Lawyer Claims TorrentFreak Abused Canadian Democracy

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Last summer, TorrentFreak encouraged its Canadian readers to have their voice heard in the country's public consultations on copyright reform. The response to this call for action was overwhelming, and as a result a pro-copyright lawyer is now claiming that we "systematically abused" Canadian democracy.

canadaDemocracy is a great good, so when the Canadian government encouraged the public to have their say on copyright reform we decided to pass the message on to our readers. In doing so, we emphasized why we think that the Internet should not be controlled by copyright lobbyists.

We’re not pro copyright infringement, but what we want to prevent is a situation where the interests of the major entertainment industry companies are placed above the individual rights of Internet users. Like most other countries, Canada already has sufficient copyright laws.

The small businesses and individuals who make their living from copyright have plenty of tools to protect their livelihoods. They will not benefit from privacy-invading measures that will turn the Internet into a police state and one that will only benefit the interests of billion dollar companies whose business model is to exploit copyright.

We’re fully aware that not everyone is in agreement with our views on copyright legislation, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to encourage the people who do agree to have their voices heard. Isn’t that what defines a democracy? According to IP-lawyer Richard Owens, it isn’t.

“The Consultation was systematically abused by a clandestine group of mod-chip manufacturers, foreign websites administrators and international BitTorrent users, principally through the CCER and ‘TorrentFreak’,” he writes in a lengthy piece. The ‘mod-chip group’ he is referring to is actually the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights, which has nothing to do with mod-chips at all.

Apparently Owens is pretty biased himself by making such allegations. This is not really a surprise since he’s employed by copyright holders and has strong ties to pro-copyright lobby groups. But let’s see what else he has to say.

“For the TorrentFreak and ‘modder’ crowds, piracy havens like Canada have great utility,” writes Owen. “Should the opinions of those who want to exploit Canada for disreputable and illicit trans-border commerce really influence Canada’s copyright policy?”

Again, the lawyer is highly opinionated with his negative characterization of TorrentFreak and the CCER. It was never our intention to “exploit Canada” in any shape or form, we just wanted to encourage our readers to exercise their democratic rights. Is that a crime?

“We must not let our public consultations be abused by shadowy organizations working with foreign purveyors of pirated material. The incentives of non-Canadians to direct Canadian public policy against the interests of Canadians are too strong to ignore,” notes Owen as he continues his rant.

This last comment is interesting. Apparently the pro-copyright lawyer seems to believe that we, as foreigners, intentionally tried to abuse the consultation to conspire against the interests of Canadians. He thereby ignores Canadians are the second largest nation currently reading TorrentFreak and that one of our articles was written by Canadian native Prof. Michael Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

Aside from labeling TorrentFreak as working with “purveyors of pirated material” and discrediting the CCER, Owens’ rant argues that our involvement may have encouraged non-Canadians to participate, and that the demographics of the respondents are not representative of the Canadian population. This critique is valid to some degree, but is procedural and should be independent of the content of the submissions.

In his comments on the demographics, Owens argues that TorrentFreak readers are mostly teenagers, which is another error. The percentage of teenagers among our readers is actually below the Internet average, while the percentage of readers between 35 and 49 are overrepresented (according to Quantcast). Aside from this mistake, Owens seems to forget that even in democratic election the turnout is never an exact representation of the public.

By saying that our article on the consultations was an attempt to “preserve digital anarchy and continued flow of free stuff”, Owens pretty much exposes his own agenda. He wouldn’t have criticized the outcome of the consultation if it was in line with his personal views.

It wouldn’t surprise us if he was instructed to write this rant by one of his befriended copyright lobbies. These copyright exploiting outfits clearly don’t want everyone to have their voice heard.

Update: The CCER and Michael Geist have responded as well.


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