Bill C-11 Threatens Canadian Digital Consumer

From The Sputnik – February 15, 2012

Despite the recent defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, its sister bill is creeping its way through the Canadian House of Commons.

Bill C-11, better known as the Copyright Act, is a federal bill that would change the way that consumers can interact with digital media.

One of the main provisions of the bill surrounds digital locks, which could restrict a customers access to DVDs, CDs and e-books.

The bill is being lobbied by companies associated with the entertainment industry, which has drawn numerous critics who argue the federal government is playing to appease corporations rather than citizens.

While those in the music industry claim that digital locks are necessary for the economic stability of the industry, Michael Geist has spoken out against the validity of these claims.

Geist, a law professor and chair of Canada Research in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, has been rallying against the bill through his blog since it came back in front of Parliament.

He argues that Canada is one of the leaders in music sales, ranking sixth in the world in digital music sales.

Essentially, digital locks are a tool which prevent consumers from using purchased media across different forums.

For example, someone buying an e-book for an e-reader would be limited to using solely that e-reader to read it. Digital locks would prevent the consumer from shifting that content onto a computer or different e-reader, and Bill C-11 would actually make doing so a criminal offence.

The same situation applies to transferring downloaded music from a computer to a MP3 player.

Marc Laferriere, the federal NDP candidate for Brant in the 2011 election, spoke out about this exploitation of consumers.

“Anytime we update our platform device, we’re looking at having to buy content again,” Laferriere said. “I don’t think that’s the interconnectivity, or the multi-use way that technology should be going. I think that if I buy something on my iPad, I want it to play on my computer, I want it to play on my TV, and if I update my iPad to an iZad or whatever is the next reiteration, having to buy Ghostbusters 2 seven times is not my ideal way of going through life as a consumer.”

Continue reading

Legalized Prostitution Would Boost Human Trafficking

From The Sputnik – March 2, 2011

Canada may not be the first country that comes to mind when the issue of human trafficking arises. However, a 2010 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed that human trafficking is a prolific industry in Canada.

Canada Fights Human Trafficking, a Brantford-based advocacy group, reports that anywhere between 600-1200 people are illegally entered into the sex trade and into Canada annually. A number of Canadians additionally worry that a September court decision in Ontario that proposed to decriminalize key elements of Canada’s prostitution laws could make Canada more of a hot spot for pimps and human traffickers.

Photo by Alex Dennonville

That decision, ruled by Ontario Justice Susan Himel who sided with three former sex workers, stated that Canada’s prostitution laws were unconstitutional and should be struck down. Trisha Baptie, a former sex worker who is now an abolitionist and heads Honour Consulting and Exploited Voices Now Educating (EVE) of British Columbia, fears that suggested change to the law would lead Ontario down a dangerous path of human trafficking and coercion.

“I can guarantee you that if these laws were to go through and Ontario had no criminal sanctions, if we envision that, I can tell you every trafficker, every pimp, and every bawdy house owner would pack it in and move to Ontario,” says Baptie.

Phil McColeman, the Member of Parliament for Brant who also sits on the Public Safety commission, also expresses concern that legalizing prostitution offers the potential for human trafficking to grow.

“If you agree to the situation where we have sort of a lawless industry developed, mainly bawdy houses, prostitution and all the things that go along with it, what you do is then you have a potential for the demand to be high and the supply having to meet that demand in which case human trafficking becomes a very, very lucrative business for criminals,” says McColeman.

Continue reading

Putting the “Fun” Back in Fundamentals

From The Sputnik February 16, 2011. Also ran on the CUPWire.

It’s 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is reverberating through the dressing room while the players discuss their Saturday nights.

Head coach Andrew Francella, a third-year concurrent education student, finishes filling up the team’s water bottles and comes out of the bathroom to try to motivate the 11 smiling faces waiting for him.

“Alright, guys, bring it in,” Francella says to his team, the Brantford Avengers. “We’ve been in the last few games we played and if we play hard and hustle, I think we can win this one.”

This morning, he’s wearing a navy hoodie, a pair of faded blue jeans and flashy grey Nikes as he lays out the strategy for the morning’s contest. He emphasizes that the team must continue working on clearing the puck off the boards in the defensive zone and setting up plays from the point on offence.

