November 19, 2015

“Changing Canada’s copyright term … means two decades where zero historical work enters the public domain”

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

There may be good parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, but there are emphatically bad parts, as Jesse Schooff describes in the particular case of the arbitrary extension of copyright in Canada from fifty years to seventy years:

One of the TPP areas of scope which is critical to discuss is the section on copyright. At this point, several notable bloggers* have covered the TPP’s copyright extension provisions in great detail. But what do those provisions mean for you? Let’s bring it down to the ground. For example: folks in my demographic seem to love seeing old-timey photos of their city. Here in Vancouver, exploring our retro-downtown through old photographs of various eras is practically an official pastime.

A quality source of such photo collections is a city’s municipal archives. Traditionally, an archives’ mandate is to store physical objects and documents, which include the physical “analog” photos taken during most of the 20th century. “Great!” someone might say, “the archives can just digitize those photos and put them up on their website, right?”

Let’s ignore the fact that the solution my strawperson proposes has a host of logistical issues attached, not the least of which is the thousands of work-hours required to digitize physical materials. Our focus is copyright — just because the archives has the original, physical photo in their collection doesn’t mean that they own the rights to it.

You have to remember that our newfangled, internet-enabled society is relatively new. When I was a child, if a person wanted to see a historical photo from a city archives, they would actually have to physically GO to said archives and ask an archivist to retrieve the appropriate fonds containing the photo. Journalists and other professionals likely did this regularly, but for the most part, the public at large didn’t usually head down to a municipal building and ask an archivist to search through their collection just to look at a few old photos.

Today, things are much different. If a municipal archives has digitized a significant portion of, say, their collection of 19th and 20th century historical photos, then those photos can be curated online; made accessible to the public at large for everyone to access, learn from, and enjoy!


Some of the photos, we’ll call them “Group A”, were explicitly released into the public domain by the photographer, so those are okay to use. Another bunch, “Group B”, are photos whose photographer died more than fifty years ago (1965 and before); any copyright on these photos is expired. Some “Group C” photos were commissioned by a businesses, or the rights were specifically sold to a corporation, which means that the archives will have to get permission or pay a fee to make them available online. Most frustrating is the big “Group D”, whose authorship/ownership is sadly ambiguous, for various reasons**. It would be risky for the archives to include the Group D photos in their collection, since they might be violating the copyright of the original author.

So already, knowing and managing the tangle of copyright laws is a huge part of curating these event photos. Hang on, because the TPP is here to make it even worse.

It’s been long-known that the United States is very set on a worldwide-standard copyright term of seventy years from the death of the author. Sadly, such a provision made it into the TPP. Worse still, a release by New Zealand’s government indicates that this change could be retroactive, meaning that those photos in my hypothetical “Group B” would be yanked out of the public domain and put back under copyright.

June 28, 2015

The obsession with “rape culture”

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At sp!ked, Ella Whelan talks about Canadian reporter Lauren Southern’s public dissent from one of the main talking points of the feminist movement:

Southern had previously sparked debate by posting a picture online of her holding up a sign that explained why she didn’t ‘need feminism’ – a response to a popular feminist selfie campaign. Following this up a year later with a video entitled ‘Why I am not a feminist’, she called out feminism as a ‘faux form of equality under a gender-biased word’. In Southern’s report on the Vancouver SlutWalk, she explained that she had attended the rally to ‘challenge the fearmongering feminist narrative about men, women and violence’. It is this ‘rape culture’ narrative, she tells me, which is really trivialising rape. ‘Women are going to equate things that aren’t rape with rape because they interpret guys whistling at them as rape culture’, she says. ‘The misuse of the word [rape] is very dangerous because it allows for false accusations.’

Southern sees feminists’ obsession with ‘rape culture’ as a languishing in female weakness. ‘I’ve always thought that the main feminist issue was empowering women, in real terms; telling women to go out there, get the job, do what you want, not run around screaming “trigger warning” and crying.’ Her assessment of contemporary feminism is astute. Following her visit to the rally in Vancouver, Southern received a barrage of messages from self-proclaimed radical feminists who told her ‘they were vomiting all night because they were so triggered’ by what she had done. That’s right, these women felt physically sick just because someone disagreed with them.

