Meera Nair

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a good time to look up

In Posts on July 20, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Over the past week, extensive coverage of the Apollo 11 mission and Moon landing have graced our imagination in print and online. Canadians are enjoying a little achievement-by-proxy or perhaps glumly recalling that Canadian scientists and engineers were handily picked up by NASA when Canada’s AVRO Arrow program was summarily disbanded in 1959. But does that matter? At the time, it seemed humanity was capable of shared goals; in terms of science, technology and educational advancement, there was reason to believe that great achievement would eventually lift up all boats. A poignant column by Matt Reed (still known to his readers as @DeanDad) reminds us of what was considered possible then, as we can only hope it remains so now.

In any case, circulating today was Maria Popova’s tribute to the black women mathematicians of NASA. As often happens, readers are offered some verse before leaving her site. The teaser today was the second stanza of W. H. Auden’s work The More Loving One:

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Popova’s exploration of this poem comes with a reading by astrophysist Janna Levin. A little online searching also reveals that The More Loving One is available at a number of sites. Some offer critical reflection, others leave the reader the pleasure of unguided contemplation. And, perhaps as one would expect in this day and age, YouTube serves up readings by Auden himself. My favorite might be this one.

Comments about the video reveal the polarity of opinion when it comes to any type of artistic expression—some see the visual and musical accompaniment as heightening the glory of Auden’s words, others see it as denigration. Grist for intellectual property purists ruminating about moral rights, or simply a prompt to change the channel.

In terms of copyright, Auden died in 1973; by Canadian law we are still four years shy of his work entering the public domain. The United States and European Union countries must wait 24 years. Of course fair dealing and fair use offer some shelter to unauthorized reproduction, as developed by a country’s judiciary.

However, those exceptions can only stretch so far–complete reproduction at a publicly available Internet site may strain the boundaries of legitimacy. And while some sites may operate with permission, others may not.

Fortunately, under Canadian law, the exception for non-commercial user-generated content (S29.21 of the Copyright Act), would shelter amateur presentations involving protected work. Legitimacy is grounded on the critical question of revenue—that when one is not attempting to exploit a work for commercial gain, the use is lawful. A perspective that largely shaped the development of copyright law from 1710 to the later twentieth century—the law sought only to manage exploitation by commercial entities.

Regardless though, copyright maximalists will argue that these unauthorized reproductions are harmful to authors, blithely glossing over the distinction between author and copyright owner.

Which invites the question: when publishers hold the rights of control within the system of copyright, and may deny permission to reproduce a work (or a portion thereof) intended solely for non-commercial purposes, how does that benefit the author? Monetarily, the answer is contingent on the contract between publisher and author. If the transfer of copyright was in its entirety, as appears to be the case with Auden’s published works, it is less likely that an author or heirs gain from extraneous licensing in connection to noncommercial uses of those works.

Stepping then beyond matters of money, how does it affect the awareness of the author? In this case, if those sites sharing Auden’s work had never happened, would his legacy be what it is today? Would it carry for another fifty years? Or would his work be only of interest to those engaged in some formal study of poetry?

Years ago, Graham Reynolds argued that changes to copyright law should be guided in similar fashion to laws affecting the environment—that is, through the lens of a precautionary principle. While he acknowledges the differences between a physical environment and an intellectual one, there is a a critical similarity: ” … not all harms can be remedied after the fact.” Therefore, it becomes of paramount important to anticipate future harm to public interest (which includes authors) served through the system of copyright.

Returning to the matter at hand, the questions become: What would the harm have been in eliminating the possibility of ordinary readers becoming familiar with Auden’s work? Would that have served Auden, his estate, or the public interest?

 

a tale of two licences

In Posts on July 10, 2019 at 6:07 am

Kris Joseph recently penned a thoughtful column concerning institutional procedures that affect graduate students in terms of access and use of their work. After defending his thesis, he had eschewed the typical copyright statement (“Copyright Kris Joseph, 2019”) for his work and chose instead to deposit his thesis with his institution under an open licence. It took some persuasion on his part before his institution would accept his wishes.

Joseph describes a seeming offer of compromise that came at an intermediary point in the negotiation:

To keep my thesis deposit from being rejected, they suggested I remove the open licence from the front of my thesis, use the “standardized” copyright notice on the title page, and then place my Creative Commons licence inside the thesis, at the end of the frontmatter. On the surface this seems fair, but it isn’t: it suggests that the front of my thesis should say “this is mine and you can’t use it,” but if you keep reading and look carefully, you’ll see that I actually mean “this is mine and I want you to use it and thank God you thought to check the 11th page otherwise how would you know?”

