Meera Nair

Posts Tagged ‘exceptions’

Though this be method, there is madness in’t…

In Posts on October 10, 2014 at 9:38 am

This past week, news broke concerning the Harper Government’s consideration of a new exception to Canada’s Copyright Act. A benefit solely for those involved in the  creation and distribution of political advertisements, the proposal can only undermine three hundred years of statutory design on copyright law, which has progressively ensured broad language with flexibility to anonymous creators and users alike.

Reports began on October 8 from CTV and the Globe & Mail, with the CBC providing further details on October 9 (including posting the undated Cabinet presentation document). Michael Geist posted commentary on both the 8th and 9th, and copyright enthusiasts around the country are shaking their heads in disbelief and dismay.

Briefly, Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet are entertaining the thought of an exception to copyright that is only applicable to the political establishment. From the Cabinet document came this:

The exception means greater certainty for the political actors who want to use copyright content in their advertisements:
– E.g. clips from radio and television broadcast news, footage capturing a political debate or events, a newspaper or magazine article, etc.
– Could be used by all politicians and registered political parties at any level of government.

The rationale offered by the government is that politicians should be held accountable for their statements and actions, and this exception would ensure that the public is kept informed. The opposition parties see it as a thinly veiled attempt to facilitate the use of attack ads. While our Government is content to claim method, their behaviour is madness of Shakespearean proportions.

First, we already have an exception to address the use of copyrighted material; fair dealing protects unauthorized use for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, satire and education, provided the use is fair. Political parties should apply the law under the same constraints as all Canadians (if anything, in a more edifying manner).

Second, using published material to report or contradict political opinion is part and parcel of civil society as it exists. If a member of the political realm gives a speech, a reporter may quote from the speech. An opponent may choose to quote out of context. The audience may find such a tactic repugnant, but it is hardly new.

Third, in the copyright amendments of 2012, this same Government introduced a new exception, unofficially titled the YouTube exception which supports the creation of user-generated content. Section 29.21 is suited to the creation of both commentary and fantasy. While I find attack ads loathsome, they are creative expression and may draw upon the exception.

Fourth, the issue of moral rights is given short-shrift by this Government’s proposal. It claims that moral rights of creators would not be affected, via the logic that creators have likely waived those rights. Moral rights protect the integrity and reputation of a work and its creator respectively. Canadian law forbids allying a work to a cause if the creator objects. To blithely indicate that the Government will not suffer for misusing a work is further evidence that this government only cares about legal liability, not ethical conduct.

Fifth, this desire to embed a copyright change in an omnibus budget bill flies in the face of this Government’s own stipulation of a five year, comprehensive review cycle of the Copyright Act. If musicians and students, librarians and broadcasters must wait to plead their case until 2017, this Government must abide by the same rule.

Finally, the Government’s proposal makes curious distinctions that undermine the universality of the grant of copyright and the use of exceptions. That it is designed for a small segment of Canadians is reprehensible. So too is the manner in which genre and medium are parceled out. For instance, news articles may be used but not photographs or music. Documentaries are not eligible for mining (even though documentarians are among the greatest users of exceptions to copyright, making reciprocation only appropriate). Fictional works are also not eligible, despite fiction being a rich resource for modern commentary. Presumably though, fiction that has passed into the public domain may be drawn upon—I await the invocations of Caesar, Macbeth and Hamlet.

Canada has enjoyed ten years of jurisprudence that yielded a fair dealing regime capable of addressing all situations with flexibility, to the benefit of all Canadians. To muddy up the Copyright Act with a narrowly worded, politically-minded exception places future courts in the awkward position of having one approach when adjudicating copyright for Canadians and a separate approach when adjudicating copyright for Canadian politicians. This will not facilitate the understanding or practice of the system of copyright in Canada.

 

Twice the fun

In Posts on July 31, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Two events to report on this week … one domestic and one international (sort of).

The U.S. Librarian of Congress relaxed some of the prohibitions upon circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs) as found in the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Included was a measure that directly benefits educational uses of copyrighted materials. When done in good faith, for the purposes of criticism and review, college and university professors are permitted to extract clips from movies encrypted on DVDs. This expands a previous allowance which was offered only to film and media studies’ professors. (I presume this measure can be enjoyed by all teaching professionals at post-secondary institutions, including those of sessional ilk.) Also mentioned by name as eligible for the provision are film and media studies students. And the provision applies to creation of documentary films and noncommercial videos, again when conducted in good faith and for the purposes of criticism and review.

Other measures will assist consumers; you can read about them here. What I find interesting is the timing and the process. The United States continues to move away from the position of absolute deference to TPMs while Canada stands ready to embrace it. Bill C-32 does not permit the circumvention of TPMs for legitimate fair dealing uses. As far as the process goes, it was refreshing to discover that the Librarian is required to periodically review the activities constrained by TPMs with a very specific purpose:

As I have noted at the conclusion of past proceedings, it is important to understand the purposes of this rulemaking, as stated in the law, and the role I have in it. This is not a broad evaluation of the successes or failures of the DMCA. The purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether current technologies that control access to copyrighted works are diminishing the ability of individuals to use works in lawful, noninfringing ways.

The review process is open; all interested parties can submit written comments on the topic. This was the fourth such review.

Now to the home front.
The Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) released its decision concerning the charges on photocopied material used in schools from Kindergarten through to Grade 12. (Cited as 2010 FCA 198, and dated to 23 July 2010, the online text is not yet available.) My thanks to FC for providing me with a copy.