This bizarre prizing of weakness on the part of contemporary feminists is, Southern explains, down to their refusal to engage in debate on a regular basis. ‘It’s not hard what they do. They go on to a street where everyone agrees with them, wearing their underwear, and get to show off for a day… They don’t surround themselves with people who disagree with them.’ This refusal to engage in debate was evident at the protest itself, with Southern having to climb up on to a plinth to avoid her sign being covered up by angry protesters.

So where does this desire to portray weakness as a strength come from? Southern puts it down to an institutionalised victim culture in Western universities: ‘Academia is obsessed with feminism. You’ve got a protective narrative which screams “rape culture” at the slightest thing and students just eat it up. Whether that’s because they want good grades or not, this stuff doesn’t get challenged.’ As a result, she says, sexism becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. ‘If you’re told that you’re a victim as you grow up, you’re going to have a confirmation bias when you’re not hired for a job but a man is. You’ll hear sexism in your head’, she says.

May 7, 2015

Vancouver – where “happiness” doesn’t co-relate with “quality of life”

Filed under: Cancon, China, Economics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Reducing the realities of life in a given city to a quick numerical value or data point on a chart requires you to ignore subtleties and local influences. Last month, Mark Collins linked to this article by Terry Glavin on what the “quality of life” numbers for Vancouver actually conceal:

If the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual top 10 world cities rankings are what you’ve been relying on, you probably weren’t surprised last month when the global human resources outfit Mercer tagged Vancouver on its Quality of Living index as the best city in North America. But you might have been surprised this week when Statistics Canada released a study showing that, by a variety of indices, Vancouverites are the unhappiest people in Canada, falling dead last among the residents of 33 cities across the country.

We like to think of Lotusland’s grand metropolis as a place where people ski, sail, ride their bikes, swim, and hike though lush rainforests, all in the same day. But StatsCan’s annual survey of median household income in Canadian cities routinely puts Vancouver close to the bottom of the heap on that same list of 33 cities, and in January the Demographia International research institute ranked Vancouver second to last in a global survey of 378 cities on its Housing Affordability Survey.

Vancouver’s median household income in 2014 was $66,400, while the city’s median home price was 10.6 times higher: $704,800. Only Hong Kong fared worse, and just barely. Hong Kong also tops Vancouver, again only barely, as the property investment bolt-hole most favoured by Mainland China’s loot-laden millionaires. For years, we’ve been instructed to pretend that this is somehow mere coincidence. You can’t get away with talking to Hong Kongers like that, but Vancouverites take it sitting down.

In happier places like Saguenay, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, there’s manufacturing, dairy farming, forestry and mining, and there’s a high degree of neighborliness and civility. But Vancouverites make most of their money from increases in the real estate value of whatever property they might be lucky to own. This tends to skew any real sense of hometown belonging, and nothing quite so rattles the cages as loose talk about the elaborate, federally-sanctioned swindle that has been keeping the bubble inflated all these years.

September 16, 2013

Speed Kills … Your Pocketbook

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:06

Does speed really kill? Sometimes, yes, but when the speed limits are set artificially low, and enforcement is targeted to those areas where the limit is far below traffic speed, then all the speed kills campaign does is keep drivers complacent about paying fines that don’t improve safety.

In this video, I investigate the culture and science surrounding speed enforcement in BC, coupled with my trademark Simpsons, Supertroopers, and Family Guy references.

May 20, 2013

Counterfeit $100 bills now in circulation, despite all the anti-counterfeiting features

Filed under: Cancon, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:44

The new polymer bills were touted as having very hard to counterfeit features, and people apparently believed what they were told — because they haven’t been bothering to check the new bills:

Less than two years ago, the head of the RCMP said Canada’s new polymer bank notes would go a long way in deterring the threat of counterfeiting.

Just last month, the Bank of Canada announced the notes’ sophisticated transparency and holography made them “the most secure bank note series ever issued” by the institution.

Too bad somebody forgot to tell criminals in British Columbia.

Mounties and municipal police in Metro Vancouver are warning the public that several of the fake $100 bills have been detected in the region over the past few weeks.

The fanfare about the security features on the bills, may be part of the problem, said RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound.

“Because the polymer series’ notes are so secure … there’s almost an overconfidence among retailers and the public in terms of when you sort of see the strip, the polymer looking materials, everybody says ‘oh, this one’s going to be good because you know it’s impossible to counterfeit,'” he said.

“So people don’t actually check it.”

