Bill C-32: Mr. Ricci is wrong about Fair Dealing

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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:

Tony Clement: What fiction! Fair dealing is never an unfettered rt to copy! RT @bsookman This updated copyright bill guts Cdn culture http://bit.ly/cZRJoX

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.

Jesse Brown: I don't care who Access Copyright gets to write their propaganda:it's lies, not opinion,& the Globe shouldn't print it. http://bit.ly/aexE5e

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.

reading, inventing, discoursing

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.

Inconstant Moon cracked open
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.”

Nino Ricci, Runcible House, 11:35 AM on November 6, 2010, comments on Globe and Mail Article: This updated copyright bill guts Canadian culture

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.

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Book Policy Review

Canadoan flag overlaid with the text title: Canada's Book Policy Review

Between July 20 and September 18, 2010 the Canadian Government accepted submissions for yet another consultation — a book policy review.   Right now Canadians can comment on the submissions until October 31st, then it will be on to “Phase 3: Roundtable discussions will be held in the coming months.”

I get most of my news online but the first I heard of it was in Michael Geist‘s blog last night.   Since this is a Department of Heritage consultation, I assume the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages probably “tweeted” about this on Twitter, but I can’t say for sure since @mpjamesmoore has blocked me (and other Canadian citizens) from following his Twitter tweets.

I don’t know how this public consultation was promoted or even if it was.   Maybe after the Copyright Consultation where most submissions gave opinions the government didn’t want to hear and the Digital Economy Consultation’s Long Form Census debacle, the Honourable James Moore prefers low profile “public consultations.”

Since I am working to Self Publish my debut novel “Inconstant Moon” as well as outlining my next (which I intend to write during NaNoWriMo) I don’t have time to even read all the consultation submissions right now.   For that matter, I don’t have time to write this.   But it was important so I’ve read some of them.

The Submissions

“Canadians are avid readers.   Recent research shows that Canadians spend at least six hours per week reading books for leisure and interest, while 85% of Canadians link reading to improved quality of life.”

Investing in the Future of Canadian Books: Review of the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution – PART I: INTRODUCTION

Because of the very low profile, there was very little response, unlike, say, the Copyright Consultation.   In spite of the fact that Canada is clearly a nation of readers, only a single “reader” made a a submission.   Running the numbers there were submissions from:

  • 20 Publishers and/or Distributors
  • 10 Industry Associations (I’ve included the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois here since it is a submission made by a union of writers)
  • 9 “Others”, organizations and individuals who may or may not fit in some of the listed categories
  • 3 retailers including Amazon, Chapters/Indigo and Association des libraires du Québec
  • 1 reader
  • 1 writer
  • —————————-
    44 Submissions Total

I was surprised not to see any submissions from Independent retailers, either.   Amazon.ca made some excellent points.

Consultation Question 7. Are there any new or emerging issues in the book industry, including those mentioned in the discussion paper, that are not sufficiently addressed by the current policy? If so, how should a modernized policy respond to these?
amazon.ca logo
Amazon.ca answer:
We agree with views expressed in the Discussion Paper that great change in the industry has come from the increased role of digital technology.   As evidenced by our own operations, the emergence of digital technology has introduced significant new creative developments and improvements in the distribution and sale of books.

In particular, new and emerging digital technologies have enabled different models of book publishing and distribution, such as print-on-demand and electronic books. The print-on-demand publishing model allows publishers to reduce costs by printing only in response to demand, to keep low-volume titles in print and available virtually forever, with very little cost, and to publish a broader variety of titles with less financial risk.

Additionally, when combined with a self-publishing platform, print-on-demand enables the wide distribution of relatively unknown authors who may otherwise entirely lack distribution.   The introduction and growth of digital content through such devices as Amazon’s own Kindle e-reader has created new opportunities for authors, publishers and distributors.   In light of our experience, we believe revisions to the Policy must take into account the significant role such technology plays today and will play in the future of the Canadian book industry.

