Congress 2010, day four

Author Lawrence Hill talks about _The Book of Negroes_. Photo courtesy of Boundry.

First thing (and I mean first thing, like before 8 am), Lawrence Hill read from and talked about his bestselling novel The Book of Negroes. (No spoilers, thankfully, as I’m not too far into it.) You can watch an archived video of the proceedings here.

I had to lurch out of there during the Q&A to get to my 9 am session with Socialist Studies on time. After our papers, AU colleague Jay Smith and I fielded great questions and comments about the copyfight from an audience modest in numbers but diverse and engaging in interest and questions: critical communication scholars, a rep from AU Press, a just-graduated English PhD…
A post-session coffee break introduced me to another AU prof, Ingo Schmidt, and then morphed into lunch as a reunion with my UNBSJ colleagues.

This is a placeholder for the better shot the waiter took with Madeley's camera.

The last Congress proceeding I took in was a two-hour panel on Open Access research and publishing, archived on video here.

The four speakers including law professor and copyright activist Michael Geist. Geist took a detour to brief the room on the new Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act, being tabled this week. It was a briefing and a call to action, as Geist clearly explained the problem with DRM or “digital locks”: protecting them under copyright legislation ends up trumping other possible gains for fair dealing, education, criticism, private study, and other non-commercial personal uses of media content. As a call to action, Geist’s talk stressed that the bill might hold some good news (i.e. for fair dealing and education), so Canadians should demand the new bill be fixed, not killed. And fixing it mostly means permitting the circumvention of digital locks when that’s done for lawful reasons.

Geist explains what's wrong with protecting digital locks in copyright law. Photo courtesy of Boundry.

I managed to sneak in the session’s last question, really just to mention the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which hadn’t yet come up in the session, but which seemed well worth mentioning, given the session’s Twitter activity showing a good deal of shock over just the new national bill itself.

Q: Is there any good news in ACTA? A: No.

I described ACTA as one of several industry pressures facing the OA movement, and asked if there was any “good news” with ACTA and how to mobilize against it. He said he didn’t see any good news with ACTA, but he did brief the audience about it: “The thing about this ‘Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement’ is that it’s not about counterfeiting or trade — it’s an intellectual property agreement.” One, as he summarized it, that would be like a DMCA for the whole world.

After which I retreated, under already smoggy skies freshly smeared with the smoke of nearby forest fires: to catch up on Congress blogging, to meet my UNBSJ colleague for a splendid Caribbean dinner at Mango Bay … and to go buy two dozen St Viateur bagels to fly home with.

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