Copyright: Get It Right, by not following Access Copyright proposals

CollectiveSociety Access Copyright, a business model intermediaryused by some creators, has launched a C-32related campaign website where they are critical of thefair dealings reform in C-32. I believe that the fair dealingsreforms are a mixed bag of things which are “about time”,things which are excessively complex, and only some I disagree with. As a creators' rights activist I must disagree with the perspectiveoffered by Access Copyright, which I believe is harmful to theinterests of Canadian creators.

I must start by saying that Iquestion the legitimacy of Access Copyright claiming to representcreators. On their website they continue the claim that theyrepresent Canada’s 600,000-strong cultural sector.

As a collective society theyexist as an intermediary between copyright holders and licensees forspecific uses of copyrighted works. People do not join AccessCopyright like they do a political party, supposedly because theyagree with the political views of the leadership. It is a way toget money that is owed to them, nothing more. Suggesting accesscopyright represents the political views of creators is like sayingthat anyone who applied for the HST rebate in Ontario did so becausethey agreed with the political views of Dalton McGuinty and StevenHarper.

Given this, I don't believethat collective societies should be involved in copyright reformprocess, alleging to “represent” their members. Theirviews can be heard at the Copyright Board when royalty rates arebeing set. It should otherwise be creators and groups representingcreators that are independent of collective societies involved in thecopyright reform process.

The site has some “fastfacts”, which I will make some fast comments on.

  1. They claim that the newexceptions jeopardize the economic future of knowledge workers.
  2. A repeat of the same as #1,using different words
  3. A repeat, focusing on theeducational exceptions
  4. A claim that Canada'sCreative Industry has lined up in opposition to C-32. This is true,but for a variety of very different reasons. Access Copyright'sopposition is nearly opposite to my own opposition.
  5. A call to get copyrightright, something we can all agree on. This has no meaning given theloudest debates in the copyright reform process are differentcreators' disagreeing on what changes would benefit or harm creators.

Yesterday I summarized my viewson five key issues around C-32. I think it is worth taking a closerlook at the fair dealings reforms in C-32. I will do so by breakingthose proposals into three groups.

  • Exceptions clearly for thebenefit of follow-on creators.

    The most obvious is theaddition of “parody or satire” to our existing fairdealings which already had “research, private study”. These are clear limits on the control of past creators that isnecessary to enable new creativity. It is something that allcreators should be strongly supportive of.

    Access Copyright doesn'trepresent creators, but a business model. As such they want moremoney to flow through them, and are generally unconcerned with theburdens that such a system can place on creators — especially thosewhose motivation for creativity are not royalty payments.

  • Exceptions that are similarto those that would exist under US-style living Fair Use regime.

    This includes time and deviceshifting, backups, or non-commercial user-generated content, whichdoes not have a negative effect on the value of the work for thecreator. I believe the language in C-32 is excessively complex, andthat Canada would be far better service adopting a US-style livingFair Use regime. Bill C-32 being excessively complex means thatpeople who are not copyright specialists will likely interpret theterms wrong, inducing infringements that would otherwise not happen.

    These are activities where thelack of requirement for permission or payment increases the value ofthe work to the audience, will increase the willingness to pay, andthus will increase revenue to creators. This basic economic analysisfalls on deaf ears for those in Access Copyright who falsely believethat “more copyright” will mean “more money”,when in fact the opposite is often the case. Any business personknows that as you decrease the value of something to the customerthat sales will decrease.

    These are activities whichmost Canadians already believed were outside of copyright. Theseexceptions will not cause a major shift in Canadian behaviour, justlegalize the common activities of Canadians. There have been falseclaims that Canadian law is “weaker” than US law (meaning,balance less tilted in favour of past copyright holders). Canadiansbelieve that any potentially copyright-regulating activity that waslegal in the USA was also legal in Canada. I believe the USA gotthis aspect of their law better than Canada did, and has benefitedtheir copyright industries to effectively have more exceptions tocopyright.

    This grouping includes theaddition of “education” under the basic fair dealings list. The US made this more clear by including “multiple copies forclassroom use” which recognizes the benefits of allowingeducators to be able to step into the shoes of pupils and do thingswhich would be an exception for the individual pupil.

  • Exceptions to copyrightgranted to specific institutions.

    This is the one area that Ipartly agree with Access Copyright. I believe that the educationalinstitution specific exemptions to copyright in Bill C-32 (and theexisting copyright act) are a government program, paid for on thebacks of copyright holders. In fact, I believe it is harmful topupils to have one set of copyright rules when they are in theconfines of an educational institutions, and a different set of rulesoutside.

    Where I disagree with AccessCopyright is that I believe the solution isn't to pay collectivesocieties more money, but for the educational sector to migrate tothe use of Open Access published works. Open Access is based onone-time payments to creators for the works, allowing forroyalty-free redistribution. Creators get paid directly, andeducational budgets are far more manageable than when institutionsrely on legacy educational publishers.

    In my opinion, if theeducational sector refuses to explore alternatives to the incumbenteducational publishers and Access Copyright, then we should feel nosympathy for their claims of budget hardships from their own businesschoices. We should not be adding government programs to federalcopyright, and should leave this as an issue to be handledprovincially.

The site suggest that I join them indefending Canadian culture & heritage. I must continue topublicly oppose their policy views in order to do my small part todefend Canadian culture & heritage,

Russell McOrmond is a self employed consultant,policy coordinator for CLUE:Canada's Association for Free/Libre and Open Source Software,co-coordinator for Getting Open Source Logic INto Governments (GOSLING),and host for DigitalCopyright Canada.

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