Michael Geist E-Publishing and the Law Guest Live Blog

Comments 5 by Guest Author

No, Michael will not be liveblogging his own session but Raul has been gracious enough to share his liveblogging efforts with Miss604.com since I am unable to attend the event this evening. Check back now and then for updates to this post. Thanks Raul!

Rebecca and I have agreed that I’ll send her the code after the live-blog, so you should mosey over to her post as well. It’s 3:22 pm now, so I won’t be posting updates until I am actually physically there.

5:51 pm – I’ve introduced myself to Cristina Coraggio from the Canadian Journalism Federation, and set up shop here at the Social Lounge, St. John’s College (SJC). I’ve accredited myself as the official reporter for Miss604.com. I feel important 🙂

6:02pm – I’ve introduced myself to Michael Geist, indicating that I pretty much will try to type exactly as he speaks (more or less, I type over 70 wpm but who knows how things go. You’ll see). He said he’s not bothered by that or by whether or not I get something wrong. I promised to drop a comment on his blog so that he can know if I got what he said right. The room is starting to fill. And for those of you geeky types – he is using a Mac (although UBC set him up on a PC – hehehe). We’ll see if there are any compatibility issues.

6:27 pmNancy Zimmerman (aka MoneyCoach) is here sitting right beside me. It’s so nice to see her! The talk is about to start. A preliminary introduction is given for the Principal of SJC, and the representatives of CJF and the volunteers. There’s also a brief speech on what the CJF is (go check their website, it’s linked in this liveblog). Brief speech by Mary Lynn Young of the School of Journalism at UBC.

6:33 pm – Three stories being shared by Geist. Got a lot of attention.

I) Speech from the Throne – Our government will improve the protection of copyright and intellectual property in Canada. The government was going to move forward. Bill was supposed to be forwarded on Dec 7, 2007 – the bill wasn’t. One of the reasons was “Fair Copyright for Canada”. Geist started the Facebook group “Fair Copyright for Canada”. His hopes were limited. The bill wasn’t going to be as balanced, he was concerned, so he sent out invitations to a bunch of friends. Within a week there were 10,000 people and within 2 weeks, 20,000 people. Today there are more than 40,000 people on this group and the legislation still hasn’t come. It was the active blogging AND the Facebook networking. Geist started a YouTube “The Canadian DMCA: What You Can Do”. It all got viral, lots of blogging, linking, etc. More videos, etc.THEN the media picked up on it. Many of the MSM outlets picked the issue up. Lots and lots of coverage, and people acting on- and off-line. How you can use Facebook/other media to reach

II) CMAJ – controversy that got national attention. CMA seemed to be interfering with the editorial independence of the editors of the CMAJ (ranked amongst the top 5 medical journals in the world). The editors of the CMAJ decided to resign instead of succumbing. They didn’t stop there, they created Open Medicine. It’s a peer-reviewed, open access, general access medical journal. The same editorial team now runs Open Medicine. Not only is it freely available and you can create other things, like research discussions forums, debating with the author and others.

III) Wiki-travel – If you haven’t – it was established by a Montreal couple in 2003 with the Wiki technology – collaborative creativity – create a wiki-based online travel guide. People talked about the museum they visited, airport, etc. You have a pretty valuable guide. It’s an award-winning site. 30,000 destination guides. 10,000 edits a week. A large community that contributes to this. There’s lots of collaborative examples. Even more interesting – beginning of February 2008 – WikiTravel launched WikiTravel Press. A paper version more convenient when you travel, taking the same content that is freely available and began to publish forms in print form. Print-on-demand using Lulu.com (Bob Young, Canadian entrepreneur). They got a couple of books. For the city of Chicago, circa 400 pages (you won’t find it at Chapters but you can order it online). Particularly useful is that travel books become dated quite quickly but in this case, it’s not like that – being updated regularly – publish print-on-demand – should you choose to buy it is the most updated version (update every month). You get the most up-to-date. They plan to offer in 2008 a customized version.

