compare that to a 110 year old prohibition that continues in part of Green Bay, Wisconsin:

In a city with an image of pubs full of Packer fans enjoying a pint while watching the game, one neighborhood has firmly stayed dry. Not an ounce of alcohol has been legally served in public anywhere in a three mile-by-two mile area on the city’s west side where a 110-year-old law still bans the stuff out of fear that saloons might degrade the neighborhood. But area business leaders say the ban has crimped development. They hope voters opt to scratch the booze ban in a referendum Tuesday, when more than 20,000 residents will be asked whether to let restaurants and hotels serve alcohol.

Obviously there is a lot of middle ground but it would be interesting to see 50 people from each land dropped into the other.

Last of the Speakeasies?

Big news from a little place. One of the last vestiges of the prohibition-era speakeasies of the first half of the last century has left the scene in Canada’s smallest province. 
CBC PEI reports

In 1900 Prince Edward Island became the first province to ban alcohol. It was the last to end prohibition almost 50 years later. However, there continued to be dozens of bootleggers around the province…

It seems Charlottetown’s bootleggers have raised the white flag, choosing to close their illegal establishments in the face of tough new legislation passed by the Binns government. The bootleggers run illegal bars in homes. The houses are gutted, a bar is put in, and the people who run them resell liquor and beer. They don’t have liquor licences, and don’t conform to any provincial or municipal laws. They’ve been raided, railed against and reviled. But mostly, they’ve been tolerated, selling booze for much cheaper prices than legal lounges and nightclubs. That’s until this past weekend, when the doors of the known bootlegging establishments in Charlottetown were suddenly locked.

The writing has been on the wall for these illegal bars – one of which is illustrated as shown on the CBC PEI website – for a few years since a man died at a table and was not detected as being dead for some time. It is interesting to note, however, that on the main street of Ogdensburg, NY, one of the last holdouts of British North America in what is now the eastern USA, these sorts of small home-sized bars do operate under license as one might also see in St. John’s Newfoundland. With any luck they will become similarly licensed in PEI but that may destroy some of the attraction to their customers who took advantage of after-hours drinking and unregulated low pricing.

Of somewhat finer interest is the use of “bootlegger” in PEI for an illegal bar. Growing up in Nova Scotia it meant an illegal retailer only.

Buying Beer In Quebec


The Government Store, Canada

When I was a kid old O.H. Armstrong in our church called it the “Government Store”. In the South Shore of Nova Scotia apparently it is called the “Power House”. What ever you call them, there is a little left over from prohibition in every province in the country – the need to control…which also leads to the inability to shop around much. We are lucky here in eastern Ontario with the shops of Quebec and New York state not that far away, so that an hour and a half or two gets you into another world with another set of wacky regulations. If you are looking for something different when you travel, you can plan ahead with the web…but just don’t get too depressed from what you read:

What do you learn from looking at these sites? Don’t go beer hunting in PEI right off the top: no selection, six imports three of which are Heineken, Becks and Stella – mmm, macro-industrial North Sea lager. Quebec has very interesting beers, allows you to find out if a bottle is actually in your shop and shop on-line but if you are in a northern village you have to let the local authorities know what you have ordered. Newfoundland calls beer from New Brunswick imported. Alberta has privatized the shops in 1993 and has since only regulated but still they are left, according to the Bar Towel in 2002, with limited selection.

So – what do you do with a country that cannot organize itself better than a cornerstore in a suburb of a small US city or a pub in Halifax

Internet and Defamation Decision

I came across an interesting case on defamation and the internet today in a newsletter passed around the office. On 4 June 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in the case Barrick Gold Corp. v. Lopehandia, the key facts of which are set out in paragraph 12:

Mr. Lopehandia embarked upon an Internet campaign by posting a blizzard of messages on “bulletin boards” or “message boards” on various Internet web sites. The web sites in question are dedicated to providing information to those interested in the gold mining industry, including those interested in investing in the stocks of gold or gold-industry companies. Some of the web sites are dedicated to discussions concerning Barrick specifically. The web sites include www.lycos.com (in the financial markets message board sections dedicated to Barrick and another company, Durban Roodeport Deep Limited (“Durban Deep”)); www.yahoo.com and www.yahoo.ca (in the financial markets message board section dedicated to Barrick); www.siliconinvestor.com; www.theminingweb.com; and www.miningindia.com.

Cut to the chase and the internet slagger was ordered to pay to the internet slaggee $75,000 CDN in general damages and $50,000 CDN in punative damages. In support of that award, the Court of Appeal found at paragraphs 75 and 76 that:

Mr. Lopehandia is ordinarily resident in British Columbia, but there is no way to determine from where his postings originate. They could as easily be initiated in an Internet café in downtown Toronto or anywhere else in the world, as in his offices in Vancouver. Given the manner in which the Internet works, it is not possible to know whether the posting of one of Mr. Lopehandia’s messages on one of the bulletin boards in question, or the receipt of that message by someone accessing the bulletin board, traveled by way of a server in Ontario to or from the message board. It may have, however. The highly transmissible nature of the tortious misconduct at issue here is a factor to be addressed in considering whether a permanent injunction should be granted. The courts are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, they can throw up their collective hands in despair, taking the view that enforcement against such ephemeral transmissions around the world is ineffective, and concluding therefore that only the jurisdiction where the originator of the communication may happen to be found can enjoin the offending conduct. On the other hand, they can at least protect against the impugned conduct re-occurring in their own jurisdiction. In this respect, I agree with the following observation of Kirby J. in Dow Jones, at para. 115:

Any suggestion that there can be no effective remedy for the tort of defamation (or other civil wrongs) committed by the use of the Internet (or that such wrongs must simply be tolerated as the price to be paid for the advantages of the medium) is self-evidently unacceptable.

