Archive for the ‘Copyright Law’ Category
Our government is in the midst of making a law called Bill C-11, the “Copyright Modernization Act”, which will have serious consequences to all of us. But I’m wondering: how many of us actually understand what it is all about?
All the Canadians who responded to the government’s copyright consultation have some idea of the importance of the issue. The people who read Michael Geist, Russell McOrmond’s Digital Copyright Canada, ZeroPaid, p2pnet, itworld, Tech Dirt or Boing Boing will know something about it. If you make a living from one of Canada’s many copyright collectives or from the mainstream CRIA, RIAA or MPAA — you’ll probably know the company line and will have some understanding of what its all about. There are even some creators — the people who create the work that is “protected” by copyright — who understand the issues.
But I’m wondering if most Canadians are tired of hearing about copyright law it, or because they have no idea what it’s really about. This matters because the changes to Canada’s copyright law will effect the lives of every Canadian, not just those involved in the copyright industry.
You may recall reading how much I hate polls. But the polls I hate are those used as marketing rather than for information gathering. I want to gather information for that last few posts I will be writing before the government passes Bill C-11. And a poll seems the best way to proceed. I’m putting polls anywhere I can to find out if my assumption that most Canadians have been left out of the loop is correct. So I hope you’ll help me out here by answer my three little questions. And by the weekend I’ll write an article incorporating the results.
And now you can listen to Jesse Brown’s Audio Podcast #127: Digital Locks have Nothing to do with Copyright
I am not an expert on SOPA, PIPA, or American Censorship of the Internet; but I do know quite enough about the issue to be extremely concerned. This blog got an awful lot of traffic yesterday, and it seems that there were a lot of unanswered questions about how this all will affect Canadians.
The following are many of the search queries — what people type into the “search” bar in their browsers — that brought people to this blog yesterday:
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SOPA and Protect IP (PIPA) will most certainly affect Canada. These bills assume American governance over all of the Internet used by Canadians. Under these laws, an American allegation will result, not just in blocking Americans access to Canadian sites accused of infringement, but in Canadian website takedowns. This is simply unacceptable. Last time I looked, Canada was a sovereign nation.
If I haven’t answered your questions, please let me know in comments or email (click my avatar image; my email address is posted in my profile), and I’ll address any unanswered questions next week.
In the meantime, for information about the legal ramifications of SOPA/PIPA on Canada, Michael Geist wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the legalities for Canadians in Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest
You can find information about SOPA from http://americancensorship.org/
… and, of course, Wikipedia has clearly stepped up to the plate on this.
Yesterday, while the US portion of Tumblr was dark, I posted a fair number of screen caps of blacked out sites, as well as reblogging Tumblr SOPA protests on my Tumblr blog.
SOPA and PIPA are bad laws that will very definitely impact on Canadians and our Internet.
["American Censorship" refers to the two Internet Blacklist Bills currently enroute to becoming law. The PROTECT IP bill is currently before the American Senate, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is in their House of Representatives. ]
Easy answer: Of course it will.
The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.
Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users
It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.
Chaos for the Internet
Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.
Q: What is the DNS system?
A: The DNS or Domain Name System is the hierarchy that controls the Internet URL naming conventions. If you want to set up your own website, the current common use is to register a domain name, to make it easy for users to find your website online. In the beginning, domain name registration was free, nowadays there is an annual charge. You can get a domain through a company like godaddy or choose a privacy respecting registrar like the one I use, Register 4 Less which can be found at https://secure.register4less.com/
This means that you can easily find Google at https://www.google.com/ or Josh Woodward’s music at http://www.joshwoodward.com/ or my brother Larry’s humour blog at http://www.larryrusswurm.com/
One of the most important functions of the Domain Name registration is to ensure that there is only one of each name.
Q: How does Internet Black Listing work?
A: It doesn’t actually turn off the website, it simply removes the site’s domain name. In cases of egregious law breaking, such as child pornography or even copyright infringement, this does nothing to prevent the breaking of these laws. The blocked website still exists, and will continue to be accessed by law breakers via numerical static IP addresses.
But what it will do is make it easier to block competition and innovation while making it more difficult for users to find the websites they want.