This is the current environment that we are living in. We need to think about that new world, we need to think about the new policies. This is the new “normal”.

You can also read this liveblog “live” on Raul’s blog

Another example – “No to Bill C-10?. A professor at The University of Alberta created a Facebook that grew to about 36,000 people (many of these people writing to the Senate). Now lots of people will have an opportunity to discuss this bill thanks to the efforts of this Facebook group.

Another example – It’s not confined to Canada – protests against FARC (Colombia) 250,000 people in a month alone. Rallies in 180 cities around the world protesting FARC. Similar actions taking place last year (monks in Burma), etc. Similar sorts of things happening.

Another example – “Yes We Can” Obama campaign – Put out in the beginning of February – generating a million views a day. The YouTube site has now more than 4 million views (sitting through the whole thing, more than 37 minutes!?).

Another example – The “Vote Different” video got a lot of attention. What is particularly interesting about this video is the same video that superimposes Clinton was created 3 years before but superimposing the president of Tunisia. Other countries turned to these tools years ago.

The new normal – graph that comes from Alexa – monitors traffic on various sites. In red, traffic for CNN – in blue, traffic for Blogger.com (RAUL’S NOTE – WOW – impressive growth). In 2006 traffic intersected – Blogger’s traffic now is much more – a few-fold times!). While there are some blogs not worth reading, there are some where you find excellent experts. There are lots and lots of new media, such as podcasts.culture.ca, and others.

Another example – Star Wreck – you can download it. Film that took 7 years to make. The makers have made enough revenue from DVD sales to actually

Another example – Community art project – PostSecret. Encourage people to create a postcard or a mash-up and to share a secret. Tell something to the world that you’re not comfortable telling your friends and/or family. Every Sunday a new series of secrets are posted. Some of these are pretty sad. These people do this as a form of therapy.

Another example – Flickr – photosharing – more than 2 billion photos. There’s a photograph literally of everything. With Creative Commons you can use practically everything (with attribution, of course). Facebook still the largest photo-sharing.

Another example – knowledge – Wikipedia – more than 2 million articles in English. Not authoritative but a great starting point. There are of course mistakes. But it’s a great beginning point.

LibriVox – upload books in audio-form, community created.

Example – There’s a move towards open-access. The Public Library of Science. Peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal. Skepticism by the scientific community – 5-6 years later, some of the citation impact. People who have Nobel Prizes and then publish PLOS.

Example – We see lots of government data being readily available. The case of UNData. Freely available.

Example – Rise of the “citizen journalists”. NowPublic. Nurturing stories that don’t get attention from the mainstream media.

Global Voices – Blog aggregator. Top ranked bloggers. Bring the voices and the stories from the bloggers in Africa, parts of Asia (those bloggers that we don’t hear about or hear from). You hear those stories there. You can also see them (people at personal risk post video or picture). Individual bloggers use these sites to ensure that their voices are heard (sometimes at high personal risk).

Reporters Without Borders

Other tools – Google Maps – Ushahidi.com – catalog of violent events in some part of Africa. People who have chronicled these events to the level of city block. Tunisian Prison Map – Google technology to map prisons and people who are currently there.

CrowdSource interviews – Search Engine. Industry Minister crowdsourced a posting (more than 300 postings).

OUR PUBLISHING – There is a new normal

Geist recently edited a book – worth reading – Geist (Ed.) “In the Public Interest. The Future of Canadian Copyright Law”. Read it. It is available freely through Creative Commons. People who never would have purchased the book, unless they had online access. The publisher can tell you that the book has been a commercial success.

New publishing also involves – finding books – Book Search program (Google). Millions of books, digitized. The book is in the public domain. Full access to the PDF. It’s still subject to copyright. It’s a catalogue for the XXI century.