…The posting of messages on that board constitutes at least an act done by the defendant that affects Barrick’s reputation, goodwill, and personal property in Ontario, and arguably constitutes an act done by him in Ontario. The courts in Ontario must have jurisdiction to restrain such conduct.

Common sense and an innovation that only a Court could provide. Based on the technological obscurity, the Court chose certainty. Beware my fellow Pajamistanians of the pitfalls of defamatory internet discussion in Canada.

Unexpected Tribute

A very unexpected and gracious tribute to Romeo Dallaire, my personal greatest Canadian, was entered this evening as a reply to a post I made on my blog last January. Please go read it.

Update: these two articles in French indicate that there was a Senegalese intellegence officer by the name Amadou Démé in Rwanda at the time.   [My French is poor as is the Google translator so if anyone can identify more information about this, please do.]   In January 1994, he apparently uncovered arms caches of the Interhamwe (also known as the Interahamwe) militia which played a major role in the Rwandan genocide in the spring of 1994.   In 1994, Senegal sent a battalion-sized force to Rwanda to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission there.   Dallaire commanded that mission.

Five Foot Square Brewery

Happy news from Wales where they have the common sense to allow tiny batch breweries to exist – the smallest in the world in a former outhouse has just reopened. Practically impossible in Canada where a whacking excise fee has to be paid unless you fall into section 172(1) of the Excise Act:

172. (1) Notwithstanding sections 170 and 171, the duties of excise thereby imposed shall not be levied or collected on beer that is made or brewed by any person for personal or family consumption or to be given away without charge and that is not for sale or commercial use.

Notice that “not for charge” but still “commercial use” nonetheless requires the whacking fee – pubs couldn’t even give it away. Then, under section 3(1) of the Brewery Regulations [C.R.C., c. 565] you have to phone the government up when you do your job:

3. (1) A brewer shall establish a production day in respect of the brewer’s brewery and shall, in writing, notify the appropriate superior officer of the time of commencement and the duration of the production day.

and then pony up:

5. The excise duty on beer shall be charged and computed on the quantities of beer produced during each production day…

All to stop the madness of Canadian pubs making 9 gallons of real ale every two weeks in an outhouse. Thanks government.

The Barachois is Claimed!

I used to live a walk from the sand bar – or barachois in Acadian French – near North Rustico, PEI which is now being claimed by someone as ownable land. Funny until you remember the bit that is not covered by the tides twice a day is a nesting site for rare plovers. Thank God we can rest easy knowing the top guns are on the case:

Lewie Creed is the deputy minister and says something will be done, he just hasn’t decided yet what that will be.

Beautiful. I have found this handy map and I think the area in question is that identified as “Dune Bar” above Anglo Rustico – that is the bit known locally as the barachois.

It is interesting to note the absence of South Rustico on the map as well as Rusticoville (not to mention Rustico Cross but we won’t get into that one) and the Hunter River is known as the Clyde River at that point of the flow. Hence the name Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group. Hunter River PEI and Hunter Valley Australia, home of plumy reasonably priced red wines, share a common history in that the same group settled each area and one named itself after the other (but I can’t recall which way it went).

Permission Denied

While I am not clear in myself as to what Canada should have done in relation to Iraq, I can’t recall ever being so clear as when I understood what was happening in Rwanda and how democracies, the world community, whoever was at the wheel failed. Canadian General Romeo Dallaire is testifying this week at United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. I do not think I will ever forget the CBC radio piece on Rwanda in 1994 when he was interviewed and described walking into a stadium where children had been butchered wondering why he was walking on sausages when he realized they were all little severed fingers. 800,000 people died there just ten years ago in a few weeks to people with only rifles and machetes. Yesterday, he identified the accused who gave the orders:

Dallaire, who led the ill-fated 1994 United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, rose to his feet, glanced around, then fixed an icy glare on his former nemesis. “He’s on the extreme right, in the last row,” Dallaire said, pointing at Theoneste Bagosora…

…Today Dallaire is expected to testify about the secret informant who warned in January, 1994, that death squads were compiling lists and training to kill thousands of people a day. When Dallaire told U.N. headquarters in New York he planned to raid the arms caches of the death squads, he was told not to take any military action, that he had to remain neutral.

They told him not to act on a plan.   I can’t get around the numbers. 267 World Trade Centres. Downstream in Burundi, the river was red with human blood and parts. Then you remember fifteen years before that two and a half times that many died in Cambodia.