Adam Goodes and the tragedy of Australia’s missed international moment

I heard the news of Adam Goodes’ retirement early last Friday morning, 14 hours removed from Sydney. As a Canadian and a relatively recent convert to the joys of Australian Rules football, I was surprised by my degree of despondency over the news. It wasn’t so much that his playing career had come to an end, as all such careers must. Rather, it’s how the circumstances surrounding his departure have resulted in a tragically missed opportunity for the country and a stain on its image that will take years to remove.

Since I was introduced to the sport by a couple of Swans tragics and the sensational 2012 Grand Final (which also happened to feature a fine performance by a fellow Canadian, Mike Pyke), I’ve talked up the game incessantly to fellow Canadians. I’ve even created a course at my home university comparing Canadian and Australian society through the lens of ice hockey and Australian Rules football. At a screening of Port Adelaide’s Round 21 upset of Hawthorn, one of my colleagues, witnessing for the first time the skill displayed by these sublimely gifted athletes, wondered, “Why isn’t this more popular in North America?”

Through all of this, including 5:30 am appointments with Friday Night Footy (great way to start your day when your team wins), I’ve learned more and more about the rules and history of the game, and in so doing, about the history and culture of Australia. Since Canada and Australia are so similar, it’s also led me to reflect on my own society, and hockey’s place in it.

From my side of the ocean, the Australian Football League and Australian Rules football stand as beacons of what Australia and Australians are capable of at their best. In a world of global commercial homogenization, maintaining a thriving indigenous sport is a huge accomplishment. Coming from North America, where sports franchises are the playthings of multi-billionaires, to be moved the moment a given profit margin cannot be maintained, it’s inspiring to see the deep connection between communities and their teams. The AFL is also light years ahead of the National Hockey League in terms of women’s representation in coaching, umpiring and administrative positions, and in the stands, even if true equality is still far off.

Then there’s the game itself. To this Canadian’s eye, it’s an incredibly graceful and exciting spectacle, the passing no less than the kicking and the tackling. It’s physical without being violent (give or take a Brian Lake choke hold) and matches hockey for speed and creativity. Even Bruce McAvaney’s commentary, which I understand drives some Australians to distraction, is so inventive that it never fails to yield some Facebook-worthy phrasing to confuse, amuse and intrigue my Canadian friends.

Beyond that, there’s the positive role the AFL attempts to play in the wider society. The changes resulting from Nicky Winmar’s gesture and Michael Long’s stand for basic respect speak volumes not only about the AFL, but also Australians’ willingness to confront hard realities about the darkest parts of their history. Themed rounds, for example, are foreign to me as a Canadian, as is a league taking a strong political position on anything remotely controversial, such as Indigenous rights or multiculturalism.

Critics might see these rounds as tokenism, but they also send a powerful message about the importance of unity and reconciliation to a country (like Canada) still scarred by the sins of genocide and racism. In Canada, where politeness is often a mask for the societal ills we dare not acknowledge, such candour is alien.

Which brings us to Adam Goodes’ retirement. I can’t think of a single hockey player who can match his record and the eloquence with which he promotes his message of recognition, reconciliation and equality (for all the disdain he cops, Goodes is preaching a pretty generous and compassionate message).

That the racist (and with the clarity offered by distance, the booing is obviously racist) jeering continued into the final moments of his final match is, for someone who sees in Australia hints of how things could be better in Canada, profoundly disheartening. Despite the stand taken by his fellow players, captains, rival teams and the AFL itself, the booing continued. And while it may not have driven Goodes out of the game (though it came close), it certainly coloured his leave-taking in a way that nobody – champion or otherwise – deserves.

The loss is not Goodes’, but Australia’s. Nobody can take Goodes’ accomplishments away from him, including his courageous stands for respect and against racism. Rather, this year of booing shows that, despite two decades of sustained efforts by the AFL, and by the commendable actions and words of our sports heroes and leaders, there remains a substantial racist hard core amongst AFL barrackers, and thus in Australian society as a whole. While Goodes’ retirement will end the booing (for now), it also means Australia no longer has the chance to make it right, to emerge from the pain of the past few months a better country, to serve as an inspiration to others as it did with its response to Winmar and Long.

