Meera Nair

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dear Ms. Freeland

In Posts on November 8, 2015 at 5:38 pm

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of International Trade
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Ms. Freeland,

I am pleased to see your invitation to Canadians to familiarize ourselves with the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and provide comments to the government. Such an overture is much appreciated, particularly in light of the style of governance that has gone before.

But, the Canadian public may need some help in understanding the issues presented through 6000 pages of text. The media are most likely their expected guides in judging the merits of the TPP. Unfortunately, the media has shown little interest in covering, let alone assessing, what may be the most deleterious aspect of the TPP, namely the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. (At this blog, some coverage can be found here, here, here, and here.)

This mechanism, brought to Canada through NAFTA, ostensibly secures business investments from seizure by hostile governments. Sugar plantations and oil fields in alien jurisdictions come to mind. But ISDS windfalls have come through, not for Canada, but from Canada, for international corporations seeking redress when they have felt their profits unfairly curtailed by domestic regulations.

Just prior to the conclusion of the TPP negotiations, Brook Baker (Northeastern University) and Katrina Geddes (Harvard University) posted a paper describing the rise in global applications of ISDS, from 50 instances in the first 50 years of the existence of the mechanism to 608 in the last 15 years. They write:

This sea change in investor-state claims was triggered by the belated realization that not only could investors bring claims against banana-republic confiscations but against emerging economies and even advanced democracies whenever their expectations of profit were thwarted … Accordingly, foreign corporations have used investor-state dispute resolution to challenge a broad array of environmental and land use laws, government procurement decisions, regulatory permitting decisions, financial regulations, consumer protection, public health, and public safety laws, and a range of other public interest policies (p.11).

Baker and Geddes draw attention to Canada’s current difficulties under ISDS: a $500 million challenge from Eli Lilly, all because our courts had the temerity to invalidate a patent which did not live up to assurances. Eli Lilly also complained that our system of patenting was not to their liking. It may be their prerogative to complain about our system, but it should not be their right to change it. Like any other regulatory measure, Canada’s system of patenting was set by a Canadian government, in full compliance with existing international norms. Eli Lilly had every opportunity to press their concerns through Canadian courts. They did, and they lost. The story should have ended there. Yet ISDS offers a venue for Eli Lilly to take a course of action that would render our courts’ decisions irrelevant.

As I noted in an earlier post, the former Harper Government presented the TPP investment protection measures in glowing terms. While such a rosy outlook did not ring true, it is plausible that, having curtailed the Civil Service from doing its job of meaningful scrutiny, the mandarins in Mr. Harper’s office truly did not know better. But with the release of the text we now know that what is encoded into the TPP is ISDS at its worst. Experts who condemned the agreement before it was released have been vindicated, cold comfort as that may be.

Among those experts is internationally acclaimed economist Joseph Stiglitz. In your 2012 publication, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, Stiglitz appears in your acknowledgement of scholars who became “important sounding boards and advisors (p.290).” It is no secret that Stiglitz views the TPP as a charade of a trade agreement; among his recent columns is this assessment:

… These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.

Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its “partners” have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.

The tone from the participating governments of the TPP is that the agreement is good for business; they rely upon the implied orthodoxy that business well-being translates to citizen well-being. However, you have questioned this orthodoxy. In Plutocrats, you describe a heated exchange in 2011 between then-Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase and write:

Are the interests of the state and its big businesses synonymous? If not, who decides? And if they do clash, does the state have the right—and the might—to curb specific businesses for the collective good (p.255)?

That our Minister of International Trade has your background suggests that the TPP will be examined comprehensively. That our civil service has been unshackled suggests that qualified personnel with backgrounds in law, commerce, human rights, and trade negotiation will be encouraged to exercise their expertise with vigour. That Prime Minister Trudeau has promised transparency suggests that, whatever decision is reached concerning the TPP, Canadians will be fully informed as to both its merits and demerits. If Canadian sovereignty must continue to be diminished, we expect to be told the truth.

But, I choose to be optimistic. The state will not be limited to serving only as a handmaiden to business. My optimism stems from an encore remark in Plutocrats:

The issue, instead, is whether the interests of business and of the community at large are always the same and, if they aren’t, whether the government has the will, the authority and the brains to defend the latter, even against the protests of the former (p.261).

You and your colleagues have been given the authority. Your collective credentials remove any doubt as to the brains. What remains to be answered is the question of will.

I wish you all the best in your endeavors.


Meera Nair, Ph.D

no surprise

In Posts on October 29, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Two weeks ago we received the unremarkable news that Google Books had prevailed at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; that the copying of entire books in order to provide information about the books, including displaying snippets of content, was fair use. I say “unremarkable” as the outcome was expected. The Second Circuit was the appellate court that sent this dispute back to a district court expressly because the district court had not considered fair use. After due consideration, in November 2013 the district court declared that Google Books’ operations fell within fair use. That triggered an appeal from the Authors Guild (despite the fact that the appeal would be heard by the same Second Circuit).

The present decision of the Second Circuit was penned by Judge Pierre Leval, who might be best known as the founding father of the relevance of “transformative” in American fair use dialogue. It should not surprise anyone that Leval emphasized the expanded utility wrought by Google Books. Placing the decision firmly upon the American constitutional foundation for copyright, namely that the system of copyright must “promote the progress of science and the useful arts,” Leval writes: “the purpose of Google’s copying of the original copyrighted books is to make available significant information about those books, permitting a searcher to identify those that contain a word or term of interest, as well as those that do not include reference to it (p.22, emphasis in original).”

Judge Leval carries out the four-factor analysis, as per statutory custom in the United States. Mike Masick (Techdirt) provides detailed coverage of the analysis, noting in particular that the United States has yet another clear indication that commerciality does not impede fair use and that the use of bogey man arguments offered without any evidence (such as the possibility that would-be hackers could obtain the complete scans of the books) have no place in a serious consideration of law. Further analysis and coverage of this matter by Patricia Aufderheide (Center for Media and Social Impact), Brandon Butler (American University) and Kevin Smith (Duke University) all make for very good reading.

From a Canadian perspective the decision is a reminder that the United States’ culture of fair use is distinct from our culture of fair dealing. American fair use history was marked by an unfortunate period of time where commerciality and market impact became the touchstones upon which fair use was determined. Consequently, what was considered world-wide as the best exception, by virtue of flexible language that could accommodate futures unknown, lay inert in the United States. It has taken the country decades to restore fair use as a meaningful exception within the system of copyright, and establish that fair use is not simply a means to address market failure.