Q: How will Website Blocking affect Canada?
A: The Internet is all over the world.
If Websites are only blocked within the United States, American customers will find it difficult, impossible or perhaps illegal to access these blocked websites. If A Canadian website is accused of infringement, whether real or imagined, this blocking will mean the loss of American customers.
If blocking is done by DNS domain name removal, this will affect websites the world over.
Q: How will the Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users affect Canada?
A: Richard O’Dwyer, a British University Student is currently facing extradition to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement under existing laws.
Need I say more?
Q: What do they mean when they warn about “Chaos for the Internet?”
A: Different laws exist in different countries.
The Internet is comprised of networked connections all over the world.
Current American law provides for “safe harbors” which protect sites like Facebook, Flickr, and G+ as well as independent blogs and comments from legal liability in the event a third party posts illegal material.
Without this, the Internet will cease to be an interactive medium, because no one, whether independent bloggers or Internet giants like Wikipedia will have the luxury of allowing third party posting. A malicious edit in Wikipedia could spell the end of the fifth largest website in the world. YouTube can’t afford to screen every video for potential IP violation. Most Independent bloggers don’t have legal departments.
Canadian law is different than American law. Although Canadians are some of the most active people online, we seem to be users rather than pioneers. Recently Michael Geist appeared before Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry and explained the legal barriers that existing Canadian law has thrown up before innovative Canadian startups that might have become a YouTube, a Google, a Facebook or a Skype.
Canadian free speech
Recently the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land, established that Canadian Law should “Avoid restricting the free flow of expression.”
Yet it seems that elements of the proposed Protect IP and SOPA laws seek to make hyperlinking potentially a criminal act. Search engines would be compelled to remove links from search results.
existing Canadian copyright law
IP lawyer Howard Knopf shows that Canadian Copyright law is currently far stronger - and more restrictive to creativity – than American Copyright Law is currently. In Canada we have slightly shorter copyright terms than they have in the United States. I don’t believe Bill C-11 will increase this term if it passes.
Under existing law, Wikipedia is considering removing this photograph of Ontario’s Elmira District Secondary School ~ the school I attended ~ even though it is legal to use this image in Canada, if it is not legal under existing American Law.
This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired for one of the following reasons:
1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or
it was not subject to Crown copyright, and
2. it is a photograph that was created before January 1, 1949, or
3. the creator died more than 49 years ago.
The media description page should identify which reason applies.
This file is only in the public domain in the United States if it entered the public domain in Canada prior to 1996. This image can only be kept if it is also in the public domain in the US. If it is in the public domain in both Canada and the United States it may be transferred to the Wikimedia Commons.
Note: If this image is in the public domain in the US, modify the end of the copyright tag from “}}” to “|commons}}”. This will replace the preceding US copyright notification with a nomination for this image to be moved to the Wikimedia Commons.
Canada is a sovereign nation
It is bad enough that the American government has brought pressure to bear against our government in an effort to compel passage of a Canadian DMCA with Bill C-11 the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act.”
This will affect Canadians, and everyone else.
Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License
“EDSS Old School” Canadian Public domain image, posted to Wikipedia by Dconlon268
The Canadian DMCA logo freed into the public domain CCO 1.0 by laurelrusswurm
You know, as a Canadian growing up north of the 49th parallel, I learned an awful lot about freedom of speech from American Movies. Films like
The Hollywood community knew all about censorship, you see. The Hollywood fight to prevent censorship from without by creating their own censorship in the form of the Hayes code is legendary. For decades film makers tried every ploy imaginable to sneak things past the Hays Office.
My own personal brush with industry self censorship was when I was working on Hot Shots and Night Heat, which were Canadian-American co-productions. I was never aware of any such directive from CTV, the Canadian network that ran the shows in prime time. But even though CBS ran the series’ as part of CBS Latenight (at a time when all the children ought to be asleep) although I don’t believe it was written down anywhere, I certainly recall the verbal ground rules we writers had to abide by. A 1 hour episode was allowed to contain as many as ten “hell”s and/or “damn”s, and one of either “bitch” or “bastard. All bets were off if a character could be legitimately talking about a female dog, or an ‘illegitimate’ child.
