A representative of the American Federation of Musicians is demanding an apology from a Canadian political party after flyers opposing DMCA-style copyright laws were distributed outside a town hall meeting in Toronto.

Olivia Chow, a Canadian Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party, along with members of the Canadian Federation of Students, ran into some trouble while attempting to distribute flyers at a recent town hall consultation on copyright reform in Toronto. The flyers expressed opposition to the government’s proposed Bill C-61, which critics claim will impose DMCA-style copyright restrictions on Canadian citizens, and included an interview with another NDP MP, Charlie Angus, in which he said, “Count on me to speak out against Bill C-61 and anti-circumvention rules. I support stronger fair dealing.”

Chow and the students were hassled by security and threatened with ejection from the conference when they attempted to pass out the flyers, which is bad enough in itself, but Alan Willaert of the American Federation of Musicians has decided that a mere attempt to stifle legitimate political discourse doesn’t go far enough – he’s now demanding that the party retract the statement and issue an apology.

“I am attaching a flyer that was handed out by Olivia Chow at last night’s Copyright Town Hall meeting at the Royal York in Toronto. I am sure all of you will find its content equally as disgusting as I did,” he said in an email sent to “virtually every major Canadian creator group.”

“In light of the fact that the NDP at its convention in Halifax this month dealt with a resolution identified as 6-21-09 Expanding Party Policy on ‘Supporting Canadian Creativity’, and showed clear support for ‘ensuring appropriate copyright protection so that creators are fairly compensated for their intellectual property’, I am shocked that both Chow and Charlie Angus are allowed to openly depart from party policy and directive, obviously just to shamelessly buy votes among young people and academics,” he continued. “We intend on taking the NDP to task over this, and will accept nothing less than a retraction of Ms Chow’s statements and an apology.”

It’s an astounding demand and by all appearances also grossly ignorant of some very basic facts, foremost among them that Olivia Chow is not just any NDP member: She also happens to be married to Jack Layton, the New Democratic Party leader, which one would think would give her a reasonably clear insight into the party’s stance on major issues. Fortunately, Angus, the MP whose interview featured so prominently in the flyer, made it clear that no apology would be forthcoming.

“Seems to me the interview is consistent with what the NDP have always said on this file — we want artists to be able to benefit from the massive stream of information being traded but we don’t want average citizens turned into criminals,” he told Boing Boing.

“I was elected to participate in discussions about public policy. I have never heard of a lobbyist group demand an apology for speaking out about a totally botched piece of legislation like Bill C-61. If they spent less time running e-mail attacks and more time speaking with the various players they might realize that the NDP position has been balanced and consistent from the beginning,” he continued. “As for a public recanting to satisfy the C-61 lobby ? Sorry, dude… it ain’t happening.”


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