(Perhaps it was through observing this unfortunate path, that our Supreme Court took pains to safeguard Canada’s development of fair dealing with a strict reminder that the presence of licensing was not sufficient to deny fair dealing nor was market impact the most important factor of analysis.)

In 2010, I dealt with this portion of American fair use history in some detail. In “Fair Dealing at a Crossroads,” From Radical Extremism to Balanced Copyright (ed. Michael Geist), I wrote:

The prominence of commerciality, through the first and fourth factors, was set in the 1984 Sony decision, even though that action was inconsis­tent with the statutory language of the law. Although the United States’ Supreme Court sought to correct its mistakes, with some success in 1994, lower courts continued to place undue emphasis upon commerciality (p. 92, citations omitted).

The success of 1994 was Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, Inc, a fair use dispute over a commercially released parody. Favoring fair use, the American Supreme Court of the day sought a way to blunt the emphasis upon commerciality and gave rise to the importance of “transformative” as “… altering the original with new expression, meaning, or message. The more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism … .” Their reasoning drew from the work of Judge Leval.

Since 1994, American courts have systematically returned to the language around “transformative,” giving fair use a reasonable ambit of application and chance of success, as befitting a measure that has been referred to as providing “breathing space within the confines of copyright.” But while the language of “transformative” is a key feature of American dialogue, Canadians are fortunate not to be so reliant on terminology.

Our leading decisions concerning fair dealing focused upon exact reproduction of works (whole or in part) often with the same purpose that the works were intended for at their inception. By virtue of a contextual analysis, our Supreme Court declared those circumstances as giving rise to fair dealing. True, the reasoning employed would meld along the lines of expanded utility but we need not frame our reasoning to match a particular phrase. Our Supreme Court asks us to examine uses of copyrighted work broadly, with a scope of inquiry tailored to the situation at hand. Fair dealing rests upon the entirety of that analysis.

TPP – the untold story

In Posts on October 9, 2015 at 7:28 am

Since the agreement in principle of the TransPacific Partnership Agreement was announced this week, our media coverage has focused primarily upon its adverse impact to the dairy industry in Canada. The Federal Government was quick to respond with some reassuring details including an offer of $4.3 billion over fifteen years to ease the pain of greater competition.

But the government has yet to release the complete text of the agreement, content to indicate that it will provide more information in the next few days. Unless “more information” is comprehensive, Canadians will head to the polls on October 19, without a detailed understanding of the potential ramifications of the TPP.

At this stage, all we have is the technical summary provided by the government; among other details, the TPP apparently:

1. Includes protection from expropriation without prompt and adequate compensation.

2. Provides access to an independent international investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that is prompt, fair and transparent, and subject to appropriate safeguards.

3. Preserves the full rights of governments to legislate and regulate in the public interest, including for public health and environmental reasons.

The language appears intended to assure Canadian companies who invest abroad that their money and property will be safe – that statement (2) protects the integrity of (1). What the government fails to indicate is that this settlement mechanism has already seen use – directed at Canada. Brought to life through NAFTA, ISDS is a process by which foreign corporations can sue domestic governments for practices that might diminish expected profits. Moreover, these suits do not take place in a court of law, but in private tribunals.

Our government’s claim that the process by which disputes are to be settled is “prompt, fair and transparent, and subject to appropriate safeguards” is less than credible. As has already been written, ISDS disputes “are managed by a trio of corporate attorneys who rotate among the positions of advocate and judge. These tribunals are not answerable to any electorate and do not address public well-being as a court of law would do when confronted with the same dispute.”

Furthermore, our government’s claim that Canada’s right “to regulate … in public interest” is protected (said another way, we maintain our sovereignty) also strains credulity. As I noted here, in 1997 Canada retracted its own ban on a gasoline additive because of an ISDS dispute. Retracting the ban was not the only punishment meted out to Canada, the government also paid $13 million in damages, covered the opposing corporation’s legal costs, and publicly proclaimed that the additive was safe, even though our own environmental protection agency had said otherwise.

The one area where the TPP might be held at bay is in the area of tobacco law suits. It has been reported that the agreement includes a carve out against disputes from tobacco companies who object to policy measures that reduce smoking rates. (The disputes are very real; Uruguay is paying a heavy price for its worthy efforts to reduce smoking among its population.)  Sean Flynn (Washington College of Law), writes that such a carve-out “validates, rather than assuages, the concerns of those who have been criticizing ISDS systems for many years. Without express carve outs, ISDS provisions do threaten common health and safety regulations.”

The destructive nature of ISDS in existing agreements has prompted careful study and analysis. One such paper seems to have been designed expressly for the Canadian electorate; on 29 September 2015, co-authors Brook Baker (Northeastern University) and Katrina Geddes (Harvard University) posted Corporate Power Unbound: Investor-State Arbitration of IP Monopolies on Medicines – Eli Lilly v. Canada and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to the SSRN network.

Canada’s prominence is due to its dubious honour of being the first country to be targeted for patent dispute via ISDS, even though NAFTA ostensibly shielded domestic patent decisions from ISDS. Yet, we are embroiled in a $500 million challenge. This dispute began because our courts had the temerity to invalidate a patent that did not live up to expectation. Among the details provided by Baker and Geddes is that the research underpinning the patent consisted of a study of 21 patients over three weeks, with modest improvement detected in the condition of 11 patients (p.28). Baker and Geddes’ work is meticulous in its evaluation of ISDS and ought to have been compulsory reading for every member of Canada’s negotiating team.

The lone media coverage of ISDS this past week came via the Winnipeg Free Press. In an op/ed penned by Ronald Labonté and Arne Ruckert (University of Ottawa), they write: “Canada is already the most sued country in the world. It has so far lost $170 million in NAFTA cases with hundreds of millions more still pending.”

What has been most perplexing about the mania for the TPP is the insistence that Canada could not be left out. Given our experience, can Canada afford to be left in?

That the TPP might have actual trade benefit could well be true. But will the gains be large enough to compensate for the losses we will endure by throwing away our capacity to make sound policy decisions, in keeping with our own aspirations with respect to clean air, clean water, public health and safety, labour laws, or allocation of intellectual property rights?

ISDS was originally deemed a necessary measure for situations where the country involved did not have a robust, functioning system of law. Canada does not fit that bill.

So far, Canadians have been presented with a take it or leave it conceptual view of the TPP. There remains a third approach: hold out for a trade agreement that is only about trade, with the expected give and take in tariffs that is required for fruitful growth across all parties. As Labonté and Ruckert noted, Europeans are pushing back on similarly flawed agreements.