From Canada, where we deal, more quietly, with the same issues, this failure is disheartening. If socially acceptable racial vilification can still occur – toward a champion and humanitarian, of all people – after sustained decades of anti-racism work by leading institutions and people, what hope is there for the next Adam Goodes? The tragedy is Australia’s, and Canada’s.

Posted in Australian Rules football | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Torture, US democracy and the rule of law

I’m trying to think through the obscenity of the US torture program, and my fears about what the Obama Administration’s non-response tells us about the health of the US democracy.

After all the terrible things I read yesterday, I was still sort of shocked to read this account, titled, “I Can’t Be Forgiven for Abu Ghraib: The Torture Report Reminds Us of What America Was,” by someone who admits to torturing people at Abu Ghraib.

That the author, Eric Fair, is haunted by having tortured people in the service of the US government is understandable and human. His commitment to talking widely about what he and other US torturers did is commendable.

But at the same time, it stuns me that essentially he’s freely admitting to committing crimes against humanity (as have Dick Cheney and George W Bush). That they so casually admit that US government representatives “tortured some folks” (as Obama said recently) demonstrates how greatly the taboo against torture in the US has been weakened.

Unless the people responsible for this obscene program of torture, rape and murder of prisoners are brought to justice, the torture report is about what America is, not what it was. And it is a dark, lawless place, where police hardly ever even face trial for killing citizens, and a free pass to torture and wreck the economy is available to those lucky enough to be rich or in a position of authority.

For us non-Americans, it’s often easy to criticize the United States because we don’t have to live there. It’s a lot harder to criticize your own society, which is why we should celebrate Americans like the authors of the torture report, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, people who have spoken truth to power at great risk to themselves, and even comedians like Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert. Calling out your own government’s injustices is hard. Most people shy away from any type of conflict. Standing up against the power of the government and the wrath of your fellow citizens, even for basic human decency, requires more personal fortitude than most of us have.

We Canadians are as bad or worse in speaking truth to power here at home. A quick check of Maher Arar’s Wikipedia page confirms my recollection that no individual Canadian has been held accountable for Canada’s role in his rendition to Syria and almost-certain torture. Stephen Harper shut Parliament down in 2009 in order to avoid dealing with the question of whether Canadian soldiers who transferred Afghan prisoners to Afghan authorities knew the prisoners would be tortured and thus committed war crimes. Our own complicity and lack of accountability is something to keep in mind when thinking about the impunity faced by US torturers.

But, like it or not, the United States – or, rather, the idea of the United States – plays an outsized role in the world, often for good. For all its hypocrisy, the idea of the United States – government by the people, for the people, and the rule of law – is a good one worth striving for. In the past decade, and especially the past few weeks, the possibility of rule of law and government by the people, for the people, has been dealt one blow after another. Again, it’s one where police killings are hardly ever brought to justice, the poor and black are jailed far out of proportion to the rest of US society, bankers can engage in illegal fleecing of individuals’ life savings and be rewarded for it, and leaders who freely admit to torturing other human beings are given a pass by a constitutional lawyer. If I set these facts in front of my students, they’d think I was talking about the dictatorship in China. This is where we’re at.

Just so there’s no confusion: I’ve been a huge admirer of the United States. I think their system of checks and balances (minus the money) is at least as good as, and in many ways better than, the Westminster system as it’s developed in Canada. Its vibrant culture and commitment to free speech is inspiring. I even attended Obama’s first inauguration, sharing that cold January day’s historic moment with a million ecstatic, patriotic and hopeful Americans. I was there because I thought Obama’s election, driven by a grassroots movement, represented the American capacity for renewal, that even though the country had suffered through eight years of torture, stupid wars and criminal greed on Wall Street, its democracy and rule of law was strong enough to make it better.