The happy ending is that Joseph’s thesis was accepted as he wished to license it. But as he astutely noted, many students would have hesitated to push back on what appears to be a matter of institutional policy.

Graduate students across the country are required to deposit their work in their institution’s online repository—this is the millennium version of the former custom of leaving a copy in the institution’s library. In the later twentieth century, it became addedly necessary to enable a copy to be sent to Library and Archives Canada, to further the goal of making publicly-supported work more widely available to the public. (Moreover, it heightened the possibility that a thesis or a dissertation might actually be read by those continuing in the field.)

To achieve the twin goals of public dissemination and broader awareness of one’s work, Joseph was asked to sign a form that gave:

… the university library and Library and Archives Canada a non-exclusive licence to “archive, preserve, produce, reproduce, publish, communicate, convert into any format, and to make available my Thesis in print or online by telecommunication to the public for educational, research and non-commercial purposes.”

Compare this against Joseph’s own sentiments regarding his intent with his work:

A Creative Commons licence is a convenient way to say “yes, this work is mine and I have copyright. I want you to know that you are free to share it or adapt it or rework it without asking me first, as long as you give me credit and don’t trade it for lucre.”

In neither case would Joseph (and scholars like him) receive any financial reward for enabling public access to the work in question. Interestingly though, it is only in Joseph’s choice of Creative Commons’ licensing terms that a user is deliberately asked to acknowledge who created the work. (The university/LAC license seeks only to ensure that those institutions may legitimately store and distribute the work; it does not bind them to declare how a work should be used.)

Granted, in Canada, moral rights ought to ensure users give due attention to the necessity of attribution, but that is not necessarily true in other countries. (For instance, the United States has a very limited view of moral rights’ obligations.) Whereas Creative Commons is globally recognized and explicitly makes attribution a condition of use.

Of course, the university/LAC license makes no specific allowance for adaptation or re-working, but both functions may well occur under that licence’s broad allowance of “… to make … available to the public for educational, research and non-commercial purposes.”

The irony of Joseph’s experience is that his chosen Creative Commons’ license more closely aligns with academic experience and the social contracts made by higher education/research entities with the public.

Joseph called on universities to make a better effort in educating graduate students with respect to the nature of copyright and its multi-faceted personality, comprising rights of use and rights of control. I concur.

And to which I may add, a better understanding of copyright is needed among staff involved in research and education, across all universities. Not an easy objective to be sure—Joseph’s experience illustrates the challenge that lies ahead for all those attempting to raise the level of copyright literacy: old-world ideas about how copyright is managed are difficult to dislodge.

At its core, that old world was a thicket of gatekeepers.  Copyright was largely exercised by those who produced and distributed the finished product, under arrangements that might not favour the creator of the work. (The dispute between L. M. Montgomery and L.C. Page comes to mind, as does the more recent discord between Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun.) Academia has its own share of copyright difficulties—ranging from the external problem of proprietary journals excluding access to the very community that provides labour and content for free, to, an apparent discomfort in seeing their charges taking charge of their own work.

The critical difference between the two licences of this story, is that in one scenario a middle-entity is given a privilege of, and responsibility for, distributing the work, whereas in the other, the creator seeks to offer the work directly to any interested party willing to transact in the principal currency of academia: the citation.

before and after june 23

In Posts on June 21, 2019 at 8:15 am

On June 23, 1985, a bomb detonated in the cargo hold of Air India Flight 182 while in midflight off the coast of Ireland. There were no survivors. Of the 329 people aboard, 268 were Canadians. Over 80 were children. It was the outcome of a plot politically motivated, conceived, and carried out in Canada.

The event that provoked those murders had occurred a year earlier, when the Indian government had sent its army into the holiest site in Sikhism, the Golden Temple at Amritsar. A potent, but inaccurate, message that circulated in 1984 was that the temple had been destroyed.

At that time, Mark Tully, a British journalist with a long tenure in India, was on the ground in Amritsar; thirty years later he recounted the details that led to the incursion: the temple complex had been occupied by extremists determined to carve out a Sikh homeland from India. They had “mounted a reign of terror and murder, attacking police, terrifying villagers and extorting money,” and they had fortified the temple complex with arms. Tully wrote:

I returned to Amritsar in the first press party taken to the Golden Temple complex after the operation. I was deeply saddened by what I saw. The Golden Temple itself was intact, scarred only by a few bullet holes. Although defenders had fired from the Temple, the army had clearly obeyed orders not to fire at it.