International corporations do not need to be given absolute freedom to seek unbridled profit to the detriment of public interest. Canadians have an opportunity to express their concerns to our government. And when the dust settles on October 19, if the opposition parties hold the balance of power, we can only hope that they will set aside partisan sniping and work together. Canadians deserve nothing less.

no permission needed

In Case Reviews, Posts on September 26, 2015 at 7:08 am

On 18 September 2015, MIT Libraries issued an announcement: “Using figures in new scholarly articles just got easier.”

The article elaborates, through contracts signed with a number of publishers, MIT authors may use “with appropriate credit, figures, tables and brief excerpts … in the Authorized User’s own scientific, scholarly and educational works.”

The list of publishers reads like a Debrett’s of publishing: Sage, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Wiley and Elsevier. While to some this may be good news, it is disturbing if it means that fair use has been all but formally renounced by prominent academic publishers. To emphasize that, due to contracts agreed upon, permission is no longer needed only reinforces the belief/expectation that permission was needed to begin with.

Even for those MIT authors/authorized users who may avail themselves of those contracts, if desired content is depicted as belonging to another copyright owner, then “permission should be sought.” And what of non-MIT authors?

Entirely missing from the announcement is any recognition and support of exceptions to copyright. True, this is how many publishers operate. But that academic publishers are so unwilling to engage fulsomely with exceptions is more than disappointing. It undercuts the legitimacy of exceptions even though academic publication has almost an endemic claim to unauthorized use as per exceptions provided by law.

Since this pertains to the United States, fair use is the exception of note. Its absence is doubly-perplexing given that fair use has been doing quite well by American courts (for instance, see here) since descending to its nadir toward the end of the twentieth century.

To that point: one day before MIT’s announcement, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit offered a pertinent reminder that fair use protects unauthorized use of imagery even in matters less noble than those associated to scholarly work. The dispute centred upon an unflattering photograph, used by a third party via a number of blogposts, to lampoon and criticize the person depicted, and the efforts of that person to suppress those uses. Detailed accounts are provided by professor of law Eric Goldman (writing for Forbes) and Kevin Smith (Director for the Office of Scholarly Communication at Duke University).

The Eleventh Circuit affirms what a magistrate and district court had earlier declared, that the uses of the photograph were fair use. The four-factor analysis (as required by American law) was duly followed and might spark some discussion about the fairness of use for those who wish to use a figure, table or excerpt without authorization in a scholarly publication.

Paraphrasing from the decision:

  1. Purpose and character of the work (pages 6-8): The use of the photograph was deemed primarily educational (the author of the blog “sought to warn and educate others about the alleged nefariousness” of the person) and noncommercial (the author of the blog received no remuneration for the posts). The use was also deemed transformative as “… Courts often find such uses [of faithfully reproduced works] transformative by emphasizing the altered purpose or context of the work, as evidenced by the surrounding commentary or criticism.” Thus factor one favours fair use.
  2. Nature of the work (pages 8-9): With reference to American precedent, this factor hinges upon whether the work had been previously published, and, where the work lay on a scale ranging from factual to fantasy. While recognizing that photography is often an artistic endeavor, in this instance the photograph was deemed a capture of a moment – a visual factual record. Further distribution of such works favours fair use.
  3. Amount of the work used (page 10): Too often it is assumed that since an image is used in its entirety, permission must be sought. The Eleventh Circuit firmly discarded that view, “Though ten blog posts reproduced the Photo in its entirety and without alteration, to copy any less of the image would have made the picture useless [to the story]. … As such, the third factor neither weighs for nor against a finding of fair use.”
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for the work (pages 11-12): This matter was settled quickly; the complainant had purchased the copyright in the photograph expressly to suppress its future publication, thereby signaling a willful disinterest in any future market. Thus, the contribution of this factor favored fair use.

It is worth pointing out the Eleventh Circuit offered a cogent reminder that market harm must be examined as: “… whether… the use would cause substantial economic harm such that allowing [the use] would frustrate the purposes of copyright by materially impairing … incentive to publish the [prior work].” There is considerable latitude in such assessment.

Particularly as readers were instructed at the outset, that the four factors are to be read together. Therefore, the use of previously published figures, tables, or excerpts that may well be factual in nature, surrounded by commentary or criticism, in support of a new scholarly work (otherwise known as furthering research, education, public wellbeing, etc. — all those matters that go into promoting progress in a society) has a strong probability of being deemed fair.

However, non-MIT authors may have a more difficult time voicing such an argument if the academic publishing community has officially decided such uses are only permitted after contractual discussion. While it is understandable that an institutional press would wish to smooth the way forward for its own authors, and to protect themselves from litigation by other publishers, it would be more laudable if institutional presses could take the path of supporting best practices that fulfill fair use.

Coincidentally, also on 17 September, during an event hosted by American University Washington College of Law, the tenth anniversary of the start of the Best Practices of Fair Use Project was celebrated. Renowned professor of law Peter Jaszi chaired the event, and spoke passionately about the theory behind the project:

When members of a practice community come together …, talk about their fair use rights, and the appropriate employment of those rights in furtherance of their mission, then the record of those conversations and the consensus to which those practitioners come can be in itself a powerful … force for change. It not only documents but it also influences …

Ten years on, with the aid of Jaszi’s colleague/co-author Patricia Aufderheide (Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact), over a dozen fair use best practices’ documents have been developed on a wide range of topics, including documentary film, visual arts, orphan works, poetry, and teaching/research/study. We can only hope that these documents might yet become compulsory reading at every institutional press.

setting aside a library exception

In Posts on September 20, 2015 at 6:51 am

When specific institutional exceptions entered into the Copyright Act in 1997, the ensuing challenge was to decode an array of conditions, spread over the distinctions between Educational Institutions, Libraries, Archives and Museums, the kinds of machines installed in these institutions, and such permutations and combinations thereof. The effort to determine where legitimate copying began or ended was not for the faint of heart.

Receiving Royal Assent in the Second Session of the 35th Parliament 1996-1997 (through a bill named C-32), the exception for libraries concerning interlibrary loan (ILL) was less than generous. It was restricted by genre to scientific, technical or scholarly works — fiction or poetry was strictly disallowed — with newspapers only eligible if more than a year old, and restricted by purpose to only research or private study. It also mandated that copies could not be in digital form.