It always boiled down to the idea that self censorship would prevent externally imposed censorship. And films get banned in different places anyway, as can be seen from this Wikipedia list of banned films. (The most bizarre to me is the Manitoba ban on comedies.)
Free speech is something many Americans value in the extreme.
But it’s awfully hard to have either creative freedom or free speech if there is external censorship. The unique aspect of the proposed American SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) law isn’t that it allows the state to censor, it sounds as though it will allow anyone to censor anything. Some people think this is a good thing, because they will be able to stop the the free speech of others, speech they disagree with. Of course, they never realize that it can also be used to silence them.
If the American “Protect IP” or “SOPA” law passes by Christmas, as intended, the Internet as we know it will be over. I have to wonder, too, if the rush to get our Canadian DMCA, Bill C-31 passed by Christmas is connected.
The Irony, of course, is that all of this censorship, and all these repressive measures are being driven by Hollywood, the former champion of free speech.
This little (non-Hollywood) film explains it better than I can:
If you have video issues, you can watch the webm version here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/fftf-actionkit/Protect_IP_Act_Breaks_the_Internet.webm
You can also follow the grass roots Occupy Wall Street Movement all over the interwebs (at least until they get shut down) at http://www.ustream.tv/TheOther99
In solidarity with our American friends trying to convince their government not to break the Internet with IP Protect, I have also posted “Stop Censorship” on my personal blog, the StopUBB blog and my family website.
Canadians: tell our government not to pass Bill C-11, which will have much the same effect on Canada.
The overwhelming response from the vast majority of Copyright Consultation respondents indicated Canadians were opposed to TPM/DRM (Technical Protection Measures/Digital Rights Management) or “digitial locks”. Digital locks prevent users from using the media and devices the way they want to.
In spite of that, when Bill C-32 was tabled, TPM or “digital locks” was the most over-riding element, and made circumventing digital locks illegal. Even of we are legally entitled to access the content, under C-32 we would be breaking the law to bypass the digital lock.
This is the part that most upset me, as a writer, because this could remove my right as an author to distribute my creative work as I see fit. TPM/DRM places control of digital distribution in the hands of corporations. This law would have allowed manufacturers to use TPM to prevent consumers from accessing free material we are legally entitled to access on our laptops, dvds, cell phones and ipads etc.
If Bill C-32 had passed as is, Canada would most certainly have seen digital locks added to all digital devices, allowing corporate control of our culture.
WikiLeaks Cables Released
At last, WikiLeaks has released a batch of cablegate cables revealing the truth behind the conditions of so-called Canadian “copyright reform” saga.
A cable originating in the office of the U.S. Secretary of State is a blueprint for the copyright legislation the Canadian Government was expected to pass:
Prohibition of manufacturing and trafficking in technological
protection measure (TPM) circumvention devices as an offense
separate from copyright infringement;
Prohibition of circumvention of TPMs that control access to
works (quote access controls unquote);
Deterrent penalties against unauthorized circumvention –
both civil and criminal;
If there are any exceptions to TPM or rights management
information (RMI) liability, the exceptions should be clearly
enumerated and narrow in scope;
A system of protections and obligations for ISPs that
shelters them from certain liability, reduces and prevents
copyright infringement on the Internet and provides
incentives for ISPs to work cooperatively with copyright
Well, would you look at that. The most contentious issues — the issues objected to by Canadians — all come from the United States. And all the while, our government insisted that Bill C-32 was a “made-in-Canada” solution.
So, what would be Canada’s reward for making copyright law beneficial to the US at the expense of the Canadian public interest?
– (If needed) As Ambassador Kirk indicated in April, USTR is
prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess
Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list if Canada enacts
selling out Canada
The “prize” Canada might receive for suborning Canadian Sovereignty in favor of American demands is that if we enact “adequate” legislation – legislation that suits American needs over our own – the “USTR is prepared to reopen the USG interagency process to reassess Canada,s placement on the Special 301 list.”