Retribution came six months later when then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards. Which led to further retaliation by angry mobs against innocent Sikhs. With that history, Tully’s words from 2014 are memorable:

It’s a great credit to India’s Sikh community, and the country’s multi-religious culture, that the wounds have not gone deeper. For India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and his Hindu Nationalist Bharatya Janata Party, the events of 1984 should be a warning against allowing any of the more extreme elements associated with them to start inciting hatred of other religious communities.

But Tully also noted that while tensions eased in India, they had escalated in Britain.

As they did in Canada. Rage simmered and extremists called for revenge, which led to the plots to bomb two Air India planes laden with Canadian passengers.

Bombs hidden in baggage were checked first onto Canadian Pacific planes departing from Vancouver, travelling both west and east. The deadly baggage was then to be transferred to connecting Air India planes. By sheer luck, passengers of the western route were spared, when that bomb detonated on the ground before being loaded onto the connecting Air India flight in Tokyo. However, two baggage handlers lost their lives. The second bomb performed as intended on the eastern route, having been transferred to an Air India plane in Toronto.

Prior to 9/11, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 was the worst act of aviation terrorism the world had ever known. Unlike 9/11, 6/23 which came twenty-six years earlier, never fully entered Canadian consciousness, and its history diminishes with each passing year.

For those who have borne a depth of tragedy that most of us cannot even comprehend—the families of the victims—June 23 cannot be allowed to fade into oblivion.

I was fortunate that my family was not directly touched by the bombing. But my parents knew at least three men who each lost his wife, and all six children between the three couples. At that time, the Indian immigrant community in Vancouver was quite small; everyone knew someone who had been affected. To this day, my mother speaks of a toddler who expertly identified a Da Vinci print hanging in our home. “Mona Litha” was declared with exuberance. She perished along with her sibling and her mother.

In Vancouver, before and after the bombing, those were years of harassment, intimidation, beatings, and murder. Ujjal Dosanjh (later premier of British Columbia and then a member of Parliament and cabinet minister) was brutally beaten because of his public efforts to alert Canadian authorities to the behaviour of extremists in the community. I remember the news footage of what Dosanjh looked like, lying in a hospital bed, after being attacked by an assailant wielding an iron pipe.

Canadians likely do not know that a journalist was murdered over these matters. Tara Singh Hayer (father of Dave Hayer who would go on to become a Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia) had pertinent information about the bombings and was targeted twice. Mr. Hayer (senior) survived the first attempt but was left disabled. He did not survive the second. I still remember Dave Hayer’s press conference where he condemned the cowardice of people who would attack a man in a wheelchair.

The families had hoped for justice through the courts, but none came. That trial ended in acquittals, largely because the judge deemed the star witness to be not credible. She had been involved in a close friendship with one of the accused; with considerable risk to her safety, she provided testimony that he had acknowledged his culpability in the bombings. Her testimony was discarded by the judge, in part because the close friendship had continued even after the revelation. I remember thinking how oblivious the judge seemed of the risks that woman would have faced, had she broken off the friendship earlier.

The families had repeatedly called for a public inquiry, only to have successive Canadian governments resist. Finally, twenty years after the bombing, Bob Rae (between his positions of Premier of Ontario and Member of Parliament) was given a mandate to determine whether there were questions that necessitated exploration and if so, what form that exploration should take. His report, Lessons to be Learned, was detailed, compassionate and called on Canadians to recognize this tragedy as their own:

 Let it be said clearly: the bombing of the Air India flight was the result of a conspiracy conceived, planned, and executed in Canada. Most of its victims were Canadians. This is a Canadian catastrophe, whose dimension and meaning must be understood by all Canadians.

Because of Rae’s work, the long-desired public inquiry took form under the care of retired Supreme Court Justice John Major. I remember some of the televised news coverage; victims’ families and various branches of Canada’s security, intelligence and civil services were asked questions and given an opportunity to speak. Perhaps most poignant were the remarks from two Irish men who had participated in the grim task of pulling bodies from the ocean. In an interview by Terry Milewski, one man said that initially he had not wanted to meet the families because “we let them down.” The incredulous tone of Milewski’s reaction still rings in my ears, “You thought you’d let them down?” An affirmative nod was followed by: “If we could have just found even one person alive.” It spoke to the power of hope—the longing to believe that anyone could have survived the combined effects of a massive explosion, a fall of 30,000 feet, and then hours in the ocean before help arrived.

But as had been evident to the families for over twenty years, it was Canada whose conduct had been wanting. To begin with, the bombing could have been prevented. The erasure of vital wiretap evidence had compromised the trial from the start. Throughout, the strenuous effort by Canadian governments anxious to limit their liability for the bombing, combined to deny not only justice, but sheer human decency to the families.