The construction of the exception was intended to facilitate productive unauthorized uses of copyrighted material, but then was called upon to placate copyright owners who opposed exceptions of any kind. At the time, economist Michael Rushton observed that “[the exceptions] were heavily amended at committee stage, generally in favour of creators’ groups (p. 327).

Moving ahead to our current Act (as shaped by amendments assented to in 2012, ushered in by another Bill C-32 and finished by Bill C-11) the exception has seemingly improved. Digital copies are permitted, but under conditions. Paraphrasing from Section 30.2 (5.02), when a patron requests a resource via ILL, if that request is filled with a digital copy, the providing library must take “measures” to prevent the requestor from:

  • making further copies (other than printing one paper copy for his/her needs),
  • communicating the digital copy to anyone else,
  • using the digital copy for more than five days following first access.

Taking “measures” allows for some elasticity in application, libraries are shielded to a degree from adopting onerous surveillance practices. But it should be evident that this style of exception is woefully inadequate to the reality of past and current information flows.

A routine need is the sharing of materials among a group. This can take form in a myriad of ways: students working on a group project, researchers or writers collaborating from near and far, professional societies responding to regulatory developments, or civil servants addressing media coverage, just to name a few. Yet under Section 30, each member of a group must submit a request for necessary material, which the supplying library will fill, many times over. And this presupposes that all sources of material are known in advance and that serendipity has no role to play.

While the caveat of Section 30 is inefficient and illogical, disregarding a section of any Act leaves a feeling of unease. Fortunately, libraries need not follow Section 30 piecemeal; instead, libraries are able to rely upon the entirety of fair dealing instead.

Section 29 is concise: “Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.” There are no further restrictions upon the purpose, no restrictions upon genre and (as CCH Canadian taught us eleven years ago) no restrictions regarding commerciality (para. 51). Of course, the unwritten  rule since CCH Canadian is that the proposed copying must be evaluated for fairness, via a framework of context-appropriate factors.

Consider the following: A person submits an ILL request and further distributes the material to a group. If all involved in that group are each entitled to make that ILL request, it is difficult to see how a single request on behalf of a group of entitled individuals could be construed as unfair. If anything, that single request should be lauded as it eliminates duplication of effort for both lending and receiving libraries. The fairness analysis then shifts largely to due care when proceeding with the group distribution. Meaning, posting the material to a publicly available website would be frowned upon. Instead, a secure server comes to mind. A library might make that suggestion if it so wishes. Regardless though, CCH Canadian also made it plain that libraries are not responsible for the actions of their members (para. 45).

To those who might argue that libraries must rely on library exceptions, I leave the last words to Chief Justice Beverley Mclachlin, again via CCH Canadian:

As an integral part of the scheme of copyright law, the Section 29 fair dealing exception is always available. Simply put, a library can always attempt to prove that its dealings with a copyrighted work are fair under s. 29 of the Copyright Act. It is only if a library were unable to make out the fair dealing exception under s. 29 that it would need to turn to s. 30.2 of the Copyright Act to prove that it qualified for the library exemption (para 49).

students, food insecurity, OER

In Posts on August 31, 2015 at 7:25 pm

My last post focused on a very one-sided report bemoaning the fortunes (or lack thereof) of the educational publishing industry. That industry apparently needs our support in the form of continued high-priced payments. This, without regard for either developments in law or legitimate and innovative efforts on the part of the educational community to lighten the financial burden imposed on students, parents and taxpayers.

According to the report, without such an industry, our authors would no longer be able to support themselves. The trope of the starving author is a familiar one in the realm of copyright lobbying. Every expansion of copyright (beginning with its establishment in the 18th century) has included references to writers who needed copyright protection to survive. (Yet even in those days, not every writer agreed with publishers’ pronouncements on this matter.) If authors are still struggling after 300 years of relentless expansion of copyright’s ambit, perhaps copyright is neither the problem nor the solution.

Moreover, there is another segment of society where money is tight, or tighter still, and food insecurity is real. (Dietitians of Canada indicate that the main cause of food insecurity is poverty.) Year after year, the difficulties facing post-secondary students are covered in the press. Here is just a small sample of recent discussion:

Many factors play into student poverty, but the rising cost of education cannot be ignored as the principal driver. With tuition and housing as necessities, food is seen as optional. Citing Michael Waglay (coordinator for Beyond Campus Foodbanks) Rachel Grant writes: “the first campus food banks appeared in 1991 at the University of Alberta. Now, … there is a food bank on almost every campus.”

Also appearing on every campus are shelves upon shelves of very expensive textbooks. The educational publishing industry would have us believe that only they can produce such works. Open Education Resources (OER) demonstrates otherwise. Looking for an illustrative example that would have widespread use, I examined materials for pre-calculus. OpenStax’s contribution stands out, based as it is upon a thorough development and review process. A comprehensive book (1400+ pages), it is lucid in delivery and robust in its treatment of the subject. (To ensure a knowledgeable opinion, I placed it in front of my first guide in mathematics; a woman of 35 years’ post-secondary mathematics teaching experience, spanning two countries. Full disclosure – she is also my mother.)

OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University, with the support of many philanthropic organizations. Its goal is to offer high-quality textbooks which are free online or low-cost in print form. The array of institutions who have adopted OpenStax books is impressive, ranging from high schools and community colleges to exclusive preparatory schools and Ivy League universities.

Returning to my pursuit for pre-calculus learning materials, an informal survey of conventional offerings showed sticker prices beginning at the $150 mark and escalating quickly. With the option to reduce that cost to zero, or near zero, that saving alone could make a meaningful difference to a hungry student.

But there are barriers to the adoption of OER materials. It is not a trivial undertaking to rework an existing course to rely upon a different textbook. Students can only hope that sympathetic professors will consider such exertion worthwhile. Traditional teaching/research institutions could support both parties by recognizing such work as “service” (that component of duties essential to advancement of tenured and tenure-track alike). Yet another barrier is awareness; too many of the professoriate remain unaware that such works even exist. Finally, advanced courses or highly specialized areas are less likely to be served by OER at this time.

But barriers to some are opportunities for others. Institutions which support OER usage, or, better still, invest in OER development, can enjoy a competitive advantage among the student market. A success story that made the rounds of Creative Commons’ enthusiasts is that of Tidewater Community College (Virginia) which shifted an entire program of study to OER materials. Mike Palmedo recounted the early details in March 2014:

 Tidewater identified 21 courses and signed up faculty members to design the curriculum. They started with the desired outcomes for each of the courses, and then built the curriculum with OER materials that would meet those outcomes. Developing the curriculum took about 12 months. One year into the program, the early results are highly positive.

