Which comes first—affordable e-books and other media from many places, or the nurturing of Canadian writers, artists, musicians and other creators? And how about other countries’ similar measures?
I myself am Canadian, not just an e-book lover but also a teacher-writer, so I can see both sides, as regulations favoring domestic content are about come under review. The original idea was to prevent a flood of American-made stuff from swamping the Canadian media industry in books and other areas ranging music to movies. In the old days, that was a simple business. Books were books. Music was music. That was all it was.
But the difficulty, now, is that books are the Internet, music is the Internet, and so we have competing interests. If one area of government has the goal of increasing internet commerce to boost the economy, and another area of government has the goal of restricting it in order to protect Canadian authors or musicians or TV producers—then who wins? As law professor Michael Geist explains:
“In addition to regulations over Internet-based video services, there will be calls to implement an Internet service provider tax to fund the creation of Cancon…levies on Internet access would run counter to other policy goals, however, notably ensuring universal, affordable broadband for all Canadians since increases to the cost of Internet service would likely widen the digital divide.”
And, too, there is the issue of what people are actually willing to pay for. This Globe and Mail article succinctly quoted former Heritage minister James Moore: ‘Canadians believe in the value of investing in the arts and the role of the government in investing in the arts. But forcing people to pay for something, forcing people to pay for the infrastructure to make it available, and then forcing people into having to purchase it at the end? That is the third step that people are very wary about.’
So…do I deserve to have Amazon.ca promote my otherwise modestly-selling e-book for me, over, say, my editor David Rothman’s book, just because I’m Canadian? Or do we accept that this government-regulated gatekeeper role is now gone, just as other gatekeepers have vanished in the surge of the digital revolution? In such a world, my content, as anyone else’s, must stand on its own merits—both in Canada and elsewhere. That seems fair to me.
And I think, too, about what’s been going on in Australia, where protectionist laws are being challenged because people fear that the country is becoming second-class digital citizens. If the choices are out there, you can’t legislate them into not being out there. You have to learn to roll with the times.
Photo source: Here.