The Toronto music industry town hall

Tonight the government held its second copyright town hall. Only it wasn't really a copyright townhall in the sense of bringing the community together to talk copyright in an open and balanced manner. Instead, the music industry stacked the room to such a degree that little else was discussed. There was the odd intervention from ACTRA, the Writers Guild, the education community, and software developers (and a self-professed pirate who may have worn a fair copyright shirt but did not discuss anything that resembled fair copyright), but the repeated music industry representation was the dominant theme of the night (you can see for yourself here).

My own view is that it was so over-the-top that their message was lost in light of such an obvious orchestrated attempt to stack the deck. This was not a real townhall that brought together differing views, but rather an all-out effort by the industry to scoop up the available seats, guarantee themselves a dominant voice, and exclude many alternative voices in the process.

With just over two weeks left in the consultation, there should be no doubt that the lobby groups will be engaging in a major effort to push for their DMCA-style reforms. The calls for three-strikes and you're out, notice and takedown, DMCA anti-circumvention legislation, and no flexible fair dealing will only get louder. Now is the time for Canadians - many of whom could not get a seat at the townhall since it was filled by industry reps just days after the consultation launch - to speak out. Don't wait - send in your comments today and encourage others to do the same.

Michael Geist is a law professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.



David Basskin

Aug 28, 2009 at 7:38pm

Evidently Professor Geist believes in a one-sided "dialogue". He and his acolytes so dominate the discussion that he appears to believe that the participation of those who create and invest in music is a matter of "stacking the deck".

Michael, it's a democracy. Your lot could have been there in droves. Registration was open to everyone.

How dare you talk about deck stacking - as if your views don't already enjoy the advantage of extensive publicity? You have a column in the Toronto Star every week. You get ink and airtime on a nearly daily basis. Good for you. But let performing artists, authors, investors, trade associations, unions and other members of the music industry come out and attempt to take part in a debate and it's time for some professorial cheap shots.

"Music industry town hall"? Pah. Like it or not, debate is a two-way street, and the voices of those who write, perform and invest in music are going to be heard. Save the cheap shots for another day.


Aug 29, 2009 at 1:15am

There's actually proof here that Clement had a hand in this as well. I took part in the webcast, and we ended up getting a reminder e-mail as an official communication from the Government of Canada before hand, on what exactly was going to happen. Point #4 is interesting:

hank you for signing up for the Toronto Copyright Town Hall! We are in the final stages of preparation and are looking forward to a successful event.

The Toronto Town Hall is expected to be our largest copyright consultation event, with participation not only from those in the room, but also from Canadians sending in online comments and views. We wanted to provide you with some information in advance so that registered participants can start thinking about their contribution to this important dialogue.

1.The host for the evening will be the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry. He will be onstage all night and will offer brief closing remarks once you, the participants, have had your say.

2.The evening will be moderated by a third-party facilitator to help ensure we hear from as many people as possible in our limited time together. Her job will be to coordinate the online and in-person discussions and keep everything running on time.

3.Due to the large number of registered participants, those wishing to speak at the Town Hall will be selected by lottery.

4.In addition to those who registered for the Town Hall through the website, we have invited some individuals and organizations who specialize in copyright issues or can speak on behalf of a large number of Canadians for whom copyright is a significant issue. So that everyone can benefit from a breadth of perspectives, we will also be calling on some of them — again, selected by lottery - to present their points of view.

5.Online participants will be able to submit comments throughout the evening. Comments will be chosen at random and read onstage at regular intervals by a designated official.

The Town Hall will get underway promptly at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 27, 2009. If you have general inquiries about the copyright consultations, please contact

Elyse Bruce

Aug 29, 2009 at 7:38am

Town Hall meetings were and continue to be held across Canada. This was not the "Toronto music industry town hall" as Mr. Geist claims.

This is quoted directly from the Government of Canada's Copyright Consultation website: "[quote] Between July 20 and September 13, 2009, we are inviting stakeholders, experts and Canadians from across the country to participate in a series of round tables and town halls to discuss copyright ... <snip> ... Canadians will be able to participate in these important discussions in person, or live over the Internet via interactive webcast [end quote]."

Round Table discussions took place in Vancouver, Calgary, Gatineau, Winnipeg, Halifax, Edmonton, and Quebec. A Round Table discussion is scheduled in Peterborough for Tuesday, September 1st. Town Hall meetings took place in Montreal and Toronto.

I have seen Mr. Geist's comments in the media on a regular basis in his own columns as well as in others' columns when they quote him or interview him. He gets airtime from broadcast media that is far beyond that of anyone in the music industry when it comes to addressing copyrights.

And those of us who make use of social networks know that Mr. Geist also makes great use of social networks to advance his cause.

The fact of the matter is that there are those who have you believe that intellectual property is less important than material property. Truth be told, what one strives for in life is of great value to the person who achieves his or her goals whether one is speaking intellectual property or material property.

If anything, it's people like Mr. Geist who, having achieved a modicum of fame and financial success, feel they have the right to deny others of their right to achieve a similar level of fame and financial success.

Chris Castle

Aug 30, 2009 at 7:08am

If you read Professor Geist's 38 page resume that he has posted on his blog, you will find that Professor Geist has made over $1 million in government grants doing whatever it is he is being paid to do, which looks a lot like being who he is.

It looks to me like the music industry is the best thing that ever happened to Geist, next to getting US backing for CIPPIC.


Aug 30, 2009 at 7:55pm

We do not believe that intellectual property is less valuable then physical property. But you cannot own an idea. Jazz is a music built on others ideas. A musical form that could not have begun if copyright as is now existed then. How long before the music company's own our dreams forever?

Your criticize Mr. Geist ? Yet he has exposed American Company's bribing Canadian politicians. All this to help foster an environment where Canadian customers can be sued. As a Canadian I would accuse any poliction that would sell out our artists rights and freedoms to a pack of corporate whores of treason.

All of this is because the record company's can`t accept that people have many more options to spend their limited disposable income on. I opt to buy indie cds yet they see this as theft?

Get the hell out of our country.


Aug 31, 2009 at 1:13am

One of the biggest problems with what happened on Thursday's town hall meeting, that this issue now moves to the blogosphere where the public opinion on copyright is currently held, now filled with a bunch of really mad people who were there but didn't get a chance to speak. Opps I guest Mr. Basskin you forgot about that.

The tactic used at the T.O. copyright town hall by industry, is the exact same tactic we saw a few years ago in the US at an FCC Net Neutrality public hearing, that's where they got their idea from:

Do you know what type of back lash that created? Comcast eventually lost their FCC case due to the amount of public outrage that followed.

Don't blame Geist for your me he's the least of your worries. Social networking isn't just a "fad" Ms. Bruce, and one would think those representing in Industry would have figured that out by now, especially after the election of Obama, and are using it correctly to promote creative talent. From what I saw in the copyright town hall in Toronto..not 1 person Industry stood up showed any understanding of this.

Your woe's are your own problems and they are about to get that much bigger due to the unintended consequences of a poorly thought our strategy to gain attention for your position and discredit Geist who has a lot of support from the predominant bloggers on this issue.