WHILE HIS SENIORS cannot be held responsible for who they may stand next to in public engagements, Irish Junior Minister Sean Sherlock has declared he won't be caught on the same platform as outspoken critic Simon McGarr (pictured thinking before speaking at right). This public position has raised some eyebrows since the Minister is responsible for soliciting citizen feedback on copyright legislation.
Writing in the Broadsheet.ie, McGarr explains,
"Both Minister Sherlock and his FF predecessors like to talk about copyright being a balancing act between 'two sides'. They define those sides as two competing commercial interests – ISPs on the one hand and copyright controllers like EMI et al on the other. In this view, laws should be made to reflect deals done between those two interests.
"There is no room for the public interest in that vision. For better or worse, I was on the panel representing the tens of thousands of Irish people who had lobbied the government over the SI as part of the StopSOPAIreland.com campaign. And the Minister didn’t want even one voice from that group to be heard.
"There is currently a consultation on the overhaul of copyright law in Ireland running, chaired by TCD law academic Dr. Eoin O’Dell. It held a public meeting last Saturday. Dozens of paid lobbyists turned up on behalf of the National Newspapers of Ireland, the music labels and other rights holders.
"When the time came for someone to speak up on behalf of copyright users, ie, everyone else in the country, there was silence."
But wait, there's more to this train wreck of panel games.
For several days, the junior minister had "reserved (his) right not to share a platform with anybody who was acting solely in their own interests." In what might be seen as merely PR optics, results from a Twitter alert for "SeanSherlockTD" revealed the Minister rowed back on his position and that he would confirm his attendance at The Digital Rights Forum, a public discussion tomorrow (Tuesday 3rd of April at 1-2pm in the Paccar Theatre of Dublin's Science Gallery), to discuss the issues surrounding copyright legislation and digital rights in Ireland.
As explained by the Science Gallery,
this event is organised and led by Sean Nicholls (contact: seannicholls [at] me.com) and more information is available from the Digital Rights Forum.
The argument has been made that statutory instrument 59/2012 which was signed into law by Richard Bruton, T.D. on 29th February of this year will curtail access to websites and services in Ireland and may represent a real threat to Irish citizens civil rights and free access to The Internet by enabling rights holders to seek potentially costly and damaging injunctions against websites as innocuous as Youtube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Boards.ie and others.
These issues and more will be addressed the panel at the forum, with a Q&A session for attendees to directly address the panel with their concerns.
I've already made a submission to Minister Sherlock, through a mechanism set up by Eoin O'Dell at Trinity College Dublin. I'm also responding to the call for feedback directly via hard copy, bringing concerns raised by two separate cohorts of fourth year students in the Limerick Institute of Technology. I don't expect the submissions to be read because they consider some of the draft legislation as part of the gene pool of the ill-advised SOPA legislation in the United States. The Minister doesn't like being tarred with the SOPA brush and doesn't seem to recognise the direct connection between his stance, his trusted collaborators and the arguments made by the SOPA camp.
Personally, I believe the Minister's behaviour already tips his hand in terms of the legislation. He will respect the vested interests of companies who pay for access to his diary and who pay their taxes to the Irish Exchequer over the interests of creatives who need flexible copyright rules in order to produce high-quality innovation for the Knowledge Economy. As is the case in most modern democracies, the suits win these kinds of initiatives. And Deputy Sean Sherlock wears a suit.
I suspect the public consultation is a smokescreen for imposing tighter enforcement of copyright, measured in longer periods of copyright protection for creative work and no provision in new Irish law for mechanisms such as Creative Commons Copyright.
I am also alarmed at how quickly Deputy Sherlock reaches for the Green Jersey Soundbite (i.e., "Lads, pull on the Green Jersey and row together for effective copyright in Ireland!"). He seems to think that any interpretation of Government legislation that is not his own, is a misinterpretation. He appears to discount learned legal opinion about the legislation he is charged to produce, thinking that "any person that started a campaign that deliberately misinterpreted that legislation should take responsibility for their actions in damaging this country’s reputation." Well, that misinterpretation would include a wide swath of creatives who do not share the world view of those industry respondents who frequently appear on the Minister's diary.
Another note for Minister Sean Sherlock, this one about pedigrees. Few in Ireland have been published online longer than "fat iPhone dude" Simon McGarr (self-deprecating adjective). I have records of his blog--his voice--dating back to early 2002. In terms of the internet, McGarr's long-standing internet presence makes him a senior citizen among Ireland's wider online community. He deserves Sherlock's respect, not derogatory insinuations.
Sean Sherlock, if you're reading this, you need to park your pride and listen to men and women like Simon McGarr and Karlin Lillington who will help you represent the entrepreneurs you so enthusiastically wish to facilitate in your ministerial brief. If you don't, you will fail to ensure a solid foundation of the Knowledge Society in Ireland.
Chompsky on Broadsheet.ie -- "Lawyer Behind the Stop SOPA Ireland Campaign Writes", April 2, 2012.
Ciara O'Brien -- "Sherlock in Fresh SOPA Controversy" in the Irish Times, April 2, 2012.