I no longer believe that. The only thing that keeps me from total despair is, as Andrew Sullivan noted yesterday, that the US system of government is still healthy enough to produce from within such a damning document, what he calls “arguably the most important act of public service in holding our government accountable in modern times,” and that some Americans are still willing to stand up for bedrock values like human dignity and the rule of law:

Everything that happened in this damning report is because of Americans. But the report itself is a function of other Americans determined to push back against evil done in this country’s name. Those Americans have been heroes in exposing this horror from the get-go, and they include many CIA agents who knew full well what this foul program was doing to their and America’s reputation.

Still, yesterday was a dark day. I might be overreacting. If we see indictments based on this report, particularly of high-ranking officials and not just the hands-on torturers, we’ll know how healthy the US democracy is. If not, then the American people will have their work cut out for them, if they want to keep their Republic.

For better and worse, so much of “the West” takes its moral cues from the United States. Left unchecked, the crumbling of the idea that the rule of law is even possible will spread outward, to countries like Canada. And unless you’re rich or politically connected, this can’t be a good thing.

Posted in democracy, United States | Tagged , , ,

Debating the future course of copyright in academia

Copyright and the Modern Academic: Congress 2014 Debate Series
May 25-29, Brock University
St. Catharines, ON

Copyright law is a contentious issue for Canadian academics in their roles as teachers, researchers and creators. Issues such as what counts as “fair dealing,” the future and functioning of copyright collectives like Access Copyright, the “open access” movement and the future of academic journals and academic publishing will affect every facet of academic life in the coming years.

In a series of three debates from May 25-29 and as part of Congress 2014, Canada’s leading copyright experts and practitioners will be tackling these key issues, making these sometimes-complex topics understandable for anyone in academia.

Our debate participants:

Michael Geist, University of Ottawa
Roanie Levy, Access Copyright
Samuel Trosow, University of Western Ontario
Howard Knopf, Macera & Jarzyna LLP
Glenn Rollans, Partner, Brush Education Inc.
Blayne Haggart, Brock University

The debates are open to all Congress attendees and to the general public. If you’re not at Congress, or can’t make the debates, we have you covered. Two of the debates will be livestreamed at, and recordings of all three will be available, also at

Event schedule

  1. Fair dealing and Canadian academics: The “Copyright Pentalogy” and beyond

Sunday, May 25, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. PLEASE NOTE THE CORRECTED TIME
Sankey Chambers
This event will be recorded and livestreamed at

This session focuses on the effects of recent court cases on academics’ ability to access and copy works, and considers the future direction of copyright reform.
The question: How will recent events around fair dealing affect Canadian academics?
In conversation: Samuel Trosow, University of Western Ontario; Blayne Haggart, Brock University
Main sponsor: Brock University Council for Research in the Social Sciences (CRISS); hosted by the Canadian Association of Learned Journals
AV sponsored by: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
Additional funding: Brock University Faculty of Education

  1. Debating Open Access and the future of academic publishing

Wednesday, May 28, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
South Block Room 215
This event will be recorded and livestreamed at

This debate focuses on the opportunities and challenges that the Open Access movement poses for Canadian academics and academic publishing.
The question: Should Open Access be the primary publishing model for Canadian academic and research publishing?
The debaters: Michael Geist, University of Ottawa; Glenn Rollans, Partner, Brush Education Inc.
Sponsoring association: Canadian Communication Association
AV sponsored by: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
Additional funding: Brock University Faculty of Education

  1. Debating Access Copyright: Friend or foe?

Thursday, May 29, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
International Centre Room 119
This event will be recorded and made available at

Today’s debate focuses on the future of the much-debated Access Copyright collecting society.
The question: Should Canadian universities opt out of Access Copyright and depend instead on the Copyright Act, including its fair dealing exemption?
The debaters: Roanie Levy, Access Copyright; Howard Knopf, Macera & Jarzyna LLP
Sponsoring association: Canadian Association for Information Science
AV sponsored by: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
Additional funding: Brock University Faculty of Education

For further information, please contact:
Blayne Haggart, Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science, Brock University
bhaggart at brocku dot ca

Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve written a book!