The initiative was not only about eliminating the prior price tag of $3679 for materials, it was also about improving teaching impact. Continuing the story, via an Inside Higher Education webinar this year, Cable Green (Director of Global Learning, Creative Commons) gave additional good news: better grades, higher rates of completion and increased student enrollment.

Closer to home, the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) is showing great leadership in the development of OER materials for their students, and is enjoying the attendant institutional benefits. Details were first presented at Open Education 2014 in Washington DC by Tannis Morgan, Associate Dean for the Centre of Teaching, Learning and Innovation at JIBC. Morgan emphasizes that not only is this effort “the right thing to do” but also that “being open has actually increased the bottom line.”

with due respect to PricewaterhouseCoopers

In Posts on August 3, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Howard Knopf (a prominent intellectual property lawyer and longstanding advocate for maintaining the limits upon copyright as prescribed by law) has drawn our attention to a new study commissioned by Access Copyright and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The study concludes that the end is nigh for educational publishing in Canada. Which in turn shall impose great hardships upon Canadian authors and illustrators, and ultimately mark the end of Canadian culture. The root cause of these troubles, according to PwC’s assessment, is the advent of fair dealing upon the Canadian educational landscape. Because fair dealing is actually practiced now (with guidance from the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC) and Colleges and Institutes Canada (CIC)), the publishing industry is denied its time-honoured income gained through blanket-licensing of written materials for education in Canada.

There was a time when I would direct students to PwC reports as exemplars of informed and dispassionate analysis. I am not sure I would do so today. With due respect to PwC, their knowledge of copyright in general (and fair dealing in particular) is scant. But even setting aside any lack of understanding of copyright, the spectacle of being a paid messenger to a biased cause does little credit to PwC.

And the message is this: Canadian educational publishers can maintain their industry only by returning to the level of payments received from schools and post-secondary institutions in the past. Educational institutions must continue spending as before, regardless of: (1) the position of the law, (2) the general decline of funding to education, (3) availability of alternative resources, or (4) better fiscal management on the part of educators and administrators. All of this is set upon a lament about the perils of coping with new technology.

Incidentally, that lament has been heard with every past introduction of a new medium. The script remains unchanged: that existing industries are threatened, they are endeavoring to cope with a strange new world, and if their demands are not met then culture and attendant jobs will go the way of the dodo bird. A modest historical exploration would confirm that the printing press did not end the creation of literature (or the art of calligraphy), musical composition did not stop because of the player piano, the film industry did not collapse with the arrival of the VCR (indeed, studios found new markets in the form of the home-movie-collection), and digital technology has strengthened the music industry today.

Returning to the report, its premise is voiced as a complaint. In describing their mandate, PwC refers to the fair dealing guidelines framed by AUCC and CIC: “which, we understand, were developed without the input of the writing and publishing industry, claim to authorize educational institutions to make copies of portions of published works without permission from, or payment to, the copyright holder (p.13).”

PwC is clearly aware of CCH Canadian (2004) but makes selective use of it. A complete reading of the decision would have alerted PwC that the current guidelines are structured along the terms of the Access Policy of the Great Library which allowed for copying of modest amounts of work (one case, one article etc.) with requests for greater copying to be further examined (2004 SCC 13, para 61.) In declaring such a system as fair dealing, our Supreme Court gave the blueprint for the fair dealing policies now followed across Canada. Moreover, further words from the Supreme Court established the viability of sheltering legitimately, unauthorized copying in educational institutions, as fair dealing (Education v Access, 2012 SCC 37).

It is disappointing to hear that Canadians (individuals or institutions) need to solicit input from others, before choosing to act under the law as it is sanctioned by our highest court.

Of course, Access Copyright may use this report as they see fit; Knopf muses that the report will be presented to the Copyright Board when the Board moves on Access Copyright’s requests for tariffs linked to educational copying. Knopf also reiterates his observation that the Board is taking a more inquisitorial role in its hearings.

For instance, the Board might place close attention to this passage from the executive summary: “With less content purchased for the [K-12] classroom, teachers are increasingly required to fill the void by copying and repurposing published content (p.4).”

No citation is given; there is no effort to indicate how much content is involved or how often these actions occur. In the early pages of a 95-page report, it sets a tone of rampant piracy. The term “fair dealing” is entirely absent. Granted, it is the interpretation of fair dealing that is being taken to task, but to refrain from even a cursory acknowledgement that Section 29 of the Copyright Act may very well shelter these actions (depending on the facts of each situation) is, at best, an error on the part of PwC. At worst, it is intentionally misleading.

Regarding the thrust of that passage, readers may recall that when a decline of purchasing of educational content in the K-12 sector was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court in 2012, our justices acknowledged:

… as noted by the [educational representatives], there was no evidence that this decline was linked to photocopying done by teachers.  Moreover, [they] noted that there were several other factors that were likely to have contributed to the decline in sales, such as the adoption of semester teaching, a decrease in registrations, the longer lifespan of textbooks, increased use of the Internet and other electronic tools, and more resource-based learning (2012 SCC 37, para.33).

On that same theme, PwC continues:

As the market shifts away from the purchase of traditional paper-bound textbooks to the adoption of digital technology, the revenues of K-12 publishers and related creators have fallen dramatically. Total revenues generated in the K-12 Educational Publishing Market has declined by 40% since 2008 (p.4-5).

It is plausible that the collapse of global economies in 2009 also had some influence here. In any case, the K-12 educational body falls at the bottom of the funding totem pole. Transfers of taxpayer dollars flow from the federal government, through provincial and municipal governments before making their way to school boards and schools. And, unlike post-secondary institutions, tuition dollars are not a reliable component of school budgets. (Interestingly so, PwC observes a much smaller drop in revenues from the post-secondary sector; see p.12). In an era of cost-cutting and belt-tightening, it should come as no surprise that schools are spending less and looking for alternatives with respect to quality educational materials.