Or, in other words, all Canada has to do is make the laws the United States tells us to make, and then the USTR might stop lying about Canada, by placing Canada on the spurious USTR Watch List.
(And where was the “watchdog press”?)
Other cables recently released by WikiLeaks have clearly shown that Canada was only placed on the USTR Watch List in order to bully us into passing copyright law favorable to US special interests.
Ironically, Canada’s specious inclusion on the USTR Watch List has been a huge contributing factor in exposing the USTR Watch List for the fraud it is. Since the American record of copyright infringement is worse than ours, the United States should be listed there before Canada. The WatchList has been used against other countries around the world in just this way.
Clearly, Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA.
As we approach the 41st Canadian Election, Canadians should reflect on the fact that
both Conservative and LiberalGovernments have proven
their willingness to make copyright law harmful to Canadian interests
to appease our American neighbors.
Oh! Canada, indeed.
Please vote on Monday in the Federal Election.
Don’t vote strategically if there is a candidate you believe in. If we don’t start voting for what we want, we will never get it.
The only Canadian political parties opposed to electoral reform are the Conservative and Liberal parties. Canada has other choices. Visit the Elections Canada site to see what choices are available in your riding.
I am happy that the writ was dropped before Bill C-32 was passed.
Is that a bad thing?
Of course it mans we have another federal election.
Copyright Reform Apathy
Not so long ago, Jesse Brown did a Search Engine podcast called So Bored of Copyright. He wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill C-32 was likely to be pushed through no matter how atrocious simply because everyone is tired of arguing about copyright. The thinking, shared by many other Canadian activists was that our elected representatives just want it to be over. I understand how difficult it is to fight the same fight over and over again. But still, there was a disturbing willingness to settle for bad law just because everyone is tired of it.
Copyright law will impact on every Canadian. Our existing copyright law may not be perfect, but it isn’t as though we are a lawless nation of pirates, no mater what the USTR says to get a trade advantage. So I’m happy Bill C-32 is off the table, even if it does mean we’re having another Federal election. And I’m sure it will be back, but the longer it takes, there is less chance that we’ll end up with a copyright law benefitting special interest groups to the detriment of Canadian Culture.
Some people are tired of elections.
We’re having them too frequently, apparently.
Yet there are places in the world where there are no elections. Or where the election results are preordained.
Other people are unhappy because elections are expensive.
If we have a minority government, it stands to reason that we will have more elections. It is much harder to run a minority government because the government can’t operate in a vacuum. They have to build a consensus. And sometimes even listen to what the citizens want. And if they want to do something that the people think ill advised, we have some possibility of preventing it.
Then some people think majority government is a good thing. Talk about an expensive proposition.
Say what you want, our run of minority governments has meant very little in the way of patronage spending. While majority governments are always awash in patronage. That’s got to be worse.
Even with a minority our federal government managed to find a billion dollars for the G20.
Can you imagine? How many fighter jets would we have bought if there was a majority government? Wait a minute… fighter jets? Excuse me? If we want fighter jets, why don’t we build our own, shall we? You know, like the AVRO Arrow?
Citizens can’t afford NOT to have elections. We need as many as it takes.
I’ve heard some people are saying they will vote for the Conservative Party of Canada just to give them a majority, just to be done with this election business.
You know what?
If you want to vote for a political party you don’t support, that is your democratic right.
You can use your vote to improve this great nation of ours, or you can waste your vote. You get to decide.
You can vote for the candidate you believe will do the best job for you, or you can vote the way someone else tells you to vote. It is entirely up to you.
You can vote strategically and vote for someone you don’t want to elect. It seems to me that strategic voting is always about voting for someone else;s candidate, never your own. That seems to me just as big a waste. But still, it is your right to choose.
You can spoil your ballot, which won’t count. Or not cast a vote at all.
A great many of us are frustrated because we’ve been ignored for so long. Many of us have given up because the people we vote for are never elected. In the Conservative stronghold where I live, Liberal candidate Andrew Telegdi lost his seat in the last Federal election by 17 votes. And one of the most powerful members of the incumbent government “tweeted”:
The thing to remember is that when we abstain from voting, our voice, however small, is completely unheard. Abstaining from voting doesn’t “teach them a lesson,” it gives them our power. It makes it easier for fewer people to determine our government. All voter apathy does is to make electoral inequity worse.
