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.

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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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Three Strikes for Industry and Heritage

Last year the Industry Ministry held a public Copyright Consultation, soliciting Canadian input on copyright reform. More than 8,000 Canadians made submissions in last year’s Copyright Consultation, and these submissions overwhelmingly said

“NO”

to Digital Locks, or anything resembling a Canadian DMCA.

Canadian DMCA logo

Strike One

Yet this year the government tabled their draft Bill C-32.  Clearly a Canadian DMCA. .

The outcry against Bill C-32 was loud. A fake grassroots movement was the only voice raised in support.  In spike of the universal opposition the Government forged ahead.

Canadians Count: Save The Census

The Minister of Heritage made intemperate remarks in his attempts to silence opposition.  Much worse, his attempts to suppress these remarks, captured on video and likely to haunt him to the end of his career, triggered an even LOUDER outcry.

The Government launched yet another consultation, The Digital Economy Consultation.  The premature digEcon launch was most likely intended to take the heat of Heritage Minister.

Strike Two

Problem was, mismanagement of the “idea-forum” voting caused its very own Census Long form Scandal again placing the Government under fire.

Canadian Flag Superimposed on American Flag

Strike Three

Industry Minister Tony Clement’s announced intent to review C-32 provisions, not because of Canadian concerns but because of an American DMCA  review has raised the ire of more than one Canadian.

More even than holding a press conference announcing Bill C-32 in the office of an American game manufacturer, this has exposed the absolute fiction of Mr. Clement’s promise of “Made In Canada” copyright reform.

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In Canada, both our Federal Minister of Industry and our Federal Minister of Heritage

@TonyClement_MP @mpjamesmoore

are more easily reached via the American microblogging service Twitter than by conventional means.

Yet neither have any presence on the Canadian micro-blogging service identi.ca

Industry and Heritage. For which country?

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