Meera Nair

And so it begins…

In Posts on June 12, 2010 at 10:19 am

In the last week, two formidable copyright holder groups have indicated their opposition to the proposed changes for fair dealing under Bill C-32. At issue is the suggestion that Section 29 will read as follows:
29. Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.

The Canadian Writers Union had this to say:

Canada’s book writers are outraged by the inclusion of a new provision for educational uses in Bill C-32. This new “fair dealing” for the purpose of education is a wholesale expropriation of writers’ rights and opens the door for the education sector to copy freely from books and other copyright material without paying writers.

And from Access Copyright:

“It is deeply concerning to see that instead of encouraging the use of collective management, the Government has chosen instead to restrict or remove existing uses from collective management in favour of exceptions that do not provide compensation to creators or copyright owners when their works are used,” says Access Copyright’s Executive Director, Maureen Cavan.

Fair dealing carries a meaning of its own; “wholesale expropriation” is not part of it. Tired as I am of saying this, and tired as readers of this blog must be of hearing it, fair dealing relies on careful consideration from a variety of perspectives (as was said by the Supreme Court in CCH Canadian).

Rights-holders groups have orchestrated an atmosphere of both fear and loathing for fair dealing. They present collective management as the only solution to this problem. [As a public relations exercise, they should be congratulated – I may use this as a teaching example next year.] Piercing through the misinformation is a challenge, particularly when educational bodies were slow off the mark to support fair dealing. Indeed, our flagship representative, Council of Ministers of Education (Canada) does not support it. Instead, they have signaled their pleasure with Bill C-32 because, “it allows students and educators in elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities to have fair and reasonable access to publicly available Internet materials in their educational pursuits.”

Which takes me right back to Bizarre.

What is most disappointing about this debate is that it pits Canadians against Canadians on baseless grounds. The largest misconception out there is that copyright alone will provide for career success. Copyright is deemed an incentive for creative effort. But what part of the copyright system actually fosters the creative effort?

[Update: Thank you to the reader who corrected the name: The Writers Union of Canada.]

  1. I find the statement by the Canadian Writers’ Union passing strange. Do they really mean that if a professor of Canadian literature provides a handout to students with copies of two or three paragraphs by a Canadian author that there is to be a copyright fee paid? Do they really mean that if student writes a paper comparing two Canadian authors that if it contains quotations a copyright fee has to be paid.

    If so then perhaps it is time to take Canadian authors off the curriculum.

  2. Um, the name of the organization is The Writers’ Union of Canada. And the part of copyright that encourages creativity is the money that the writer uses to purchase necessities such as food, shelter, and time to write.

  3. It is always amusing to think that we would not pay for the ink out of the photocopier, nor would an academic forget to have a budget line for photocopying/scanning/journals; nor would the administration of a university decide not to pay for the electricity in the library or the cost of a hard copy of a book, etc., etc., but somehow writing as a paying profession does not exist in the mind of the lobby for “free” information.

    Why would one write without remuneration?

    When a teacher is reimbursed by her/his institution for attending a nearby academic conference a rate per kilometre is paid, I presume. Otherwise, what, the professor has to hijack a rental or other car? If there is money for the learning/professional development car and the conveyance technology for information, like phones, faxes, copiers, scanners, cameras, and other recording devices, why does the writer get left out?

    Where does educational material begin and end? If all writing is potentially educational, how does a writer make a profession? If the writer is a non-professional, does the writer go underground with technology and systems unknown to the educator and create an imaginative/creative/productive economy, including education in order to undermine the notion that writers have none of the economic or moral rights of educational workers?

    No economic copyrights, nothing to take off the curriculum; no country.

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