Perhaps one of the most startling aspects of PwC’s report is the disdain for efforts among educational communities to develop and circulate materials of their own. Section Emerging models for K-12 materials (p. 49-51) describes some of these initiatives; notably characterized as “disruptive business models” as they shift money away from the past structures of the Educational Publishing sector. The efforts by provincial governments to promote collaboration among stakeholders in the pursuit of less-expensive, suitable material for K-12 students are mentioned without praise, even though taxpayers might see such steps as productive. The report also indicates that schools are: “… increasing use of content sources from the Internet; and making more use of open-source educational content …  [content that can be copied and shared for free] (p.51).” Again, this is laudable but not to PwC:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are a threat to traditional publishers as they provide textbook and course materials for free. Some school boards have access to digital content developed by the Ministry and/or teachers free of charge. … For now, exchanges of content between provinces remain limited however this is expected to increase in the future (p.51)”

In PwC’s hands, good educational content has very narrow boundaries; such content is deemed as only those materials that are legitimate to use via a paid license fee to a member of Canada’s “Educational Publishing Industry.” But even when speaking of the decline of licensing fees in Canada, the emphasis is upon the decline of blanket license fees, meaning a set fee per student, for all students, paid to Access Copyright. (PwC seems oblivious to its patron’s own role in this decline.)

PwC acknowledges that some institutions are dealing directly with publishers for transactional licenses but observes (albeit upon incomplete data) that the transactional licensing income does not match the decline of the revenue received via Access Copyright (p.62). However, PwC neglects to point out that some publishers did not wish to do business with educational institutions. Writing in September 2013, Stephen Toope (then president of UBC) gave details of the $25 million spent at UBC in direct transactions with copyright holders and indicated that, in connection to coursepacks, some publishers/authors refused to enter into contract for a transactional license to use works.

It has come to our attention over the last year or two that some publishers and authors have decided not to grant any transactional clearances. This is unfortunate, as this restricts faculty and students from utilizing the materials produced by the affected publishers and authors and, it would seem, unnecessarily cuts-off a source of revenue for them. Nonetheless, this is the right of publishers and authors and, if they are not prepared to grant a transactional clearance, the material will not be used.

It should be noted that, perhaps in some effort to show neutrality, PwC offers its lens of assessment as clarifying its scope:

[We have] considered this issue in light of the economic theory of copyright protection and its counterbalance, the fair dealing exception… The theory is that, without proper regulation, prospective users could consume certain goods without paying for them (in other words, they could “free ride”), resulting in “market failure”. This failure is signified by a reduction in the economic incentives to develop new creative content (p.6).

However, this invocation of loaded vocabulary invites two comments. First, the pejorative emphasis upon free ride and market failure conceals the reality that good public policy will aid and abet free-riders, because it is better for society as a whole. (Health care, education and public parks all come to mind—each of these is sustained through taxpayers, with varying degrees of contributions, including the option of a zero contribution.) And second, PwC seems unaware that markets themselves are of variety and will not necessarily transact in dollars and cents. Exceptions to copyright have existed for as long as copyright itself. The “market” in which creativity thrives is one which acknowledges that some goods/services will be transacted, without awareness, and without conventional payment. This is not a failure of the market; quite the reverse. Payment is in kind. Creators of today were users of yesterday, and pay their debt to the future.

PwC has lent its voice to Access Copyright’s ongoing complaint that educational institutions now may enjoy for free, the modest discretionary copying that they once paid a license for. However, the real grievance for Canadian students, teachers and parents is that until now, educational institutions endorsed a system whereby fair dealing, a right given to Canadians by Parliament, was treated as a consumer item to be bought and paid for.

To PwC’s credit, it is upfront in stating the limitations of the report; that PwC does not verify the accuracy of the information provided to them. Readers may wish to pay close attention to the sources from which the report was compiled (p.96); there is a distinct lack of diversity in perspective.

If this report is offered to the Copyright Board, it will be of interest to hear the Board’s impressions.

copyright and religion; a contentious mixture

In Posts on June 14, 2015 at 6:20 am

Discussions of copyright and religion are fraught with risk for the same reason; that it is extremely difficult to find middle ground.

Two weeks ago, an article in the Huffington Post raised what, on the surface, looks like a clear-cut demonstration of violation of intellectual property rights. But, as is often the case with these rights, careful reading brings to light a more complex matter.

The article, published on 6 June 2016, concerns the work of Vancouver photographer, Dina Goldstein. Although the Huffington Post indicates that Goldstein is seeking damages from a foreign newspaper for its use of her work, the article does not identify which body of law is relevant to Goldstein’s claim. Goldstein is entitled to be offended by the criticism levied at her; however, it is open to debate as to whether any laws were broken at all.

Images from Goldstein’s collection Fallen Princesses were used to support an argument from the Irish Catholic newspaper Alive!, of the need for families to raise children with hope. Specifically, the hope that arises from the Christian faith: “The sure hope of heaven gives us a joy here and now that even suffering cannot undermine. The fairy tales have it right.” The Huffington Post quotes Goldstein as saying:

My photograph … was deliberately manipulated into forming a criticism about parents who do not promote religion within the household. This sentiment is seething with the classic Catholic guilt trip I reject … In fact, this argument is completely opposed to my own way of raising a family, without religion.

In the same article, Goldstein acknowledges that her “socially critical work is ‘meant to attract discourse.'” However, the photographer objected “to the newspaper’s cover displaying neither a credit to her, nor an indication there’s a relevant story inside.”

DINA-GOLDSTEIN-IRISH-NEWSPAPERCloser examination of both the Alive! cover and the accompanying article do not easily support these remarks. It is true that the Alive! cover does not make mention of Goldstein by name, but there is a reference to an article in the lower right hand corner: “Being a child of parents with no faith is tough, see page 7.”

On page seven, the article begins with: “Photographer Dina Goldstein … .” The article deals with Goldstein’s work in depth, detailing highlights of the collection and Goldstein’s philosophy about the collection. In terms of crediting a creator, or invoking a creator’s work to a specific cause, these are matters of moral rights which serve to protect the personal connection between art and artist. As most readers know, the scope of protection varies. However, among observing countries, the right of attribution (acknowledging the creator) and integrity (treating the work with respect) are common. Ireland observes both (so too does Canada).

But the immediate question is whether moral rights prescribe a specific placement of attribution? Irish law is silent as to how attribution should be carried out. Known as the paternity right in their Copyright and Related Rights Act, Chapter 7 – Section 107 states: “ … the author shall have the right to be identified as the author and that right shall also apply in relation to an adaptation of the work.” Thus it is plausible that crediting Goldstein through the article would serve as observant of moral rights under Irish law.

[As an aside, the Copyright Act of Canada is slightly more detailed in its language of moral rights: “The author of a work has …  the right to the integrity of the work and, …  where reasonable in the circumstances, to be associated with the work as its author by name or under a pseudonym and the right to remain anonymous.” But the caveat of “where reasonable in the circumstances” also allows for the possibility that the attribution might not be placed according to the creator’s wishes.]