Digital technology has effectively eroded many of the problems that the current policy seeks to address.   With the advances in technology, the choices available to Canadian authors, publishers and consumers are no longer local or national but global.   As stated by the Competition Policy Review Panel in its Report, “a country’s competitiveness depends on governments welcoming, rather than seeking to control, the new freedom of choices brought by the Internet as an agent of change.”   We believe that the Government should ensure that its policies remain responsive to changes in this industry.   The growing presence of the Internet, the significance of electronic books and the new channels for publishing and distributing books are important changes that emerged after the Policy was last revised in 1992.   We believe it is therefore necessary to update the Policy to account for these changes and remove the restrictions in the current Policy that seek to limit foreign investment in a digital age.

Submission from: Amazon.com.ca, Inc.

print on demand

“Before the law was brought in to restrict retailers to sourcing books from Canadian sources, orders could be sourced from Ingram Distributing in the US within 3 days where an order in Canada takes multiple weeks in most cases.”
Submission from: bookworm

The single Canadian writer to manage a submission was Wayne Kehl who addresses the P.O.D. issue and a few others in a submission I wholly agree with.   Wayne Kelh makes a lot of sense.   He also provides a bit of information that is actually pretty staggering:

The book-world has moved to Print on Demand publishing and even Canadian publishers have most of their books published in that format by Lightning Source Printing in the United States.”

Submission from: Wayne Kehl

If I had Made A Submission….

I would have done so as a consumer, a writer, and a self-publisher.

I might have mentioned some important facts gleaned from the Investing in the Future of Canadian Books position paper, Review of the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution PART III: BOOK POLICY FRAMEWORK, such as “Currently, Canadian-owned publishers represent 96% of publishers operating in the domestic market” or that “Large multinational publishing houses represent 3.75% of the publishers operating in Canada, and generate 44% of industry revenues.”

But right now, my focus would clearly be on:

self publishing

Since I am working to self publish my debut novel “Inconstant Moon” (while outlining my next which I intend to write during NaNoWriMo) I don’t have time to even read all the consultation submissions right now.   For that matter, I don’t have time to write this.

Aside from the fact that I’ve always been a reader, this issue holds particular interest for me as a writer  as I’m about to self publish my debut novel, Inconstant Moon.   Just now I’m at the point of making final corrections to the proof, and when it’s ready, I will be uploading it to CreateSpace.   At that point I’ll be able to sell it as a Print On Demand (P.O.D.) book through Amazon.com.

reading the proof copy

It is rather irritating that although I am a Canadian writer, I will not be able to sell my novel through Amazon.ca as a P.O.D. book.   As I understand it, Canadian Government policy dictates that before I can sell my Canadian novel through Amazon.ca I would first have to provide inventory.   To my way of thinking that defeats the point of P.O.D.

This policy probably exists to “protect the Canadian Publishing Industry”, in this case specifically the printer/distributors.   It doesn’t do much to encourage Canadians to self publish.   Every Canadian grown option for self publishing P.O.D. requires a substantial cash outlay up front.   This policy may also help Canadian publishers by suppressing the ability of writers choosing to self publish independently.   This type of policy may have been effective in pre-Internet times, but today it negates the benefits to publishing that P.O.D. provides.

P.O.D. and digital distribution of literature are two new ways of publishing that the Canadian government must support if our book industry is to “remain current, effective, and responsive to a changing world.”

These are issues of grave importance to all Canadian authors and consumers, yet we have been seriously underrepresented in this public consultation.

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p.s. Of utmost importance to Canadian publishing is the Copyright reform: Bill C-32

The most pressing issue in the Canadian book world is the tabled Bill C-32.   Again, as a self publisher reliant on digital promotion and distribution methods, changes to Canadian copyright law like Bill C-32 pose an incredible danger to all types of digital production and distribution by making DRM circumvention illegal, when in fact it would be more reasonable for the government to make external DRM warning labels mandatory for any media or device encumbered with it.   Making DRM “sacrosanct” in copyright law would undoubtedly lead to universal application of DRM on all devices and media sold in the Canadian Market.

This kind of control could very easily be used to prevent the Independent production of digital work.   But that’s another issue for another day.


[I intend for this to be my last Oh! Canada post until December, as I plan to devote all of November to NaNoWriMo. Fingers crossed. 😀 —Laurel L. Russwurm]

 

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