It’s called Copyfight: The global politics of digital copyright reform. It’s out now from University of Toronto Press. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s it about?

It’s the touching story of a young boy’s coming of age, but it’s also so, so much more. UTP PR folks, take it away!

Widespread file sharing has led content industries – publishers and distributors of books, music, films, and software – to view their customers as growing threats to their survival. Content providers and their allies, especially the U.S. government, have pushed for stronger global copyright policies through international treaties and domestic copyright reforms. Internet companies, individuals, and public-interest groups have pushed back, with massive street protests in Europe and online “internet blackouts” that derailed the 2012 U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But can citizens or smaller countries really stand in the way of the U.S. copyright juggernaut?

To answer this question, Copyfight examines the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization internet treaties that began the current digital copyright regime. Blayne Haggart follows the WIPO treaties from negotiation to implementation from the perspective of three countries: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Using extensive interviews with policymakers and experts in these three countries, Haggart argues that not all the power is in the hands of the U.S. government. Small countries can still set their own course on copyright legislation, while growing public interest in copyright issues means that even the United States might move away from ever-increasing copyright protection.

Pretty interesting, right?

Why should I buy this book?

If you’re interested in the politics of copyright, and if anything in the above description grabs you, then this is the book for you. Also, if you’re into online social movements (and who isn’t?), the book also tells the story of what I like to call the First Facebook Uprising. Turns out copyright politics is a breeding ground for all sorts of innovative strategies that eventually show up elsewhere, like in the Arab Spring.

If you want to understand the politics of the global economy, you should really be paying attention to how copyright and intellectual property work. Copyfight is my attempt to make sense of this relatively neglected corner of the world.

And! The Acknowledgements section features restaurant recommendations spanning three countries, and appearances by George Clooney, Nelson Mandela and the Sydney Swans of the Australian Football League. Go Swans!

I only buy books that have been approved by respected scholars. Who’s in your corner?

What, my word isn’t good enough for you? What about that I interviewed dozens of people in Canada, Mexico and the United States for this project? How about that it’s published by Canada’s top university press? Canada’s!

Nope. I want endorsements.

You’re a cruel taskmaster. Fortunately, Copyfight has elicited some very kind words from some academics I admire greatly.

Susan Sell, from The George Washington University, says:

Copyfight is a powerful reminder of the way in which the lines between multilateral, regional, bilateral, and domestic governance have become increasingly blurred. Well-written and based on extensive primary research, it is quite compelling.

Michael Geist, from the University of Ottawa and the architect of the aforementioned Facebook Uprising, had the following to say:

Blayne Haggart’s Copyfight provides an exceptional contribution to our understanding of how copyright laws are made, the role the public can play in influencing policy, and the global pressures faced by Canada and other similarly placed countries. His comparative analysis of Canada, the United States, and Mexico offers a unique window into both the similarities and important differences between the NAFTA countries, helping to explain why the laws have evolved in different ways.  With the ‘copyfight’ likely to continue, this book is a must-read for those seeking insight into the forces that shape our digital environment.

And Peter Drahos, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development, Australian National University

Modern copyright has become a shadowy labyrinth in which states, big business, interest groups, social movements, and activists engage in complex manoeuvres and fights. Blayne Haggart’s Copyfight tells the story of the politics of digital copyright in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through its wonderfully clear prose and conceptual framework it guides the reader through copyright’s labyrinth. It deserves to be widely read.

I’m convinced!

That’s not enough. Does it have a fancy cover?

Yes! How awesome is this?

Copyfight - cover copy

Wow! That would look great on a T-shirt.

We’re working on it.

Is it a #1 bestseller yet?

I don’t want to brag, but Copyfight is currently ranked #1,209,603 on Let’s get it up to #1,209,599 and give Thomas Piketty a run for his money! It’s doing a bit better on, at #54,955 (and  #6 in digital law books), but that’s probably because we have far fewer books here in Canada, most of which are sold as fuel to get us through the long, long winters.