December 21, 2012

The funny side of the sex trade

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:36

In the National Post, David Granirer talks about a stand-up comedy therapy program he runs to help people suffering from mental illness find ways to cope with their issues. He also ran the program for women in the sex trade and provides a few jokes from a recent performance by members of the program:

* “I’ve been in detox. While I was there I took a lifeskills course. They taught me how to shop, how to manage money, and how to pay my dealer on time so he’ll keep fronting me drugs.”

* “When you’re selling drugs on the street everyone wants to trade clothes for drugs. You can get a $200 pair of jeans for a $10 rock. Why would you go to Winners after that?”

[. . .]

* “When I first started in sex trade, a friend and I went down to the stroll and I get into a car with 2 guys. At first I thought it was kinky that they were into handcuffs, but then I found out they were cops.”

* “But the sex trade is a business like any other. If a john can’t pay I turn it over to my collection agency – 2 guys with baseball bats.”

* “As a sex trade worker you have to be a psychologist. The only difference is a psychologist’s clients don’t ask to be peed on.”

January 24, 2012

The Crazy Years: today’s exhibit, the $100 hot dog infused with 100-year-old cognac

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:55

There are undoubtedly culinary discoveries yet to be made, some of which may well be amazingly tasty. Pulling together unlikely combinations is certainly one way to discover new and interesting flavours. This one, however, strikes me as being just a little bit crazy:

dougieDog Hot Dogs, a popular Vancouver eatery renowned for its creative all-natural hot dogs, has just added the Dragon Dog to its menu — with a price tag of $100. The hot dog features a foot-long bratwurst infused with hundred-year-old Louis XIII cognac, which costs over $2000 a bottle. Also on the dog, Kobe beef seared in olive and truffle oil and fresh lobster. A picante sauce (ingredients undisclosed) ties the flavors together for 12 inches of absolute culinary decadence.

“In designing this hot dog I wanted to come up with something super tasty and high-end that stays true to the traditional identity of the hot dog — a hot dog that any hot dog lover would enjoy,” explained dougieDOG proprietor and Chief Hot Dog Designer dougie luv.

I’m surprised the owner’s name isn’t C.M.O.T. Dibbler

October 20, 2011

Timer now started for how quickly Quebec forces Harper to override shipbuilding contract awards

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The National Post editorial board has lots of nice things to say about the federal government’s attempt to take politics out of the huge shipbuilding contract process:

On Wednesday, the Tory government released its Solomonic decision regarding which shipyards will build $33-billion in new military and non-military vessels over the next two decades. The evaluation of bids for the largest government procurement contract since the Second World War was handled by senior bureaucrats, rather than cabinet ministers. Even the announcement of the winning contractors was made by Francois Guimont, the top civil servant from Public Works and Government Services, rather than his minister or the minister of National Defence, as would have been the case with past contracts of this magnitude.

Of course, that’s not to say there will be no political backlash from the decision. Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax will be given $25-billion to build new joint support ships, Canadian Surface Combatants — a sort of destroyer-frigate hybrid — and offshore patrol vessels capable of sailing off all three of Canada’s coasts — east, west and Arctic. Seaspan Marine of Vancouver will build science vessels for the Coast Guard and for the Fisheries department, plus icebreakers worth a total of $8-billion. That means Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que. was left without a major shipbuilding contract (though Davie is still eligible to bid on a further $2-billion contract to provide smaller government boats, such as Fisheries patrol vessels). It must have been tempting for the Tories to intervene in the contract-award process and toss Quebec a bigger bone. Their recent decision to expand the grasp of the official languages commissioner to several airlines, and their willingness to give new seats to Quebec in the House of Commons (despite the fact Quebec was not underrepresented there), just because Ontario, B.C. and Alberta were getting more, shows the Tories have become very concerned about their appeal to Quebec voters.

You can guarantee that many Quebec politicians will benefit for having yet another stick to beat the federal government with — this would be true in all scenarios except the one where the Quebec shipyard got both contracts. It would be an even better deal for the taxpayers (and perhaps even the Royal Canadian Navy) if the contracts hadn’t been restricted to Canadian shipyards: it wouldn’t fly politically, but it would almost certainly have been better bang for the billions of bucks.

July 12, 2011

An amusing copyright tale (for a change)

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 16:06

Jesse Brown has the most entertaining copyright story I’ve read in quite a while:

But some of the hooligans exposed on Youtube found a clever way to get the video removed—copyright claims. Under Youtube’s “Notice and Takedown” policy, all you need to do is claim you own the rights to a video and demand that it be removed, and Youtube will remove it. The video’s uploader will be informed of the allegation and then have a chance to challenge it.

