In 2008, during the heat of the controversy surrounding the government’s impending bill to amend the Copyright Act, many struggled to find compelling and appealing ways to explain the issue to the masses. The new bill would protect digital locks from any type of circumvention, meaning Canadians would be trapped within the confines of proprietary use and would effectively lose any right to use footage or samples from existing works for any reason whatsoever.
Most were (and, to a degree, still are) completely indifferent in spite of how intrusive and wide spread its effects would really be. I decided that the best way to approach this was by hi-jacking the otherwise positive and nostalgic feelings that are shared by many for the Christmas holiday season and using them as a vehicle to demonstrate the type of despair that this issue warrants.
While that original bill did not pass, a similar bill is currently wading its way through the Parliamentary process that has most of the same dire problems. The original post with this story went down with the old “Zannen, Canada” site, so here it is again. Merry Christmas!
You’re A Pirate, Santa Claus!
by Jesse Betteridge
Only one day remained before Christmas Eve and the North Pole, the one bastion of unrestrained hope for good children around the world, had descended into unprecedented chaos. Fields of Christmas trees blazed as they burned into the empty arctic skies, reindeer went delirious as they were herded into isolated pens, and the local economy was left in shambles as the gingerbread currency reserves were literally reduced to sugary liquid. At the epicentre of all of this disarray was the North Pole’s newly installed Fibre Optic Candy Cane line which would deliver free music and movies to all the good girls and boys across the globe. Despite carrying the same good intentions that had always emerged from the cutting edge replication technologies of Santa Claus’ R&D facilities, the recently instated International Copyright Police saw no Christmas cheer in any of this. The game had changed, and Santa couldn’t escape the rules.
The leader of the hastily formed ‘Hollybuster Squad’, Reginald Feverbrook, had never really questioned how Christmas worked. As a child, the jolly fat man would bring him his gifts and that was that. Any messy inner-workings that went on to continually spread good will to children year after year, trend after trend were simply never questioned. Even as an adult, Reginald felt it was best left that way. He had hoped that any children he might one day have would be also able to blind themselves behind the same tinsel-trimmed blindfold. Unfortunately, the magic of this delivery process quickly vaporized as he read his first mission objective typed in a blotchy, unfestive font:
Eradicate all operations at the North Pole with extreme prejudice.
As he and his team prepared to land their aircraft in the frigid north, Reginald could do nothing more than sit and deconstruct the mysterious ways of Santa Claus in his mind. It may very well have been that all of the most wonderful treasures of his childhood were nothing more than cleverly constructed bootlegs, every so often bearing a half ripped price sticker for further authenticity. He continued to ponder this likely truth, all the while crushing a small candy cane within his palm. Less than an hour later, the North Pole’s Fibre Optic Candy Cane was likewise shattered. Santa had overseen the new system’s construction in hopes of cutting down the cumbersome delivery of music and movies down almost every chimney. His new online digital distribution service would nearly triple productivity by cutting down on those bulky CDs and DVDs, giving good girls and boys limitless access to all their favourites.
Unfortunately, the blindfolds that allowed Santa’s material efforts of replication to go unquestioned could not protect him from the scrutiny of the digital world. He was now a criminal, and heaven forbid the industry work alongside him. The destruction of the Candy Cane not only signified the end of this digital threat, but also allowed for even more suspicions to arise. The North Pole could no longer uphold its enigmatic ways, and this became ever clearer to Reginald as he watched his men dismantle it sector by sector. The elves who drew up the blueprints and ran the replicators could do nothing but comply with his men’s orders, as the tools and facilities they used to reproduce copyrighted works were destroyed. The Hollybuster Squad had nearly eliminated this one glaring exception in the way the world had apparently ought to be.
