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Friday, May 01, 2009

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Roundup

The excellent Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee alerts me to this demo of the way in which London has become a Big Brother city. Shades of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, I guess, but somehow 25 years late.

He also draws my attention to CBC Radio's The Current, where Anna Maria Tremonti interviews Ezra Levant about free expression and human rights commissions, advising, "Click on the podcast in Part Two of the show to hear the interview. He warns, "You'll need speakers to hear this fast-paced interview. Length: 23 minutes." I bet.

Franklin also reminds me,
Liberty, as it is conceived by current opinion, has nothing inherent about it; it is a sort of gift or trust bestowed on the individual by the state pending good behavior.

Mary McCarthy (1952)
But that (as McCarthy was surely trying to make clear) is exactly contrary to the traditional idea of what liberty is: Government does not confer liberty as a gift - it gains its legitimacy from recognizing liberty as a fact. Liberty is a starting point for discussions about laws.

He also advises me of Paul Koring's article in The Globe and Mail about the fact that Canada has been "placed on copyright blacklist":
For years, the powerful International Intellectual Property Alliance – a group that includes companies such as Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corp. – pressed the previous Bush administration to get tough with what it regarded as Canada's chronic failure to enforce intellectual property laws. But the Bush administration was content to leave Canada among the larger and less-serious group of offenders on the ordinary watch list.

The alliance cheered Canada's blacklisting Thursday. “We commend [the U.S. Trade Representative] for the decision to elevate Canada to the priority watch list,” it said. “Canada remains woefully behind the rest of the developed world (and many countries in the developing world as well) in adopting critical legislation that will facilitate the development of a healthy online marketplace for copyright materials,” said Eric Smith, an alliance spokesman.
I guess I have a different view of this issue from a lot of people, but that may be because it reminds me of something.

It reminds me of another issue that Americans have carried on a lot about: biosimilars? Biosimilars are molecules used as medicines that are the equivalent of a patented product, but available far cheaper. Some Canadian companies study the patented product and produce a slightly altered version more cheaply, and sell or export it to people who can't otherwise afford the medication (but, understandably, those people don't want to die either).

The reality is that in a global marketplace, markets tend to converge. Recently, I was with an elderly person at a pharmacy counter at a hospital. The pharmacist informed her that she could have a given medication for $X, but that an equivalent medication was available for (much cheaper) $Y. As this lady lives on a fixed income in an age of rising prices, I was hardly surprised by her choice. Nor was I in any doubt that the equivalent medication was a biosimilar. The pharmacist knew perfectly well that it would do just as well.

Perhaps something like this is happening in the news and entertainment industry, too? Time will tell. My point is, in a global world, we cannot continue to sustain a situation where some people pay $50 for the information and others can only pay 5 cents. Some levelling must happen.

Also, I am pleased to see that free speech dinners are being organized in Alberta on behalf of street pastor Stephen Boissoin and sad to learn that MLA Lindsay Blackett has been ordered by the premier of Alberta to backtrack on support for civil rights. Here's Rob Breakenridge on that point.

The thing to see, folks, is that there is a big industry out there that hopes to get through the recession by getting a job denying you freedom.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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