You have the right not vote. But every vote not cast means that fewer votes hold greater sway. I am well aware Canadian votes count for more or less depending on geographical location. That’s bad enough. If you, like me, live in a place where your vote only counts for a fraction, blowing it off makes it worse. What government does affects all of us.
Debate and Democracy
This election will impact on us all too. Although we are desperately in need of electoral reform, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. So although it is your right to vote or not, I hope you decide to vote, and more, to vote the way you believe is best.
I’ve been trying to get the final proof of my novel done, so I’m spread a bit thin. Still, there’s been a flap about the proposed televised Federal Leadership Debate. The decision (by who?) has been made to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
The story they are trying to sell is that her exclusion stems from the fact no Green party member has yet been elected. Naturally this speaks to the issue of Electoral reform, since nearly a million Canadian citizens cast Green votes in the last election without electing one.
The thing is, we might have bought that argument had Elizabeth May not participated in just such a debate in a previous election. Excluding her now is not only grossly unfair, but a sign of just how well she did last time.
Unlike our American Neighbors, Canada is a multi-party country. So long as our nation subscribes to party politics, I’m inclined to think that any leadership debate ought to include the leaders of every registered political party. The point of an election is that the slate is wiped clean. No one has been elected yet for the 41st Parliament. So all the candidates – and leaders – ought to be treated as equals. I’m sure that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would be happy to tell you what a difference an election can make.
It is in our own best interests to stand up for our democracy. The leader of Canada’s fledgling Pirate Party hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:
I don’t know about you, but as inefficient as our system is, and as badly as we need electoral reform, I’m rather partial to democracy.
And elections are a really good time to get out there and find out what the candidates think.
Or at least what they say.
Andrew Telegdi photo by Chris Slothouber
Tony Clement, Twitter account image (fair dealing)
Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License
All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.
All other images created by laurelrusswurm and released CC by-sa
The Globe and Mail article “At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade” set off some warning bells for me. I have not looked into CETA nearly as closely as I have Bill C-32, but I’ve been hearing disturbing rumblings over the last months… or years, now.
Aside from the fact that previous Free Trade Agreements gave away a lot without perceptible returns, the funny thing is, a great many Canadians were disappointed with the actual lack of actual freedom in previous Free Trade Agreements. It’s very hard to see Canada’s “free trade” with the US has been beneficial when the customs duties supposedly removed still seem to exist under other names, and Canadians need passports to cross the border (not to mention having to choose between health risk or sexual assault if we choose to fly there).
Interestingly, while Canada stood mute on ACTA, the European Union very firmly put the breaks on ACTA by calling for transparency.
Who’s zooming who?
It is important for Canadian negotiators to negotiate for Canadian best interests. The following is my comment on that article:
Before Canada signs another so-called “free trade” agreement, we need both transparency and public consultation. Trade agreements made secretly are rarely in our best interest.
A disturbing trend over the last few years has been misleading “titles” of a legislation and trade agreements, with corresponding double think interwoven in the sound byte summaries that tend to run counter to the substance which are used to lull the citizens of this great land into allowing our interest to be sacrificed.
Like, for instance, ACTA. The so-called “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.” As it turned out, ACTA was really an attempt to get Hollywood’s wishlist for Global copyright laws– preferential to the USA– imposed on on the rest of the world. Yet there was not a word about copyright in the title. Serious efforts were made to at suppressing the content of the agreement, even to the point of preventing duly elected members of the supposed democratic governments from being privy to the content being negotiated.
Another egregious example would be “Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act” which seeks to legislate away the freedom inherent in modern technology so it can be locked down to fill the corporate media industry business model of the last century. Whatever Bill C32 is, it is certainly not “modernized.”
I have serious reservations when Canada’s chief negotiator starts talking about the EU’s concerns with Intellectual Property, including copyrights, patents and pharmaceuticals, the warning flags go up for me. It’s even worse when he says things like:
“Our copyright laws haven’t been updated for some time.”
