Meera Nair

hanging out with librarians

In Posts on November 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Collective licensing is as deserving of a place in modern markets as any other business model, but our current situation is troubling.

Access Copyright describes its purpose as “to protect the value of intellectual property” owned by authors and publishers, “by ensuring fair compensation when their works are copied.” Value is an interesting concept – value can increase by market-demand. Value can also be artificially elevated by restricting the supply. What concerns me is that Access Copyright is able to control both axes.

And that leads to one plaguing question: How did we get into this mess? The situation now is almost surreal. How did a single organization manage to monopolize both their supply chain (the authors and publishers who produce the works) and an entire market (the educational community of English Canada)?* I decided to look for an answer to this question. Understanding how we arrived at this moment doesn’t make the situation better, but there’s comfort in knowledge.

These were my opening remarks from a panel discussion “Out of the Shadows” hosted by the BC Library Association on November 2, 2011. Fellow panelists were Paul Jones (CAUT) and Dan Burnett (Owen Bird Law Corporation). We addressed a variety of issues affecting the post-secondary community including Access Copyright licenses (or lack thereof), Bill C11 (previously Bill C32) and the political atmosphere.

The answer to my question lies in the pre-history of Access Copyright and the years that followed. Aiding my understanding were the works of Martin Friedland, Howard Knopf and Margaret Ann Wilkinson. Material was also drawn from the current annual reports of the Copyright Board of Canada and Access Copyright. My notes are available here.

It was a very enjoyable evening; my thanks to the BCLA for inviting me to participate.

* The province of Quebec operates with a different collective, Copibec, and relations there seem to be less contentious.

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