Major’s preliminary report, The Families Remember, was completed in 2008. It ought to be compulsory reading for every member of Parliament. To know that before those 329 became victims, they were real people. They were friends, colleagues, aspiring students, professionals, business people, husbands, wives, grandparents, and children. From the little boy who used to buy milk to help an elderly neighbor, to the grandmother of the three-generations taken from a single family, this was a Canadian loss of proportions unimaginable. As Major wrote then:

These are not easy stories to read. The pages that follow are permeated with an ineffable sadness that is emotionally draining, but the examples of courage and determination that are related through the narratives illustrate the strength that accompanied the desolation of the victims’ families.

In the final report, Air India Flight 182-A Canadian Tragedy, he did not mince words as to the deplorable behaviour of various Canadian government towards the families. Members of Parliament ought to at least see these two sentences:

In stark contrast to the compassion shown by the Government of the United States to the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, for all too long the Government of Canada treated the families of the victims of the terrorist attack on Flight 182 as adversaries. The nadir of this attitude was displayed when the families’ requests for financial assistance were met by the Government’s callous advice to seek help from the welfare system.

And the lack of recognition that this was a Canadian tragedy was again noted:

The fact that the plot was hatched and executed in Canada and that the majority of victims were Canadian citizens did not seem to have made a sufficient impression to weave this event into our shared national experience. The Commission is hopeful that its work will serve to correct that wrong.

Despite the painstaking efforts of Rae, Major, and dedicated journalists (Kim Bolan, Terry Glavin, Terry Milewski to name a few) who tirelessly covered the story then and continue to do so now, Air India Flight 182 remains detached from our shared national experience.

Twenty years after the bombing, June 23 was declared as a National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. But it seems to have had little impact, particularly to contemporary members of Parliament. June 23 is also the start of the summer recess with members likely back in their home ridings. Few seem to engage with the memory of Air India Flight 182. To be sure, those members are entitled to enjoy at least some time off with their friends and family. However, it would be nice if they remembered that the bombers made that same calculation. With the school year ending, on June 23, 1985, the planes were packed with families. As Dr. Chandrima Chakraborty asks: Why do Canadians not remember the tragic loss of so many children on Air India Flight 182?

Chakraborty details a number of creative works that bring the humanity of the suffering closer to readers. And for those wanting to learn more about the events before and after the bombing, Kim Bolan’s book Loss of Faith, How the Air India Bombers Got Away With Murder (2005) is compelling.  So too is The Sorrow and the Terror, the Haunting Legacy of the Air India Tragedy (1987) by Clark Blaise and Bharati Mukerjee.

An earlier version of this post was published by the Georgia Straight on 20 June 2019.

the fifth recommendation

In Posts on June 7, 2019 at 3:47 pm

Earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released the concluding report of the Copyright Review. In a world where political partisanship can often be described as toxic, the report is encouraging by its display of Members of Parliament of differing parties working together. While I have no doubt some political theatrics occurred behind the scenes, Members appear to have collectively taken on the challenge to probe a seemingly impenetrable area of law that touches Canadian lives on a daily basis, and reconcile  competing interests expressed by a multitude of voices.

The Official Opposition and the New Democratic Party each attached a dissenting report, as is their prerogative to do so.  Yet their combined discomfort was in relation to only two matters: (i) artists’ resale rights; and (ii) Crown copyright – that its repeal was preferable to the stated recommendation of open licensing for government-created content.

As noted by Creative Commons:

The Canadian report offers a glimmer of hope that copyright policy can be furthered in such a way to promote creativity and innovation, while at the same time protecting crucial user rights. This is contrasted with the final outcome of the European copyright directive, which reflects a disturbing path toward increasing control of the web to benefit only powerful rights holders at the expense of the rights of users and the public interest.

The report in its entirety is here, with encouraging language in its front-matter:

Reproduction of the proceedings of the House of Commons and its Committees, in whole or in part and in any medium, is hereby permitted provided that the reproduction is accurate and is not presented as official. This permission does not extend to reproduction, distribution or use for commercial purpose of financial gain. …

But before we delve into the report and reflect broadly on the thoughts and recommendations provided, one issue ought to take priority. In the letter guiding the Committee’s work, the presiding ministers invited Members to “pay special attention to the needs and interests of Canada’s Indigenous peoples as part of Canada’s cross-cutting efforts at reconciliation.” It is telling that, after dealing with matters of procedure and preparing the ground for future information-gathering and analysis, the first recommendation pertaining to current challenges is:

