January 13, 2006 | By Ren Bucholz

Canadian Pol Loses Cool in Cash-for-Copyright Scandal

Canadian politics have been exciting of late -- a scandal, a collapsed government, and now another scandal involving a member of that collapsed government. But the really interesting bit is that the last scandal revolves around a Canadian MP's close ties to Hollywood, and it has launched copyright into the spotlight as a bona fide election issue.

The controversy started when Sarmite Bulte, the Liberal incumbent for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, announced a $250 per plate fundraiser at the Drake Hotel for January 19, just four days before the election. Ms. Bulte is well-known as the force behind the “Bulte Report” [PDF link] of May, 2004, which advocated a decidedly imbalanced, pro-rightsholder revision of Canada's Copyright Act. Her report was too radical for the government, which left many of her handouts to the content industry on the cutting room floor when it created Bill C-60. Perhaps that explains why her fundraiser is sponsored by a who's who of Canada's big-copyright business lobbyists.

Wednesday was the first of two “all candidates” meetings in her riding. That means that all six candidates in the district got together to take constituent questions. ORC, EFF & CIPPIC's Canadian activism initiative, had earlier called for the public to attend the meetings and ask candidates if they'd take Michael Geist's “copyright pledge,” which would force legislators to swear off content industry money. When asked by one of the many (by the sounds of applause) EFF-friendly people in the room about the pledge, Sam Bulte went a little nuts. In fact, she said:

“I will not allow Michael Geist and his pro-user zealots, and Electronic Frontier Foundation members to intimidate me into silencing my voice.”

The video is priceless. Geist has a great post on those “zealots” (hint: you probably go to them when you need to check out books, or they may even be teaching your children!).

The best part? Four of the six candidates *agreed* to take the pledge publicly, with the the other non-Bulte person taking a pass (that'd be Terry Parker of the Marijuana Party, natch). All in all, copyright has become a shockingly hot election issue. Bulte's response will certainly lead to more coverage before the election. If the success of our activism is linked to the blood pressure of Hollywood-bankrolled politicians, we did some pretty good work this week.


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