“But the most important thing today is what, guys?” Francella asks. “I’ll give you a hint: It starts with an ‘F.’”

“Fun!” shouts back one enthusiastic player.

Francella asks again, louder this time, and the whole team screams the answer back this time.

“You have to keep it light-hearted because when you’re learning you want to emphasize, ‘Yeah, you’re still learning, you’re not going to get everything right away,’” Francella said in an interview later. “That’s why making sure they’re having fun is the biggest thing so that when they make mistakes, they don’t get down on themselves.”

While most students are sleeping in, sometimes in an effort to get rid of a hangover, Francella has spent each Saturday and Sunday morning this year, waking up early to coach his team of eight- and nine-year-olds.

Continue reading

Stories From My Idols: Part III

Little needs to be said about this writer, whose become perhaps the most iconic journalist among those not in the field or who don’t really pay attention to the authors of stories. He has a movie about him, he was seemingly immune to whatever he threw into his body, he pretty well created a famous Colorado election, he had an iconic death, but most importantly, to me at least, he created a new type of journalism. Gonzo.

If you’ve never heard of Hunter S. Thompson, well, to be blunt, you should stop doing whatever you’re doing and watch Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas to give you an express look at what Thompson’s done. Once done there, pick up a book, and begin to read the man’s work.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. – Hunter S. Thompson

For those who are unfamiliar with writing styles, Gonzo journalism is a style of reporting where rather than removing his- or herself from the story, the reporter actually uses himself as a character in the story. It was the foundation for the New Journalism movement of the 60’s and 70’s, which basically calls for the elimination of pure objectivity, and also is regarded as the first real examples of what has come to be considered “creative non-fiction.”

The career of Thompson was probably just as interesting as his writing style. He got involved in journalism at a US Air Force base, where he began writing about the base football team. He went on to take a job in small-town Pennsylvania as a sports editor, then went to Puerto Rico, where he did some work for American papers on what was happening in the Caribbean. He moved back to the States and began heavy coverage of presidential elections, as well as cultural pieces on America, and of course, continued covering sporting events, as what got him into the biz. Some of his most famous work has come in the form of full-length books of his writing, which use the distinguishable Gonzo style. One such book was focused on a year Thompson spent riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, while another, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 offered a then-rare glimpse on how campaigns worked, and focused strongly on the Democratic primaries of that year. This book also sparked the famous hatred of Richard Nixon which Thompson is still related to to this day.

Without further ado, I offer you one of my favourite (if perhaps less famous) works by Thompson, “The Temptations of Jean-Claude Killy,” originally published in the very first edition of Scanlans. Oh, and another thing you’ll find out about Thompson – he was given space in his work. The piece after the jump is about 8,000 words.

Continue reading

The 100-Song Road Trip

Back in October, one of my good friends and I came up with a half-baked drunk idea that the two of us were going to put together a playlist of 100 songs, 50 a piece, decide in a direction, and just drive. Once that hundredth song ended, we would find a place to stay, park the Jeep, and go get drunk. Then we’d spend the next day just checking out the city or town we were in, and depending on the level of excitement in terms of nightlife, we’d either stay for another night of shenanigans or just call it a night.

Well, last weekend the plan went into action, after a couple of weeks of arguing over songs and which direction we would take.

Coming up with music was both easy and hard. We’re both big fans of classic rock through to more 80’s prog-rock type music up into nostalgic “90s rock” (for lack of a better term). We both hate country, so that was easy. In terms of more modern bands, we ran into some issues. I, being a fan of some hip-hop, was quickly shut down when I tried to throw some J. Cole, Drake & Kanye West into the mix. He, being a fan of stuff like Maroon 5 and Cee-Lo, had some songs of his own shut down. Eventually, we found the newer bands we liked, and we were set to roll.

A bicycle sits in a tree at Notre Dame - Kyle W. Brown

But, we still needed a direction. At first we thought about heading east, keeping it in Canada. I realized that we were going to end up way too close to my hometown for it to have any sort of adventure to it, so I put the kibosh on that. He wanted to go through Buffalo, try to make it somewhere on the east coast. I suggested we make course for the midwest, the heartland of America, if you will. So, we consulted, and alas, the midwest won. Off we were, with the goal of making it to Chitown.