That’s one of the bits of classic propaganda stemming from south of the border as part of the American Copyright Lobby’s efforts to influence Canadian domestic copyright law (Bill C-32). That’s almost as troubling as people supposedly representing Canadian Interests citing the American 301 as ‘evidence’ of Canadian ‘IP Piracy,’ when the facts clearly show the United States (with it’s more draconian DMCA copyright law) has far more incidence of piracy than Canada does.
The fact that our copyright law hasn’t been updated in a while is not justification for change, particularly change imposed to satisfy foreign special interest groups. Canada has suffered serious inequities in the other supposed “Free Trade” agreements. The fact that the CETA chief negotiator believes that is a good reason to change our already over strong copyright law, and cites erroneous propaganda about it, undermines his credibility to negotiate in Canada’s best interest.
Before Canada signs any CETA agreement, I want to see what the WikiLeaks cables have to say on this topic. Maybe then I’ll be able to believe the people supposedly negotiating on our behalf are being honest with us.”
— Laurel L. Russwurm, comment on Globe and Mail article:
At the gates of Europe: Canada’s top negotiator on EU free-trade“
To answer the title question? I’d have to say “No.”
Something so secret is very unlikely to be good for us. If it was, they’d be trumpeting it from the rooftops.
And no way should trade negotiators be writing Canada’s domestic copyright laws.
Both participation and activism are very necessary to healthy democracy.
Along with all the other confusing things that are happening in the world because of the digital evolution is a new way of protesting. The first I heard of DDoS attacks was when it has been employed in the copyfight. On both sides, I might add. Although I’m not a tech person, I’ve necessarily been learning a lot from many who are for my StopUBB blog, but this DDoS business is something we all need to understand.
So I’m reprinting the comment I made on the Guardian’s Richard Stallman article The Anonymous WikiLeaks protests are a mass demo against control
Internet Freedom may well be the most important issue of our time.
When the DDoS attacks began I spent days arguing against the Anonymous protest, but I’ve come to understand it is no different than any other peaceful protest. Amazon operates in digital space, so too must the protests.
How I arrived at this conclusion is detailed in my StopUBB blog post DDoS?
And Amazon has the right to not host a company.
Just as the public has the right to picket Amazon.
Like any peaceful protesters, the digital protests are using the same techniques employed by civil rights activists forever.
Please note: these protesters are behaving more ethically than the forces deployed in the DDoS attacks against WikiLeaks. We should be calling what “Anonymous” does Civil Rights Denial of Service protests, or CRDoS
Using digital means to do it does not change the fact that they are engaging in peaceful protest.
Corporations are NOT branches of law enforcement.
Corporations are immortal artificial constructs that are not accountable to citizens.
Corporations don’t operate on a level playing field with humans,
Corporations exist to make a profit. Nothing else.
Under no circumstances should corporations EVER be allowed to dictate morality or ethics to human beings.
As @FarrenWide points out, the blockage of electronic funds transfer is by far more dangerous.
Why should a banking institution be allowed to tell the citizens of any democracy how they may spend their money?”
That should NEVER happen.
The originating article by Richard Stallman can also be found at Defective By Design: Kettling Wikileaks
The Globe and Mail published a Bill C-32 Opinion piece by Governor General Award Winning fiction writer Nico Ricci, This updated copyright bill guts Canadian culture.
The very title of this opinion piece is both inflammatory and misleading. Although Mr. Ricci mayt be qualified to comment on the state of culture, the article is actually exclusively devoted to one small piece of Bill C-32, the expansion of the fair dealing section of Bill C-32 to include educational uses.
Although Mr. Ricci implies it’s the equivalent of making educational material free of charge it’s not. Canada’s Minister of Industry is well aware of this, tweeting:
But even more important, although some students coming out of higher education may retain their textbooks rather then selling them on, educational text books have never formed the basis for societal culture in any universe I’ve ever heard of.
What Mr. Ricci calls this “vulnerable cultural sector,” has been working hard to impoverish our children’s education for years. Educational publishers have routinely charged vast amounts of mark-up on text books for decades and the lion’s share of this has certainly not gone to the writers.