Recommendation 5
That the Government of Canada consult with Indigenous groups, experts, and other stakeholders on the protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in the context of Reconciliation, and that this consultation address the following matters, among others:

• The recognition and effective protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in Canadian law, within and beyond copyright legislation;

• The participation of Indigenous groups in the development of national and international intellectual property law;

• The development of institutional, regulatory, and technological means to protect traditional arts and cultural expressions, including but not limited to:

  • Creating an Indigenous Art Registry;
  • Establishing an organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for the interests of Indigenous creators;
  • and Granting Indigenous peoples the authority to manage traditional arts and cultural expressions, notably through the insertion of a non-derogation clause in the Copyright Act.

In a submission offered by the Association of Canadian Publishers,  Sa’ke’j Henderson (Research Fellow Miyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre of Canada College of Law, University of Saskatchewan) had written: “The purpose of the non-derogation clause is to clarify that these Aboriginal knowledges and cultural expressions are protected and promoted under Sections 52(1) and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and Section 25 of the Charter.”

In his brief, Henderson had also reminded us that “Canada has endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).”  Unfortunately, at best, Canada could be described as having a chequered past with respect to the UNDRIP.

Meaningful attention to Indigenous issues requires deliberate effort to harmonize all federal law with the UNDRIP. So it is disappointing to read that, this week, the Conservative members of the Senate used “procedural tactics to cancel committee meetings on Bill C-262.” This private member’s bill, brought forward by NDP MP Romeo Saganash, was passed by the House  of Commons in May 2018, and aims to ensure that federal laws comport with the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Returning to Recommendation Five, through my remarks to the Committee and brief, I said: “Indigenous paradigms about creative endeavor and property are implicit to the system of copyright as we practice it today,” and that finding commonality may help alleviate the challenges experienced by Indigenous communities with respect to appropriate protection and use of traditional knowledge and art.

While passage of C-262 looks less and less likely, we may hope that  Members of the Opposition will ensure that Recommendation Five is acted on.

fifteen years

In Posts on March 31, 2019 at 8:10 am

The Supreme Court’s decision of 4 March 2004, CCH Canadian v. Law Society of Upper Canada, ushered in a more progressive approach to copyright, by emphasizing that exceptions to copyright are a vital part of the system itself. The decision also coincided with the start of my doctoral research, at Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication. So it seemed only befitting to begin with CCH when I gave the keynote address last month at Balancing the scales: the role of fair dealing in Canadaan event organized by the Vancouver post-secondary community and hosted by Simon Fraser University.

One of the more fascinating aspects of studying systems of copyright is its variety of entry points. Enthusiasts of business, communication, economics, ethics, history, human rights, innovation, international relations, literature, philosophy, technology, and law, can all find a familiar theme within the ambit of copyright. Such an interdisciplinary nature is an asset; there are many signposts by which to navigate the route to effective public policy.

Yet copyright remains predominantly mired in the bland pronouncement of copyright is an author’s right. As to what that right means, whether copyright can achieve the expectation of authorial well-being implicit to the language of rights, that discussion is too often shunted aside. Complicating matters further in Canada is the propensity to wrap copyright in a maple leaf; a false, but politically effective, message portrays Canadian literature as dying and asserts that only more copyright can save it.

For my address, I took a little inspiration from Margaret Atwood and drew attention to the events that shaped both copyright and publishing in Canada during the late nineteenth-century. Namely, that those norms of copyright benefited only Britain and America, and deterred Canada from devising a system that would serve its own readers, writers, and publishers. The consequences of those years continue to be felt today; we cannot escape our own history. Fortunately, Canada’s ongoing success in literature is also a product of history, one carved outside of the regime of copyright.

The entire event is available here. (My presentation was the last one; click on Show Media and select: balancing_scales_role(4).mp4.)

On a personal note; that day in Vancouver, a dear friend was missing from the audience. James Woodburn Dean (1941-2019) died earlier in February. James, professor emeritus of SFU’s economics department, was an extraordinary champion of all students, regardless of their subject. His capacity for kindness was, and will remain, unparalleled to those who received it. As has been written of James, “He believed in the power of education and music and encouraged others to take bold steps.” To the extent that I can claim some success as a scholar, I am indebted to James for his indefatigable confidence in my ideas and unstinting friendship that continued long after completion of my doctorate.