On the matter of the integrity of the work, Irish law is quite intriguing. Chapter 7 – Section 108 states: “… the author of the work shall have the right to object to any distortion, mutilation, or other modification of, or derogatory action in relation to, the work which would prejudice his or her reputation …” (emphasis mine). The two photographs of Goldstein’s, portrayed by Alive!, were not distorted, mutilated or modified. The representation is faithful to Goldstein’s original images. But we should consider the possibility that featuring Goldstein’s work in the newspaper, is a “derogatory action … which would prejudice his or her reputation.”

The Alive! article quotes Goldstein as saying: “I am a fierce realist so I wanted the princesses to be in real life situations with problems of their own.” The article further quotes Goldstein as “raging against the happily-ever-after motif” spoon-fed to the young. Neither quotation is attributed to any particular press interview or article, but Goldstein’s website contains an extensive collection of material so it is plausible that these quotations are accurate. Alive! uses Goldstein’s work and her remarks as a background to advance their own argument; that believing in “happily ever after” is a fundamental belief, and a worthwhile one, in the Christian tradition.

At this stage, a claim based upon moral rights infringement looks less robust; rather than a violation of moral rights, the use of the images melds well with fair dealing. In Ireland, like Canada, criticism and review are protected purposes if the creator receives sufficient acknowledgement (see Chapter 6 – Section 51). It would not be possible to convey the force of Goldstein’s work, without showing some of the work. Where Alive! may have erred, is to speculate that Goldstein’s work is deliberately an attack on Christianity and a style of parenting. From the article:

But is [Goldstein] raging against the Christian message of hope in the fairy stories or against the culture of despair which has infiltrated both society and her own life? She seems to think we should stop telling children stories with happy endings. That kids need to realize that real life stories don’t end that way.

Alive! continues in this vein, about people who have lost sight of God, emphasizing that “hope and happiness, not despair, are the realistic attitude to life.”

Goldstein has not been shy about voicing her views on religion; but she has also articulated that her work is art, not a parenting manual. In 2009, when Fallen Princesses was unveiled, Cheryl Rossi, writing for Vancouver Courier, states:

Her Fallen Princesses photos aren’t meant for kids, Goldstein says, and she’s not shielding her daughter, now four, from Disney. “I don’t want to ruin her bubble,” she said. “She’ll learn that life is complicated and tough eventually.”

In a more recent interview Goldstein states that she would not deprive her young daughters of the enjoyment of Disney productions or merchandise, emphasizing that children are too young to understand the concepts behind Goldstein’s imagery. Goldstein is unequivocal: “These images are made for adults.”

So is there a legitimate complaint here, and if so, what is it? Was the photograph unfairly used in a manner that is derogatory to Goldstein’s reputation? Have the musings of Alive! cast aspersions to Goldstein’s character? Or, was the condemnation of Goldstein’s work merely criticism? Criticism that necessarily required explanation and therefore invocation of Goldstein’s work?

And if there is a complaint, is there an avenue of redress for Goldstein? I am unfamiliar with the sturdiness of Ireland’s regimes of fair dealing, moral rights and defamation; if an Irish reader would like to comment, please do.

On a different note, Goldstein’s work is phenomenal. In an interview with Fanny Kiefer, Goldstein remarks: “… [the] characters are symbols, to convey a scenario.” Fallen Princesses is dramatic and touches a chord by the recasting of familiar characters among the all-too-real feelings of desperation that pervade life. The rude-awakening that marriage can be, the trauma of cancer, and other realities, are conveyed masterfully.

With my bent for maintaining copyright as a set of limited rights (as it has been for 305 years), the best part of Goldstein’s work is this: no reprisals from the Disney Corporation. When questioned by Kiefer as to whether Goldstein had sought permission from Disney, and did Disney call upon publication of the pictures, the answer to both questions was No.

Nor should there have been any reason for Disney involvement. But the persona of Disney and its ironclad grip upon its characters is legendary to the point of discouraging putative artists and even well-heeled lawyers from using Disney materials. Goldstein’s story is a happily-ever-after of an entirely different nature.

a lesson from the Copyright Board

In Posts on May 31, 2015 at 7:35 am

On 22 May 2015 the Copyright Board released its decision concerning tariff rates for copying carried out in provincial and territorial governments (excluding that of the Province of Quebec). The rates set by the Board fell far short of what Access Copyright had requested; some commentaries indicate that the returns would not cover the costs of the tariff proceedings.

The Board came to its decision via a number of factors, including: (i) scrutinizing Access Copyright’s claim of the extent of both its repertoire and business relations; (ii) deferring appropriately to fair dealing, given the integral nature of the exception within the system of copyright; and (iii) being mindful that copyright only applies when a substantial part of a work has been reproduced.

For commentary, see Michael Geist (here and here), Howard Knopf (here and here), Bob Tarantino (here) and Bobby Glushko (here). To which I add my own. The decision underlines that institutional systems of fair dealing, which includes assessment of substantiality (the threshold of copyright), remain contextual affairs. This lesson is not transparently evident, but it is there.

Copyright owners receive their rights through Section 3.1 of the Copyright Act: “For the purposes of this Act, “copyright”, in relation to a work, means the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form whatever … .” Thus, if the reproduction is insubstantial then copyright does not arise.  This was explicitly stated in CCH Canadian (2004); as Tarantino writes : “… the Supreme Court of Canada [indicates] in its discussion of fair dealing, that where “the amount taken from a work is trivial, the fair dealing analysis need not be undertaken at all because the court will have concluded that there was no copyright infringement.”

But as Tarantino (and the Copyright Board) remind us, the Supreme Court has also indicated, via Robinson v Cinar (2013), that substantiality is “a flexible notion … a matter of fact and degree”, to be decided “by its quality rather than its quantity.”

In its discussion about substantiality, the Board concluded that: “… without the benefit of a qualitative analysis and without even knowing which portions of a work were copied, … 1 to 2 pages of a work [to a maximum of 2.5% of the entire work] are a reasonable approximation in establishing non-substantiality (para. 204).” This measure has been greeted with enthusiasm but it is imperative that educational institutions not sleep walk into creating a de facto ceiling to insubstantiality. It bears emphasizing that the Board has contextualized its own remarks; this measure is appropriate when little or no information is available about the copying.

In terms of institutional practices–where post-secondary communities have endeavoured to develop resources and engage personnel, all to assist faculty in their understanding of appropriate uses of copyrighted material–it is viable to apply a qualitative assessment and allow for the possibility of copying more.