But here’s the rub: in order to claim ownership of a video’s copyright, you have to identify yourself. And when Youtube informs the uploader that they’re being accused of a copyright violation, they have to tell them who their accuser is. So rioters are indirectly handing their names over to the very people who were trying to identify them.

June 16, 2011

QotD: The tendency to riot among Canadians

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:44

Just as cities have to anticipate trouble, ordinary law-abiding folks who think a trip downtown to watch the fun have to accept that they won’t necessarily be protected from it, or from the police response. Ontario courts are still dealing with cases of people claiming their rights were trampeled when police reacted to the G20 violence by abandoning their own duties and discipline, and lashing out at anything that stumbled into their path. Hearings are being held to sort out what went wrong, and the force is struggling to retain some respect after doing its best to avoid being held accountable for its own indefensible actions. In other words, once the trouble starts, all bets are off, and anyone who thinks they’ll take the kiddies down for a peak, and will somehow be protected when things get out of hand, is deluding themselves.

There is something bizarre going on just beneath the surface of our supposedly decent and civilized society. Canada is prosperous and peaceful, and does as much or more than any country to preserve and protect the rights and opportunities of people fortunate enough to live here. There are certainly inequalities and injustices, but anyone who thinks they’ll find a society that tries harder to eliminate them, or is more concerned with trying to spread the benefits equally among all citizens, will have a lengthy search on their hands. It’s doubtful in any case that the dolts who ignited the trouble in Vancouver think that deeply, or have any purpose other than mindless mayhem. They deserve no sympathy, and should be treated by the law as harshly as allowed.

Kelly McParland, “Lessons to learn from dolts at a hockey game”, National Post, 2011-06-16

Welcome to Vancouver. Please ignore the rioters

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:02

Lord Stanley’s Cup won’t be coming back to Canada this year, but as Brian Hutchison points out, that’s only one of the losses sustained by Vancouver last night:

The season ends, and the worst does come to pass. Vancouver, you have lost. Twice. But the game hardly matters now, does it? The score? Who cares? As I write this, my eyes are stinging, my is throat sore, having breathed in some sort of dispersal chemical that police deployed — in desperation, and perhaps too late. There could be some residual effect from having inhaled acrid, toxic smoke from burning cars, exploding cars, destroyed by lunatics still running crazy on the city’s downtown streets.

Blood in our streets. I saw people on the ground, bleeding. Shattered glass everywhere. Police cars set alight. Major bridges are now closed, preventing public access into the downtown core. Transit is plugged up, there’s no way out. More police and fire crews are arriving, from the suburbs, but again, it seems too late.

And as I write this, the sun has just set. Vancouver, what a disgrace.

Update: A Tumblr page posting photos of the rioters and looters:

The National Post has more photos of the aftermath.

Update: Joey “Accordion Guy” deVilla points out that one of these riots is not like the others. Oh, and a commentary on the most famous photo of the riots (so far).

March 18, 2011

West coast earthquake zones

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:44

According to an article in The Economist, the well-known San Andreas fault in California is not the most likely to cause an earthquake of the magnitude of last week’s quake in Japan. The most likely source is the Cascadia subduction zone:

wikimedia.org - Cascadia subduction zone The most likely megaquake on the West Coast would be much further north — in fact, 50 miles off the coast between Cape Mendocino in northern California and Vancouver Island in southern British Columbia. This 680-mile strip of seabed is home to the Cascadia subduction zone, where oceanic crust known as the Juan de Fuca plate is forced under the ancient North American plate that forms the continent. For much of its length, the two sides of this huge subduction zone are locked together, accumulating stresses that are capable of triggering megaquakes in excess of magnitude 9.0 when they eventually slip. As such, Cascadia is more than a match for anything off the coast of Japan.

What makes Cascadia such a monster is not just its length, but also the shallowness of the angle with which the encroaching tectonic plate dives under the continental mass. The descending plate has to travel 40 miles down the incline before it softens enough from the Earth’s internal heat to slide without accumulating further frictional stresses. Could the fault unzip from end to end and trigger a megaquake — along with the mother of all tsunamis? You bet. By one account, it has done so at least seven times over the past 3,500 years. Another study suggests there have been around 20 such events over the past 10,000 years. Whatever, the “return time” would seem to be within 200 to 600 years.