The excessive prices demanded is a great part of why so many textbooks in all levels of Canada’s public education system are so terribly out dated. In some areas of study it may not be an issue, but in others it does an incredible disservice to our children. My child’s high school computer programming text was older than he was… and written in a time of pre-Internet history before most of today’s technology existed.
The justification for the exorbitant cost of textbooks was always that such small print runs were required. Even so, the publishers made out, the copyright collectives made out, but, sadly, the writers are the only ones who were actually unable to make a living from the books they wrote. Of course, some writers could get paid employment by going to work for the copyright collectives or publishers.
But at least with textbook purchases, our children may at some point get some value from re-reading the material in later years, or perhaps selling the used copies to later students. The absurdity of paying absurd amounts of money for photocopies has always struck me as foolish. These aren’t books with an intrinsic value, they’re disposable.
If students were buying entire textbooks for a single chapter, why didn’t publishers offer them as individual chapter offerings? Slim text volumes at a fraction of the price? But no, the necessary chapters were overpriced to subsidize the unnecessary chapters. The “innovation” that was arrived at in the latter part of the twentieth century were contractual deals whereby publishers and copyright collectives received compensatory payment for photocopies from libraries and educational institutions. These copies made with student labor on educational institution equipment triggered compensation for the textbooks that were not sold.
But then I think the “Public Lending Right” is horribly unfair too. Books people read in libraries aren’t lost sales, they’re advertising. It used to be that writers were happy to have their works disseminated in public libraries. It was the authorial equivalent of air play for recording artists. But even charging libraries quantities of extra cash per book has not improved the standard of living for authors either. Funny, that.
My purely anecdotal take on today’s public library systems is that there are fewer books in them. Part of it is that physically they are removing shelves of physical books in favor of public work stations and digital media. But I’m wondering how much of that is due to money being paid out for the “Public Lending Right” rather than spent on the purchase of actual books to lend.
Perhaps because my public library can’t afford to stock it, I’ve never read any of Mr. Ricci’s award winning fiction. Like any careful consumer during a recession, I never buy books I’ve not already read, and then not unless I think it’s a good book. The only time I’ll buy a book by an author I’ve not read, is if it looks interesting and costs only a buck or two in a remainder bin.
technology has reduced costs of physical production of books
As writer involved in self publishing my first novel, I recently discovered that it is more economical to purchase Print On Demand (POD) bound proof copies with glossy colour covers for my beta readers than to print them myself at home on my laser printer. Things have indeed changed.
And in today’s digital world, there is no reason why text books can’t be tailor made to the class. It can be easily be accomplished in these days when digital copying has brought the distribution costs down to almost nothing, as shown in another Globe and Mail article: Toronto startup cracks the electronic textbook
Our children and their education have traditionally been the big losers here. Neither publishers or copyright collectives seem to have student interests at heart. They’re in it for the money.
Personally, as both parent and writer, I have some very serious reservations about Bill C-32 but expansion of fair dealing for education is not one of them. It saddens me to see creators who are not well versed in either the legal or technical aspects of copyright law being set up as straw men. I guess what I wonder most is why a fiction writer is weighing in on this aspect of Bill C-32 rather than a writer of textbooks.
More a more informed opinion of the fair dealing aspect of Bill C-32, read what David Fewer has to say.
For More on the the politics of Bill C-32 can be found in Russell McOrmond’s Hyperbole from traditional educational publishers: postcards/etc., and The general mood of the House of Commons debate on C-32 thus far.
Interesting additional reading can also be found in Wayne Borean’s Through the Looking Glass: The TPM Provisions in Bill C-32 Are Not In Compliance With The WIPO Internet Treaties
But the real post script comes from Mr. Ricci himself in his response to the comments his article garnered:
What the response amply demonstrates, however, both in its range and in its vehemence, is that there is a need for much more public debate on this very complex issue before Bill C-32 is allowed to pass into law.”
He is right about that. Canada may be ready for a new copyright law, but a bad one rushed through in haste would be infinitely worse than what we have now. This is an issue that will impact on all Canadians. We certainly don’t want a Canadian DMCA.