In Intellectual Property (2011), David Vaver makes a valuable point in connection to assessment of substantiality: “One should first screen out what cannot in law be a substantial part. ‘Part’ means ‘portion’ not ‘particle.’ … Copying ten such particles is as inoffensive as copying one (p.182-183).” As is often quoted, but appears not to receive sufficient consideration, facts are not eligible for copyright. Furthermore, processes are unlikely to meet the threshold of originality to be granted copyright. (Arguably, it is ill-advised to be creative when teaching students a process.) It is then likely that in fields of natural science, life science, mathematics and computer science, the threshold of substantiality may be higher. Even in fields typically considered to be more creative, it remains possible that a taking of more than 2.5% will not contravene substantiality when the qualitative analysis is undertaken.

The Copyright Board’s statement should be read in the same spirit as the Fair Dealing Guidelines developed by the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC) and Colleges and Institutes Canada (CIC). Those instructions are baselines supporting legitimate unauthorized copying and more copying is always a possibility when individuals are suitably informed, or have access to informed support. It is the combination of baseline rules and discretionary support that constitute an institutional practice of fair dealing.

The Board takes note of the Supreme Court’s measured approach to unauthorized copying in institutional settings:

In CCH, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that fair dealing can be made out either by demonstrating that there exists a general practice that is based upon an enumerated fair-dealing purpose, and, is in fact, fair, or by demonstrating that a particular copying event … was fair dealing (para. 223, citing para. 63 of CCH Canadian).

It was the lack of a robust practice on the part of the provincial and territorial governments involved in the tariff negotiations that resulted in the Board’s scrupulous attention to every incident of copying in the evidentiary sample collected in agreement with Access Copyright and the governments (paras. 223-225).

Generally speaking, post-secondary educational practices in Canada are closely modeled upon the Great Library Access Policy that was at issue in CCH Canadian. Meaning, the policy prescribes minimums, with copying beyond the minimum contingent upon informed discussion. But informed discussion itself can unwittingly be curtailed. Fortunately, the Board reminds institutions to avoid slavish attention to rules to the extent of diminishing the contextual nature of fair dealing. As readers likely know, in CCH Canadian, the Supreme Court followed six factors with which to explore the fair dealing issue at hand; the Board emphasizes that these factors themselves must not become rigid: “… the list of factors … is not an exhaustive list, and fairness is a matter of impression.” The Board continues with a quotation from the work of Giuseppina D’Agostino:

[p]arties pleading fair dealing, and courts ultimately deciding those events, should exercise flexibility when interpreting fair dealing: raise factors germane to the case and assess evidence to support them. Whether there are six factors, seven factors, or four factors should not be the driving preoccupation … (para. 267 citing p. 197 of  The Copyright Pentalogy).

A timely reminder as the post-secondary community moves forward with solidifying their institutional systems of fair dealing.

Feb 23-27, celebrating fair dealing

In Posts on February 19, 2015 at 9:23 pm

February 23-27 marks Fair Use Week in the United States, and thus by association, Fair Dealing Week for other jurisdictions. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is promoting a community celebration of these limits upon copyright that enable the system of copyright to live up to its mandate to promote creativity, advance knowledge and bolster innovation, and reap just rewards not only for the creators involved but for the creators yet to come as well. ARL pays particular attention to Canada: “… in Canada, fair dealing is a critical right of the user intended to facilitate balance in copyright law and accommodate freedom of expression.”

Readers may remember that user rights gained prominence in Canada in 2004, via CCH Canadian. Writing for the Supreme Court of Canada, in a decision supported with unanimity, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin states:

The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user’s right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users’ interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively (para.48).

The Supreme Court has consistently reminded Canadians that copyright is a set of limited rights, and that those limits are critical to the proper functioning of the system as a whole. Yet, even after 11 years of well-articulated, thoughtful reminders, it remains that copyright is often perceived as a measure of absolute control. Such perception is cultivated perhaps unintentionally by people/organizations who have a genuine desire to behave in a law-abiding manner and thus restrict behaviour that need not be restricted. With time, we may hope that such misunderstanding will subside. More potent and damaging is the conduct of members within the publishing community who actively promote misinformation.

For instance, consider the following notice that graces the frontmatter of far too many books:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

If one unpacks this passage, the first sentence is correct. All the rights offered within copyright law have been reserved to the benefit of the copyright holder. At this juncture though, one should remember that extensive as those rights are, copyright holders are not permitted the right to refuse exceptions defined within the same law.  Copyright holders cannot pick the parts of the Copyright Act they wish to accept, and the parts which are to be dispensed with. But the sentence that follows in the passage tries to do exactly that; it categorically denies unauthorized use, despite the fact that fair dealing, fair use, and a host of other exceptions, can allow reproduction and transmission, by whatever means, without the consent of the publisher.


Update – February 28, 2015

Fair Dealing / Fair Use week sparked an outpouring of dialogue about our exceptions for unauthorized use. My favorite was Jonathan Band’s description of the many sightings of fair use in the daily life of a legislative assistant.

And, it was with great pleasure that I contributed the following posts to Harvard Library and the Office for Scholarly Communication, and University of Toronto Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office. My thanks to Kyle Courtney and Daniela Cancilla for the invitations to participate with their respective universities.

North of 49, posted February 24, 2015: “The proximity of the United States to Canada occasionally leads to some confusion north of the 49th parallel; in common parlance, fair use eclipses fair dealing. I cannot resist reminding others: we are Canadian; our exception is fair dealing. Yet it is only appropriate to also say that Canada has benefited greatly by American fair use. From our vantage point, we were able to appreciate the opportunity provided by flexibility in the language of exceptions, suffer the worst of fair use’s growing pains by proxy, and step ahead of such pain in our own development of exceptions.” To read more, see link or pdf.

Fair Dealing: Protector of the Public Domain, posted February 27, 2015“This past week marked Fair Dealing / Fair Use Week 2015. It was pleasing to see many Canadians within the educational community taking interest in our system of copyright. But, I confess to some disappointment that this interest should have blossomed only belatedly – after 2012. True, in that year the Copyright Act was revised with increased scope given to exceptional uses of copyrighted material. Also true, in 2012 the Supreme Court handed down two more decisions emphasizing the merits of fair dealing. But we cannot lose sight of the fact those decisions were based upon our previous Act which did not include any provision for “education.” Nor can we forget our Court began speaking to the importance of fair dealing a full decade earlier, emphasizing that fair dealing is our mode of entry into the public domain.” To read more, see link or pdf.


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