I’m sold! Where can I buy it, and how much will it set me back?

You can buy it directly from U of T Press for a very reasonable $26.57. You can also get it for a bit less at or, or for a bit more from Probably elsewhere.

Have at it!

Posted in Shameless self-promotion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Olympic censorship, Olympic interference, the “A Rose by Any Other Name” edition

One final note on the whole CBC-IOC debacle. The two main criticisms I’ve heard of my article on the CBC’s problematic relationship with the Olympics were that I didn’t show that the IOC was interfering with CBC News’ reporting, and that this wasn’t really a case of censorship. On the first point, stopping the news from being broadcast is interference in the workings of the network. Furthermore, I maintain that because the CBC’s actions are so contrary to what we should expect of an independent news organization, it’s a fair question to wonder where the commercial aspects of the CBC-IOC relationship ends and its journalism begins.

The second point actually brings us back to the main focus of this blog, copyright (yay!). “Censorship” is a loaded word, and I don’t use it lightly. It’s also one of those things that the bad guys tend to do, it’s never something that we do. So people tend to react badly when the word is directed at “us.” It’s irrational, if understandable.

There’s also some confusion about what exactly should be classified as censorship. The common perception of censorship is that it involves the blocking of information for political or moral reasons. Most people are less comfortable with the idea that commercial agreements, backed by trademark or copyright claims, can lead to censorship. But whether information is blocked for moral, political or commercial reasons, the effect is exactly the same. There is no material difference between Singapore, say, blocking The Economist, in whole or in part, and the CBC blocking its Radio 1 livestream. In both cases, people are prevented from accessing the blocked information. The only difference is the justification: political in Singapore, commercial with the CBC. In both cases, it’s censorship, and we should call it by its name.

Oh, and that the news is still (mostly) available through other means is immaterial: Just because I can get around, say, Chinese censorship with a VPN doesn’t mean that it’s not censorship.

Posted in common decency, conflicts of interest | Tagged , , , , ,

The CBC walks back its Olympics censorship, a bit at least

It turns out that quite a few people were upset that the CBC stopped producing news podcasts (completely) and streaming Radio 1 outside of Canada “due to Olympic rights restrictions.” It’s been heartening to see the largely positive response to my Globe and Mail article. People really do like their CBC: I’m not alone in worrying about the short- and long-term effects of allowing an outside group, in this case, the International Olympic Committee, dictate how its news division operates.

It’s also nice to see that the CBC has decided to reinstate its news podcasts, as of Friday, judging by the World at Six page, with Olympics coverage cut out, according to this Toronto Star report. Stripping out Olympics reporting would still be a bit odd: I’d assume that reporting could be covered by fair dealing exceptions in Canadian copyright law, unless the CBC signed away its rights to report here, too.

 I’d also note that the CBC is still not streaming Radio 1 outside Canada. Not good, but at least people who want to get (non-Olympic) news podcasts will be able to, now.

There are still questions, of course. If the CBC thought it had to block podcasts and Radio 1 due to “Olympic rights restrictions,” which were presumably set out in a contract, what changed? If they weren’t required by the IOC to go to such villainous lengths, why did they, and who was responsible? Why not free the Radio 1 livestream? Most importantly, what has the CBC learned from this debacle, and will they undertake not to compromise their news operations in the future?

As I tried to make clear in my article, this is not really a CBC story: these kind of nasty deals is what the IOC does. It’s who they are. I’m happy to see the CBC belatedly own up to their mistake; they should be congratulated for it, even if they have not gone as far as they should.

The IOC’s bad behaviour, in this and other areas, will only stop when the media, viewers and athletes signal they won’t put up with it. Hopefully the awareness that there are some lines that CBC listeners won’t let their public broadcaster cross will strengthen all media organizations’ hand for the next round of Olympic contracts, and all our news media will be less willing to betray their core principles for the sake of the Olympics.