Rest in peace James.

an ideal tariff

In Posts on March 14, 2019 at 7:15 am

Last month Howard Knopf reminded us that the Copyright Board is nearing completion of its work on the issue of collective licensing in post-secondary educational institutions. Under discussion are Access Copyright’s requests for tariffs on some unauthorized copying of copyright-protected materials. The Board has in fact invited parties to “comment on the feasibility and clarity of the terms of the tariff.”

While the documents pertaining to the proposed tariffs indicate that students are to be considered as “authorized users,” the aim of collective licensing is largely to address instances where teachers choose to distribute portions of copyright-protected works, often described as excerpts, to students.

Ideally, any tariff for a collective license would hew as close as possible to the principle of individual and fair negotiation between two parties for compensable use of content, and be based on a clear understanding, not only of the market, but also of Canadian copyright law. To that end, let us hope that the Copyright Board will engage in a thorough investigation of three hitherto-unchallenged assumptions, namely that:

  1. Unauthorized copying of copyright-protected materials occurs uniformly across institutions.
  2. Such unauthorized copying must always be paid for.
  3. Appropriate payment has not already been made.

1. The Scale of Unauthorized Copying

In the political arena, Access Copyright’s portrayal of unauthorized copying, as copying running amok at campuses, was met with neither question nor criticism. Ideally, the Board would engage in some investigation of this claim. At the very least, the Board should recognize that when a textbook is assigned to students as their principle source of reference, the question of excerpts (or course-packs) becomes moot.

For instance, a cohort of approximately 200 students pursuing the degree of Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Engineering at a reputable Canadian university are routinely assigned textbooks as their sole resource for learning. (Full disclosure: one of the cohort is my daughter. In her case, depending on what she might spend, she bought new books, used books, or on occasion nothing at all, relying instead on the copy held in the Reserves section of her institution’s library.)

An ideal tariff would ensure that institutions may opt-out on behalf of those students for whom their principal learning resource is not an assemblage of excerpts. While this strongly suggests that many students in the STEM fields will be removed from the FTE count, other disciplines may fall within the same framework. For instance, Nick Mount, a professor in the Department of English at University of Toronto writes: “In all my classes, undergraduate and graduate, I assign and expect students to purchase books, including many books by living Canadian writers. I stopped using course-packs years ago: they’re aesthetically ugly, and their digital replacements don’t work well in classrooms. To the best of my knowledge my colleagues follow much the same practice.”

The calculation of the tariff must reflect only those students who actually consume works by excerpt, but only when such excerpts are entitled to payment.

2. Some types of unauthorized copying 

i. OER.

The use of open-educational resources (OER) is becoming more common in Canada. These works, often funded by taxpayers, and developed by credible authorities in various disciplines, are released under open licenses whereby users (be they teacher or student) may adapt, copy, or post content without additional fees. While adoption of such resources is not uniform across the country, the trend is sloping upward.[1] The Board should take particular note of the efforts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), the first institution in Canada where entire programs have been designed on the basis of open resources and are now showing escalating enrollment.

An ideal tariff would ensure that institutions may opt-out on behalf of, and thus remove from FTE count, those students participating in programs for which the institution has actively sought to ensure a zero cost for materials, by developing and/or adopting OER content.

ii. Exceptions.

Within the Copyright Act are various measures[2] that permit unauthorized copying of copyright-protected materials; chief among these is Section 29 Fair Dealing. As use of Fair Dealing has been contentious, the Copyright Board might wish to limit its consideration of fair dealing to only that which has been supported by the Supreme Court of Canada. To that end, the famed CCH case of 2004 is instructive—the final decision was one of unanimity and the measures of content reproduced and accepted as fair dealing ranged from a few pages to 21% of an entire textbook.[3]

Naturally, quantity alone is never solely determinative of fair dealing; however, this must raise at least some question as to why Access Copyright is asking that educational institutions pay a fee for distributing content which may well be fair dealing. Particularly as prior to the amendments of 2012, the Supreme Court sanctioned classroom distribution of short excerpts which were supplemental to principal learning resources, under the auspices of the category of “private study,” within fair dealing.[4]

An ideal tariff would ensure that institutions may remove from FTE count, those students enrolled in courses where supplemental excerpts would sit within the threshold of fair dealing as appropriate under the authority of CCH (2004). As the Copyright Board itself noted in 2009, “CCH now is the unavoidable starting point of any analysis of the notion of fair dealing (para. 75).”

And while the Board’s discomfort was evident then, their careful adherence to the law paved the way to the Board’s more nuanced understanding of fair dealing as was exemplified in 2015:

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).