We are finding many publishers that used to lockdown their audio-books, launched an experiment with a watermark so that they can identify all the instances where the file was shared on a file-sharing system. The simple fact – they couldn’t fact ONE copy of their book. People were buying the DRM audio-books but not downloading them on to the net.

MITOpenCourseware initiative – very ambitious goals. All their courses freely available online. Make the course notes, syllabi. More than 90% of the faculty, more than 1800 courses, podcasts, webcasts of lectures, some of which are viewed 100,000 times or more. Lots of these views come from developing countries. Other professors are looking at these and learning tips for their own teaching. Only one Canadian member – Capilano College – (RAUL’S NOTE – What a shame for other Canadian universities).


People are becoming interested and engaged on this critical issue (copyright). Our rights as creators, our rights in terms of access to knowledge, our right to creating a knowledge society. We have the opportunity to create this society.

We have to be very cautious – not create OVERLY restrictive copyright rules. Ensure that there is sufficient flexibility to make full use of the tools that people are making

Copyright law is not there yet, but it could get there. It is essential that all voices are heard. At a minimum, ensure that that happens.


Geist will speak cautiously.

Around the question of “what liability should we ascribe to ISPs, bloggers, etc.” … not for what they say but the speech that can occur in their venue.

USA – controversial – Communications Decency Act. Unconstitutional. A number of provisions that survived. What survived is CDA SEction 230 – inmunity to intermediaries (Amazon, thousands of people posting book reviews, some of which may be defamatory, or Google – thousands of bloggers – some may be posting defamatory – individual blogger who allows a defamatory comment). You have immunity for the voices of others just because you happen to be hosting it. The rationale here is up to a court to determine whether or not something is defamatory, intermediaries don’t have that

WE DON’T HAVE THIS PROTECTION IN CANADA. If someone posts a defamatory comment on a blog, there is a probability/possibility that there might be a lawsuit (because we don’t have this protection). Creates an enormous potential for liabilities.


IF we are going to have this “new normal” we need to ensure that there is access for all.

We’ve rarely seen involvement of the government in these policy issues.


Two-tiered internet. One in which those who can afford will be on the fast lane, those who can’t, will be on the slow lane. Google and Yahoo are actually lobbying against this, because they argue that they wouldn’t be Google if they had been charged as much in the 90s, when they were just graduate students.

Throttling – limiting bandwith available. But now some government and media outlets are making some content available. But people who are being throttled get only about 10% of bandwidth access.


From a “new normal” perspective – data SHOULD be freely available. In some countries, data is readily available. Weather data is publicly funded, freely available in the US. Here in Canada there are still lots of restrictions on government data (restrictions are stifling, government can deny some information).

Access to Information Request – what are people asking for and what is the government answering? Government is generally responding, but not to everything. More problematic – when government people say no.

The new normal requires focusing on CULTURAL FUNDING. What I’m hoping the CRTC recognizes is that the days of keeping content out are over. You can’t keep things out. If you want to support and enhance Canadian culture – you can explicitly provide government funding. The argument can be made that

The new normal requires addressing the issue of DEFINITION OF A JOURNALIST. If you post it in Canada – we still have issues of journalism and freedom.

There have been a couple of cases of people who have thought about bloggers/citizen journalists.

The new normal requires us to think about CONTRACTS. We spend a lot of time worrying about the protection of their copyright – they SHOULD spend more time thinking about their contracts. Highly restrictive, sometimes the creator ends up surrendering some if not all of their rights. Copyright still should be addressed in these contracts.

7:26pm – Concluding remarks – “Hands off the internet”. We still need an active role. It’s not about “hands off the internet”. It’s more about recognizing the future of the new media.

Now starts the Q/A period.

Q.- [RAUL’S NOTE – I couldn’t really understand what he was asking – he asked way too many questions] Are we waiting for the government?

A.- We don’t need the government to move in. We need private sector and individuals to lead and establish the framework to move in. It’s not up to the government to move for us. One of the things we have to recognize is that many business have refused to move in the direction of what Geist calls “the new normal” (RAUL’S NOTE – described above in abundance!)