But then Reginald noticed something else from the corner of his eye. From out of nowhere, a massive spectre had appeared from behind him, launching a giant, screeching arrow. The next thing he knew, the squad’s helicopter stationed down the hill had been blown into a fiery wreck. Having fallen down with his face now planted in the snow, Reginald peered up only to meet a pair of silver eyes, both lively and cold at the same time. Surrounded by ruin and clad in tattered red and white, Santa Claus himself stood there, his attackers pierced by his gaze. Reginald could tell that he carefully avoided any obvious displays of either pure compassion or wrath as he slowly lowered his RPG-7 rocket launcher.
The squad knew that their lives could not possibly be in danger, but the jolly elf’s presence alone forced them into bewildered submission. Reginald, more than anyone else, felt this intimidation. However, it was not enough to hold him back from voicing the burning dilemma which had tortured his every action over the past few hours.
“SANTA!” he yelled, “WHY ARE YOU A PIRATE? Why do you have to embody everything that we’re supposed to DESTROY?”
“Reginald,” Santa spoke commandingly, “you’ve always been on the good list, my child. And I know that you, of all people, have never forgotten the smiles that my gifts bring to the faces of children across a largely secular but still mainly Christian/Eurocentric demographic. And what’s more you understand how important that is! You know that it isn’t worth short-changing the joy and enlightenment that my presents bring, no matter how I’m forced to do it in this crazy world they’re making you defend! Is it so wrong for all of this to be delivered by a so-called deviant like myself?”
“But… but… none of this is right anymore!” Reginald stammered, still trying to adjust to the fact that he was trying to argue with Santa Claus of all people, “It didn’t used to be this way! What happened to making toy soldiers… rag dolls… carols scribbled on cheap scrolls of paper? You know, the classic ghetto stuff! Now you just want to rob movie moguls… and record executives! You bring happiness through theft! Why Santa? Why did you have to CHANGE?”
Santa Claus raised his chin, giving a colder stare than ever before. “I’m not the one who changed, my boy. It’s culture that changed! All I could do was adapt to it. Do you think I’ve wanted to make Hong Kong-style bootlegs of what the industry shovels out for the past few decades? No, but I did what was needed to bring happiness to the kids! And nobody ever had the problem with such means to an end before. But apparently perspectives have changed now that I’m using these newfangled tubes of yours.” Santa Claus turned away to look at the shattered Candy Cane: a tiny, unobtrusive addition to his arsenal of gift-giving which had completely undone decades of his once cherished work in a matter of hours.
“It seems to be that in the digital era, Santa can’t be the one to bring happiness anymore. It seems that your employers are the only ones who are allowed to do that, and the happiness they want to bring to the world is going to be the only option from now on.”
Moved by Santa’s words, Reginald managed to free himself from self-induced paralysis just long enough to walk down the hill. “Santa, can’t things go back to the way they were before?” he cried, “Can’t we all just live in the same blissful ignorance we did before?”
“I don’t think there’s any going back now,” said Santa.
As Reginald stepped down the hill, he noticed that a spark of light still flickered from the base of the fibre optic line as Santa walked closer towards it. “What are you doing, Santa?” he yelled.
Santa turned his head with a knowing gaze. “Perhaps,” he said softly, “it’s time for me to change one more time.” He looked down at the light and, with little reluctance, slammed his mighty fists into the ground and ripped open the digital infrastructure that lay beneath him. He then stood, raising his arms in the air, allowing the brilliant light flow through his own body. Then, with a final “Ho Ho Ho”, Santa Claus vanished, enveloped by the digital stream around him.
The Hollybuster Squad stood in complete awe. The reindeer let out cries from their pens, and the few still-conscious elves stood devastated, but still in complete understanding of what had to be done. Santa had moved on to a new world.
The Squad’s first lieutenant turned to his leader in absolute confusion. “Sir, what the hell just happened? Where did he go?”
Reginald, still shocked by the new worlds of understanding that he had been plunged into over the past few hours, was finally able to bring himself to a grin. “Everywhere… but at the same time… nowhere.”
He wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened, and was glad. “I think that the internet is going to be very different from now on,” he chuckled, in spite of the lifeless snowfields that now surrounded them.