3. Fair remuneration for copying

Perhaps Access Copyright is behaving in good faith, and is simply unaware of changing patterns of development and distribution of educational resources. However, members of Canada’s publishing sector cannot pretend to be without guile, as it has come to light that they have chosen to license their wares for use in educational institutions, yet insisted to Canadian MPs that the educational community was not paying its fair share. In a comprehensive post, dated to 23 November 2018, Michael Geist laid bare the claims of some Canadian presses – that they were suffering for the lack of payment from educational institutions – when in fact:

… educational institutions typically purchase both access to the work and a licence for multiple uses and/or inclusion in a CMS. This means that the e-book licence replaces the Access Copyright licence, compensating publishers and authors while providing students and teachers with greater flexibility and value. Moreover, many of the licences are perpetual, meaning that rights holders are paid a higher upfront fee in return for no subsequent royalties or payments.

An ideal tariff issued by the Copyright Board would ensure that institutions do not pay a second time for content already paid for through voluntary market-agreements between parties.

From the profusion of briefs submitted to the Federal Government during last year’s Copyright Review, it is evident that, over the last seven years, consumption of content has evolved in the post-secondary community. Educational institutions have come to rely increasingly on licensed content, where licenses are of both the proprietary and open variety. Unauthorized copying reliant on exceptions to copyright is decreasing. And yet, if Access Copyright has its way, Canadian students will be charged fees to cover the costs assessed against their institution, regardless of whether that fee represents actual compensable transactions of content and use by each student.

 

[1] In October 2018, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) issued promising news with respect to OER: $1 billion of savings had been realized through global adoption of open educational resources. While the lion’s share of this savings was generated in the United States, Canada is onboard with OER development and adoption. Notably, the province of British Columbia alone achieved over $10 million in savings between 2012-2019.

[2] Section 29, Fair Dealing is principle among them. But also applicable to students’ learning are S29.21 NonCommercial User Generated Content and S30.4 Work available through Internet. Plus, there are a host of exceptions addressing Educational Institutions.  The proposals offered by Access Copyright presume to discard the very existence of exceptions; said another way, the very existence of the Copyright Act.

[3] CCH is predominantly known by the Supreme Court’s final adjudication of the case, but scrutiny of the case at the trial division reveals the amounts copied without authorization; see CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada. (1999)  Para. 136.  These copies were later accepted as fair dealing by the Supreme Court. CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13

[4] Alberta (Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright), 2012 SCC 37.

fair dealing week 2019

In Posts on February 24, 2019 at 7:36 pm

Fair Dealing week begins tomorrow with seminars, workshops, and discussion spanning the country. It speaks well of the efforts of post-secondary communities to raise understanding of its importance. Many fair dealing stories will circulate this week; I have one of my own to add. Fair dealing is personal.

My parents emigrated from India to Canada in the 1960s. As to why they chose Canada, my mother later explained the decision as a process of elimination. Both had grown up through the country’s Independence struggle and lived the life of noncooperation, whatever hardship it may have entailed. So Britain never made the list. The United States was given some consideration; but, in my mother’s words: “We had all wept over Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” And so “No” to a society that was still struggling to provide civil rights to all its citizens. Canada? It seemed nice, inoffensive. Years later my mother gave me these memorable words: “I didn’t realize we had left one colonized nation, only to join another.”

That the undercurrent of being a colonized nation still seemed to permeate Canada in the twentieth century hints at how close to the surface that current was in the years immediately following Confederation. Canadian industry was particularly affected, including the publishing sector. I cover some of this history in “The Geopolitics of Nineteenth-Century Canadian Copyright, as seen by some British Authors, in the recently published Canada 150 Special Issue of the Papers of the Bibliographical Society. This paper complements an earlier work of mine, “The Copyright Act of 1889—A Declaration of Independence,” published by the Canadian Historical Review, which examined the same events, from documents compiled by the British Government. Taken together, it is a reminder that copyright policy cannot be enacted in a vacuum–the effect of change is conditioned by history.

Returning to the theme in hand, prior to leaving India, my mother was a Lecturer in Mathematics and a freelance writer of some repute. In Canada, while my brother and I were young, she stayed home with us but would occasionally return to writing. However, multiculturalism was not yet a gleam in anyone’s eye, and diversity in publishing nonexistent. The views of a visible minority woman, no matter how educated, no matter how capable with her pen, were of little interest to the editors of the day. (No amount of copyright could change this.) And without the approval of the gatekeepers, there was no means to reach an audience.

My mother’s assays in writing were infrequent as it was a period of coming to grips with total responsibility for housekeeping and child rearing amid the inescapable isolation of immigrants, not to speak of the deflation of rejections. But one rejection will always stand out in my mind, because the work was praised by the editor (from Macleans no less) but still declined as it had been forestalled in timeliness. The cause of the delay? A well-meaning intermediary had insisted that my mother’s quoting of one sentence from Subject India, by H.N. Brailsford, required copyright clearance.