Posted in common decency, conflicts of interest | Tagged , , , , ,

CBC Radio embraces censorship because Olympics

As we begin our quadrennial celebration of winter sports (or, more accurately, hockey and some other stuff), I’m hoping that Orangespace readers can help me answer a question that’s been bothering me for a few Olympiads:

What is it about the Olympics that causes otherwise sane people to lose their minds?

I don’t mean the inevitable spike in the non-ironic use of the word “luge” in casual conversation. I get that. People are fascinated by shiny things (see: Bieber, Justin, legal problems of). It’s kind of what we do.

I’m talking about how, for the sake of a two-week international sports festival, intelligent people do and support things that they would never, ever otherwise condone.

Fun fact: As the official Canadian broadcaster of the Sochi Games, the CBC agreed to stop streaming all of its Radio 1 programming outside of Canada. All of it — not just live Olympics coverage. Anyone outside the country (including Canadian expats) who tunes in hears the following:

“Between February 6th and 23rd, CBC Radio 1 live streams will only be available to Canadian audiences due to Olympic rights restrictions. However, our listeners outside Canada can still hear the favourite shows on demand by visiting, or by downloading the CBC Radio app and following the links to their favourite programs.”

That last sentence is a bit misleading. Because their newscasts contain reports about the Olympics, they’ve also stopped producing news podcasts for the duration of the games.

Let that sink in for a moment. The CBC has turned over decisions about how its news and entire Radio 1 network will be distributed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which controls the rights to the Olympics.

The CBC calls it “Olympic rights restrictions,” but let’s not mince words. Letting the IOC dictate how the CBC runs its news and radio operations is nothing less than outside interference in the inner workings of our public broadcaster. While we’re being brutally honest, let’s call the decision to block the Radio 1 livestream and to stop producing news podcasts by its real name: censorship.

This is where the Olympics insanity comes in. Just imagine how Canadians, and CBC journalists, would react if, I don’t know, the NHL told the CBC that they couldn’t livestream an entire network or release news podcasts during the NHL playoffs. The righteous indignation would be palpable.

If any other group on the planet had tried this trick, the CBC’s bright lights would’ve (rightly) huffed about “journalistic integrity” and “the importance of independent media.” As a public broadcaster, Canadians’ trust in the CBC’s journalism is probably its most valuable asset. Yet, they’ve sold that asset (at an undisclosed price), because Olympics.

I can only assume the Conservatives, longtime CBC foes, are trying to figure out how to shoehorn “Olympic” into their name.

The CBC never should have signed this deal. Having signed it, its news operations should have been nowhere near it. As it is, I’m left wondering where the CBC draws the line when it comes to the direct interference of an outside group with its operations. Has the CBC’s commercial relationship with the IOC affected its coverage of an Olympics that, according to the Building and Wood Worker’s International union, already has a body count?

It makes it hard to take seriously, for instance, CBC Radio’s breathless “breaking” story on its 8 a.m. Feb. 7 newscast that the Russians may be blocking Canadian bobsledder Justin Kripps’ website because of some “gay” content. (I’d link to the podcast, but, you know, Olympics).

Gay censorship bad, Olympics censorship OK. Got it? Good.

In a sense, this is just how the IOC rolls. It is one of the nastier international organizations out there. Over the decades, they’ve used the Olympics to prop up history’s most horrific dictatorships, including China’s, the Soviet Union’s and (for Pete’s sake) Nazi Germany’s. For 22 years, from 1980 to 2001, the IOC’s president was literally a card-carrying fascist. And the censorship-friendly group has a long history of demanding strict control over everything even tangentially related to the Olympics. The CBC is just its latest victim.

But a willing victim, one that paid millions for the honour, even if our public broadcaster won’t tell us exactly how much. I’m curious to know what the going rate is for a public broadcaster’s integrity. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we now know what type of organization the CBC is, we’re just haggling over the cost.

Feb. 13, 2013: Edited to fix broken links.

Posted in common decency, conflicts of interest | Tagged , , , , ,