Preliminary Thoughts on Canada’s Copyright Review

I did something cool a few weeks ago and spoke at one of the open microphone sessions for the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. The transcript of what I said is below, but I just want to lay some context first.

I had originally planned to give some hard and fast areas where I thought the Copyright Act of Canada should be changed. However, I quickly realized there were a lot of people saying similar things a lot better than I could. Plus I only had a few minutes to talk. I figured it was more useful was maybe to engage in some big picture thinking instead of the user rights vs creator rights debate (Which is dominating the Copyright Review discussions because of Educational Institutions movement away from Access Copyright). 

I just want to list some more practical changes I would like to see:

  • Users should be allowed to navigate around Digital Locks for Fair Dealing purposes:
  • Crown Copyright should be in the Public Domain:
    • Amanda Wakaruk has done great stuff on this. Citizens of Canada have paid for this information to be created, they should be able to use it as they want. Crown Copyright has continuously blocked access to Government of  Canada publications for decades. This should be an easy win for the Copyright Review Committee.
  • Address Indigenous Knowledge issues in the Copyright Act:
    • CFLA has another great brief, but, as Sam Popowich points out, the answers aren’t so simple. Indigenous Knowledge doesn’t work great with the copyright concept of individual ownership and has some serious ethical issues. I’m not sure how to solve this problem, but would recommend reading the testimony of Lynn Lavallée and Camille Callison to the Committee.
  • Find better ways to support creators that don’t alienate users
    • There are going to be some good discussions about this coming up. My main issue with Access Copyright’s approach and Digital Locks is that they don’t encourage use. They lock content up and treat users like they are trying to steal content. I think a better approach would more collective funding of creators and a remuneration model that doesn’t restrict use like the Public Lending Right Program.
  • Keep the copyright term at 50 years after author’s death or, better yet, shorten it:
    • This idea hasn’t got too much traction yet, although one publisher has mentioned it. I honestly have yet to come across a good reason why our copyright terms are so long. Doesn’t seem to be any evidence that such a longer term benefits Canadians. Why not just make the copyright term last 15 years after an author’s death? Why not make it similar to patents that have a 20 year term from creation in Canada?

Nuff said. I’ll probably be expanding more on these ideas in the next couple months.

Here is the transcript of what I said to the Committee at the open mic (Direct Link):

—–

Hi. I’m Ryan, and I’m going to be quick.

We’ve heard a lot about this kind of balance between creators and users, and this whole discussion here has shown us there is tension. Users such as libraries think they’re being screwed over and creators feel the same way.

I’ve listened a lot to all this talk about copyright and I just want to make a few quick points about things I’ve noticed. I’m a librarian as well so I interact with both the creator and the user.

The first thing is that users generally want to pay when they can, and when it’s affordable. I think when we treat users like the pirates who are trying to illegally steal stuff, or we’re forcing users to pay too much, they won’t pay.

We can look at an example of this, which is what happened with the movie and music industries. In the early 2000s a lot of people were illegally streaming things, but now with Spotify and Netflix, piracy has dropped. People have affordable options. I think that’s a solution there.

Also, I think it’s really important now to look at the number of students who are pirating illegally and downloading textbooks. Student debt is at an all-time high. Students can’t afford this stuff, so they’re going to steal it.

I think there is a way, and if we treat users with respect, users will pay and they’ll respect creator rights.

My second point is that creators generally don’t care how their stuff is used. They just want to be compensated and they want to be aware of the use. I think it is really important when we talk about copyright to realize that copyright is about controlling, but really, if we just paid creators, they’d be fine with how their stuff is used.

My third point is that when we distinguish between creators and users, it’s a red herring. Creators are users, and users are creators. I’m a librarian. The researchers, patrons, and students I serve publish, and they write. Often students who are taking advantage of fair dealing are the writers of the future, so if these students don’t interact with Canadian literature, they’re not going to become Canadian writers.

I think it’s important to realize that yes, we’re putting this wedge in between users and creators, and they’re often really the same people.

My final point to bring all of this together is that I think the best way forward with copyright is to realize that user rights are really powerful and strong. We need strong user rights to be able to use this content, but we also need a system of creator compensation and credit. I don’t think the current copyright system is doing that good a job of it. I think we need a better system here, maybe one that collectively funds creators. There needs to be more collective funding so that creators can do their work and they can create, can write, and in universities the students can make use of that content, and hopefully, everyone would be happy.

A lot of creators are saying, “We’re not making the money,” and libraries and users are saying, “We don’t have any more money to spend.” Where is all this money going? I think if you look, especially in the academic publishing industry, there are some publishers with massive profit margins. I think that’s where the money is going and they have some very iffy copyright practices.

That’s all I have to say.

Thanks.

—–

I’d also highly recommend reading through the testimony of Canadian Library and University  Associations.

 

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About Ryan Regier

Doing Library Stuff. Follow me on twitter at: @ryregier
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2 Responses to Preliminary Thoughts on Canada’s Copyright Review

  1. chlac says:

    You really hit the nail on the head with your last part “Where is all this money going?”… The large publishers are even hijacking (buying off) the Open Access initiatives.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your testimony and quality of the response. I have been going through the committee evidence and believe you tied in the big ideas very clearly. Was quite helpful.

    I’ve briefly looked through your blog but if you have any thoughts on the crowdfunding/patreon model I would be interested.

    Keep up the good work.

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