The FCA reminds Canadians that in decisions of fair dealing, the category of applicable use is merely the beginning. To make a complete assessment of fair dealing, the multi-facetted inquiry set by the Supreme Court in CCH Canadian must be followed. The FCA did exactly that, via existing fair dealing categories of private study, research, criticism and review, and ruled that the majority of photocopying taking place in schools will remain as subject to compensation. This decision is significant; it recognizes that educational activity is already represented through fair dealing and simultaneously reinforces the fact that a category by itself is insufficient to claim fair dealing. Hopefully this will quell the misconception that Bill C-32’s inclusion of education within fair dealing is “expropriation”.

Update: Here’s the CanLII link for 2010 FCA 198

Bizarre

In Posts on June 6, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Industry Canada indicated some good news in terms of education and Bill C-32:

For educational and training purposes, teachers and students will be allowed to use material that they find on the Internet as long as it is has been legitimately posted there by copyright owners without expectation of compensation.

For years, teachers in Canada have worried as to whether they can use publicly available material from the Internet in the day-to-day operations of educating Canadian students. I truly question why this is an issue at all – publicly available material should be self-evident as to its useability. But, Bill C-32 makes it less transparent. It all comes down to “expectation of compensation.”

In a section identified as “Work Available Through Internet,” we find:

30.04 (1) Subject to subsections (2) to (5), it is not an infringement of copyright for an
educational institution, or a person acting under the authority of one, to do any of the following acts for educational or training purposes in respect of a work or other subject-matter that is available through the Internet:
(a) reproduce it;
(b) communicate it to the public by telecommunication, if that public primarily consists of students of the educational institution or other persons acting under its authority;
(c) perform it in public, if that public primarily consists of students of the educational institution or other persons acting under its authority;

There are, of course, conditions. If one doesn’t give the source, and (if present in the source) omits to name the author, performer, maker or broadcaster, the exception does not apply. And this is good. Citation is a moral right and the backbone of academic practice. Teachers should model that behaviour.

Then comes the obedience to technological protection measures – the exception does not apply if the work, or the site from where it comes, is protected. This is not so good (teachers should still be able to apply fair dealing) but not surprising either.

And then:

(4) Subsection (1) does not permit a person to do any act described in that subsection in
respect of a work or other subject-matter if
… (b) a clearly visible notice — and not merely the copyright symbol — prohibiting that act is posted at the Internet site where the work or other subject-matter is posted or on the work or other subject-matter itself.

This seems to say that those who enjoy the open-ness of the Internet, can still choose to deny Canadian students from benefiting from that same open-ness. All that is needed is a notice indicating expectation of compensation. In which case, either Canadian teachers must leave the material alone or ensure compensation. Said another way, our choice is a hobbled Internet for Canadian students, or, the price of education rises.

A point that could be made is, this is the Internet – it has boundless opportunities. If some people do not wish to share, a multitude of others may fill their place. Those who choose to share should then be congratulated for their ethical stance, while Canadian school boards make payments to lesser individuals.

The more I think about this, the worse it gets. What will happen if the world realizes that there is money to be made from Canadian taxpayers, simply by labeling sites “do not use for educational purposes”? No technological protection measure is even needed. By virtue of national treatment, Canada would be obligated to render fees to foreign copyright holders, if their publicly available, non-locked, work was accessed against their wishes in a Canadian classroom.

As far as I am aware, no other nation has such a program in place, which means Canada will not enjoy any reciprocal fees when Canadian copyright holders’ works are accessed in foreign classrooms. And, even if such programs are in place, given Canada’s comparatively modest presence on the Internet, I foresee yet another deficit in cultural trade.

Was this clause deliberately included so that it could be jettisoned later as a display of compromise?

Publicly Available v. Fair Dealing

In Posts on August 25, 2009 at 8:13 pm

As I noted in my last post, asking for an exception to the law, to cover educational institutional use of publicly available material, poses risk to other Canadians and allows institutions to abrogate their responsibilities with respect to fair dealing. Furthermore, it narrows the possibilities of what can be done with materials obtained from the Internet. There are two issues entwined here.
1) When is fair dealing an option?
2) What might publicly available look like?

With respect to (1); just as copyright holders need not indicate the © to reserve their rights, a fair dealing enthusiast need not wait for an invitation to engage with a work. In the CCH Canadian ruling of 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada said, “Fair dealing is always available.”

It is inconsistent within our law to affirm copyright in a published work and simultaneously deny the possibility of fair dealing with that same work. At least for now…

Concerning (2); it would be prudent to consider what happened the last time an exception was requested for educational institutions. On the summary page of Bill C-61, Canadians were permitted:

(c) … certain uses for educational and research purposes of Internet and other digital technologies to facilitate technology-enhanced learning, interlibrary loans, the delivery of educational material and access to publicly available material on the Internet;

Paraphrasing from the exception:

30.04 (1)… it is not an infringement of copyright for an educational institution, or a person acting under the authority of one, to do any of the following acts for educational or training purposes in respect of a work or other subject-matter that is available through the Internet:
(a) To reproduce it;
(b) To communicate it to the public by telecommunication, if that public primarily consists of students of the educational institution or other persons acting under its authority;

But conditions were attached, and one was ingeniously crafted:

30.04 (4) Subsection (1) does not permit a person to do any act described in that subsection in respect of a work or other subject-matter if …:
a clearly visible notice … prohibiting that act is posted at the Internet site where the work or other subject-matter is posted or on the work or other subject-matter itself.

Meaning to say, all a copyright holder had to do to prohibit individuals within educational institutions from utilizing a work was to post such a notice with the work. In which case, legitimate applications of fair dealing would be voided simply because they happened in an educational institution. Mercifully, Bill C-61 did not come into being as Canadian law. If the exception had been implemented in this manner, then copyright holders would enjoy the privilege of copyright, while denying others the right of fair dealing.

Reference:
Bill C-61, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act, Second Session, Thirty-ninth Parliament, House of Commons. Canada. 2008.

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