And the last time Cascadia let go? Just 311 years ago.

Cascadia subduction zone image from wikimedia.org.

March 6, 2011

Don’t worry, liquor fans, they’ll soon stop over-serving you

Filed under: Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:05

Did you know that the US shot glass is ever so slightly larger than the Imperial one? These guys didn’t, but they do now:

To be fussy about it — and who’s fussier than a liquor tax auditor? — a U.S. fluid ounce works out to 29.574 millilitres while the imperial (that is, Canadian) ounce is 28.413. While that may not sound like a big discrepancy to you, it means Canadian bars using U.S. shot glasses, as virtually all of them do, have spent years serving countless more litres of liquor than legally required. The upshot for your shots is that they’ll soon be 7% lighter.

Owners had no idea there was a difference between a U.S. shot and a Canadian one. “I’d say it’s totally unrecognized,” Tweter says. Finding imperial shot glasses proved impossible, and Tweter and Wilson took matters into their own hands. They sourced a factory in China to make a slightly smaller-than-usual vessel. Meet the Can-Pour, probably the only imperial ounce shot glass on the Canadian market.

As a result of rounding, the standard U.S. shot glass actually works out to 30 millilitres while the Can-Pour pours an even 28. Tweter points out this falls within Weights and Measurements Canada’s tolerances. A chart on Tweter and Wilson’s website shows how a bar with annual liquor purchases of $360,000 could save more than $25,000 by pouring a little less. Doesn’t that cheat the customer? “The two-millilitre difference is virtually undetectable. It’s literally drops,” Tweter says.

So drink up, Vancouver shot fans: you’ll soon be paying the same for slightly less alcohol per drink.

February 28, 2011

“SwordFit” – combining western martial arts with fitness classes

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:02

This sounds like an excellent idea:

Since Devon Boorman opened the Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay in Vancouver seven years ago, he’s taught actors, fans of medieval weapons as well as bankers and office workers. Like an action-oriented Pilates class, the Western martial art of swordplay requires the grace of a ballet dancer with the strength of a warrior. It’s not about building muscle mass, as in weight-lifting, but about building plyometric — that is, explosive — strength.

But last fall, he added a new hybrid to his lineup.

The 90-minute SwordFit workout at Academie Duello is designed to be a mix of technical and cross-training, and features two instructors — one for swordplay and one for general fitness. Meghan O’Connell, the fitness instructor, has a background in boxing and has based many of the exercises on boxing training circuits.

[. . .]

“Swordplay makes you feel graceful and powerful at the same time — like dance,” Mr. Boorman says. It strengthens arms and shoulders, and tones the core. “If you relax your core,” he says, “your posture will crumple and you will lose your balance.”

Ms. Thomas also enjoys the couples aspect to the class. “I like the fact that we can take turns being the attacker and the defender,” she says. “It really gets a lot of frustration out.”

Mr. Thom agrees. “There’s something so visceral and revitalizing about the clanging of the swords.”

H/T to Elizabeth for the link.

March 2, 2010

Those ominous parallels again

Filed under: Cancon, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:53

I originally just added this as a comment on this post, but it appears to have a bit more life in it.

Gil LeBreton made this pithy observation in his column about the Vancouver Olympics on the 28th of February:

After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation.

Flags were everywhere. The country’s national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone’s clothing.

Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation.

But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I thought it was amusing, so I just added it to the comment thread, but I guess I wasn’t the only one to notice Mr. LeBreton’s insight:

So true. The parallels between Berlin 1936 and Vancouver 2010 are clear, if you just pay attention.

Not everyone has the perspicacity to discern the neo-Nazi threat north of America’s borders. Fortunately, Mr. LeBreton does. Because he’s more observant than most. He makes the cognitive connections others miss:

“For 17 days we were barraged with Canadian flags, rode buses and trains with people in sweatshirts and jerseys adorned with Canadian maple leafs, and were serenaded at venues by Canadian spectators, lustily cheering for Canadian athletes.”

My God. It’s spine-chilling.

The rest of the world was lulled into complacency and Olympic fever. But the Star-Telegram’s crack reporter wasn’t fooled by the crafty Canucks. Their display of patriotism reminded him of something. Something terrifying.

“I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.”

You see? Maple leaf flag equals swastika. Damn you, Canada.

He’s so right. Connect the dots! Look it up, sheeple!

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