Q.- “Someone made a comment in response to one of the comments on one of blog posts trying to empathize with her about her depression. Months later someone else with the same name as the second commenter emailed me and threatened to sue me for the comments which ranked #3 or so for his name. My first reaction was to say screw you and blog the email and get a blog swarm on him. I was told by other bloggers that he had no chance of success. but even if I’d ultimately win I didn’t want to spend the time, money and energy on a possible lawsuit.” Could he have sued me and would I have to respond?

A.- There is no right answer. You have the choice to say that there’s nothing defamatory and you don’t think it should be liable. If they want to take it down, the person should find a court order. But this person may decide to sue the blogger. There isn’t really a right answer.

Q.- About Facebook – who owns the picture – can they use that picture.

A.- The CBC did a story exactly on that. The answer – you own the right but Facebook has licenser rights. Part of the agreement. You agree to give Facebook licensing rights. You could take the picture down. Facebook has certain rights. We’re seeing more and more journalists using the pictures found on FB. Geist thinks that there isn’t any clear right. They might want to rely on “fair use” or “fair dealing”. In the FB context, if you use a FB screenshot, it might be more “fair use”. There’s the issue of attribution – attributing the source. It’s a bit of a murky issue and we’re seeing that people are grappling with it more and more.

Q.- You mention jurisdiction but not what jurisdiction applies. Are you or are you not protected.

A.- Geist used to spend a lot of time on this issue until he gave up. Multiple jurisdictions can have jurisdiction over something that happens online. You can have a real substantial connection to more than one jurisdiction. Where this becomes even more controversial and murky is where you have a jurisdiction that really doesn’t seem to have a real substantial connection. There are journalists cases around this issue of internet jurisdiction. Australia was one such case.

The most important Canadian jurisdiction case – Washington Post – someone suing the Post for an article that was written back in the 1990s when this person lived in Africa, made allegations about drug use. He moved to Toronto. Once he moved there he decided to sue the Post in Ontario. The question was – could Ontario be a jurisdiction on this issue? This is a challenging issue.

Q.- A bit of a devil’s advocate – [RAUL’S NOTE – Two questions that are way too fast for me to capture – man, why don’t people speak S-L-O-W-L-Y? The man is speaking way faster than I can type, and I am a super fast typist! – so I’m going to skip on this question] Should ISP’s restrict access or ask for more $$$?

A.- Bandwidth hogs could be charged more, that would be more fair. At least it should be a transparent issue. They don’t tell you that (ISPs). They don’t tell you when they throttle down their network.

Q.- Nancy Zimmerman – where do we find sources on these kinds of issues?

A.- Well, I blog a lot. At the U of Ottawa – CIPPIC.CA – Good sources.

Comment.- A source of information in Vancouver – You can get free summary advice from lawyers on a bi-weekly basis to answer copyright questions, if you’re a writer who wants to review their contracts, etc. You can use these to educate themselves.

HOLY SMOKES – I lost the last paragraph!

The session ended at 7.45pm.

8:39pm – I am on my way home. Hope you guys liked the liveblog!

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5 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. crunchy carpetsThursday, April 3rd, 2008 — 6:36pm PDT

    I heard him on CBC…very interesting stuff….all new things that we of ‘cyberspace’ keep dealing with

  2. TrevoroThursday, April 3rd, 2008 — 7:18pm PDT

    Thanks Bex, I couldn’t make it cause I’m nursing a cold, so glad your blogging!


  3. RobCottinghamFriday, April 4th, 2008 — 6:42am PDT

    Terrific account – many thanks. Now put some ice on those aching fingers!

  4. Video WatermarkFriday, July 25th, 2008 — 6:42pm PDT

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  5. antiquarian booksThursday, December 11th, 2008 — 5:03am PST

    Thank you for this information. 🙂

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