The ceiling of the Student Center at Notre Dame - Kyle W. Brown

On the drive we ran into some random fellow outside a gas station peddling contraband cigarettes, got caught in traffic in Detroit and were fearful for our lives (it wasn’t even all that bad), went from one timezone into another, then back into the first one five minutes later, and saw the beautiful town of Paw Paw.

We never quite made it to Chitown…but we were close! (I think?) We ended up pulling into South Bend, Indiana, home of the University of Notre Dame and…uh, Notre Dame football and…Notre Dame students! We were able to find a nice Scottish pub to drink the night away, and then spent the next day just walking around the monstrous (to a guy coming from Laurier, anyway) campus.

In our brilliance, we went on the weekend of American Thanksgiving, and as such, most of the students were actually at home, and therefore the massive frat and sorority parties we geared ourselves up for were simply not happening. So, we called it a good trip and headed home.

The Engineering Honor Society symbol - Kyle W. Brown

On our way back we did stop at an Applebees in Jackson, Michigan, though, and had a really bitchy waitress and some stomach-upsetting food. So, maybe that was karma that we never should have left and the greatest night ever was waiting for us back in South Bend…probably not, though.

You can find the playlist after the jump.

Continue reading

Stories From My Idols: Part II

Unlike Klosterman, who I sought out on my own after a good friend of mine threw “Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs” at me in the high school cafeteria and said “Read this,” I did not come across this writer’s great work until my first year of university, when a journalism professor of mine recommended a reading of hers.

That article was “The American Male at Age Ten,” and much to the surprise of my professor, quite frankly I hated it. The story, that is, not the way that Susan Orlean magically transformed the character of Colin Duffy from a regular 10-year-old to one of the most interesting characters I came across that day. So, I opted to give Orlean another shot, she was after-all praised as one of the best magazine writers by this professor who I held in high regard.

As I continued to read more and more, I became fascinated with Orlean’s ability to take ordinary people, objects, characters, whatever, and transform them into something extraordinary. Her attention to detail, her ability to offer descriptions one would expect in a Cormac McCarthy or Stephen King novel, her research into seemingly knowing everything about whom she is writing, her wit, and her, as mentioned, ability to see beyond the scope of a normal journalist, and instead of finding something exciting, transforming a quirky nobody into a competitor for the Dos Equis man’s title as “Most Interesting Man in the World.”

Some of my favourite works by her include the story of a run-down south Boston neighbourhood turning the corner, a story about the most watched whale in the world, and perhaps the greatest, playing to the music-lover in me, a look at the Shaggs, an all-girl band from New Hampshire who, by ear are painful to listen to, but who Frank Zappa proclaimed as being better than The Beatles.

The piece I will leave with you today is none of the above, however, but instead the story of Biff Truesdale, a champion of the Westminster Kennel Club’s prestigious “Best Boxer” and “Best Working Dog” categories. It is a perfect example of how brilliantly she can turn a normal story about a showdog into something incredible.

So, please enjoy…Show Dog.

Continue reading

The Newspaper That Almost Seized The Future

An amazing piece here – albeit very very long (took me about four sittings to get through it) – by the Columbia Journalism Review that looks into the San Jose Mercury, a newspaper that had a headstart on the electronic wave that has shaken the journalism industry.

The main character in the piece, Bob Ingle, was an absolute visionary for what the web could do for newspapers in bolstering content. Following a failed attempt at something called Viewtron, Ingle launced the Mercury Center, a home for extra content, online classifieds, and other important features.

Though it started out as something small in terms of extra content (transcript, press releases, etc.), Ingle grew the project over years, moving it to become one of the first on the World Wide Web, where they were then able to expand into a terrain now necessary, though not all that beneficial, to newspapers. These are things like adding audio content to accompany stories, running online classifieds (especially important in the booming Silicon Valley region at the time), and adding features that allowed the reader to have fast access to stories of interest to them.

Everything that we are still talking about newspapers having to do today – though today we talk about it on iPads and Tablets instead of on PCs – Ingle had the upper-hand on. That is the story of how the Merc almost seized the future, but ultimately, was unable to.