Because of that inept advice, my mother had dutifully written to the book’s publisher, who had then contacted Brailsford’s widow, who sent back a charming letter saying how happy she was that her husband’s work was still being read. But this provision of consent took time to reach Canada; in the meantime, Macleans had already chosen their content.

Fair Dealing matters. Individual writers, musicians and artists should not need to be well-versed in the intricacies of copyright law, to benefit by exceptions to copyright defined in the law. It falls to teachers, administrators, and distributors to have the confidence of knowing that unauthorized use may be lawful.

Note: Subject India is now available through the Internet Archive.

excerpts

In Posts on December 19, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Last week marked the end of submissions to the committees of Industry and Heritage. It now falls to analysts to sift through data and testimony, and assist Members of Parliament as they consider the next steps for Canada and copyright.

The most disturbing aspect of this review to-date, has been observing the predominantly uncritical response to two fabrications: (1) that Canadian Literature is in peril; and (2) that a collective license via Access Copyright is the seeming solution to the seeming problem.

(Note: In a recent column, Kate Taylor conveys this happy news: “Canada’s literary culture is healthy: Writers keep writing and Canadian-owned publishers are publishing as many titles as ever, while independent bookstores are also stable.”)

Left under-articulated is the very real risk that Canada will remain on the sidelines in a world governed by knowledge economies. This is not merely about the unfairness of holding students captive to a market that is no longer relevant, it is about the regressive attitudes to creative activity that students are subjected to.

And so, I hastened to submit one more brief, this time to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, before the deadline. What follows are some excerpts.


I commend this department’s interest in supporting Canadian artists across the spectrum of creative endeavor. However, I ask that you expand your scope of inquiry to include not only the artists we have today, but those to come tomorrow. Given the tenor of dialogue so far, students are particularly vulnerable to assume costs that are irrelevant to their studies, and irreconcilable to their means. Moreover, our youth are not being afforded the fullest opportunity to further their creative instincts through measures already available under the law. Copyright chill and abuse are real.

I reminded the Committee of our past history with the system of copyright, that it was designed to the advantage of other nations. The stunning success of Canadian Literature, with both writers and publishers deserving praise, is due to efforts outside the arena of copyright. Nick Mount, Canada’s leading authority on the subject, has been unequivocal on this point. (See also his submission to the copyright review.)

I then sought to clarify the misconception that the decline in educational collective licensing was principally due to the 2012 amendments; that in fact,

The catalyst for the exodus from collective licensing occurred two years prior. In 2010, Access Copyright sought a 1300% fee increase. Granted, the earlier fee was out of date; an increase commensurate with inflation would not have attracted much attention. But given the extent of the increase, coupled with not only heightened requirements of reporting (which raised concerns of privacy) but also an effort to redefine the very nature of copyright (something only Parliament may do), many institutions began to give serious consideration to the viability of managing their operations internally.

Drawing from a talk I gave in 2011 (based on academic literature and the publicly released Friedland report), I emphasized that Access Copyright’s operation had been challenged from the very start. It sought to serve two masters (writers and publishers); but as publishers held most of the cards,

Access Copyright bolstered payments [to writers], regardless of whether works were used in educational institutions. Unfortunately, that set the stage for an unsustainable operation. Despite some evolution, it continues today. The payments provided by Access Copyright to its creator affiliates through its Payback system, rely on creation of work, rather than the use thereof. As Access Copyright’s creator affiliates grow in number, one should expect that fees will escalate just to keep pace with distribution payments.

Yet, today, many parties have called for compulsory collective licensing of educational copying.

This is particularly disturbing given the volume of evidence that detail the rise in direct licensing between educational institutions and third-party publishers, licenses that include both journals and books, and allow for both access and reproduction. Furthermore, Canadian institutions are increasing their selection of open educational resources as primary textbooks. Taken together, we see not only the present, but a future where Access Copyright’s services are relied on less and less, but would cost more and more.

Let there be no mistake: compulsory collective licensing would place an unnecessary and unfair burden on students. When too many students are financing their education through debt, it is more than cavalier to dismiss the cost as merely that of a case of beer. Governments and educational institutions have an ethical obligation not to impose waste on students’ meagre resources.

Further to students’ disadvantage are ongoing misunderstandings about legitimate, unauthorized use of protected material. Some of the instances of copyright chill and abuse that have been brought to my attention:

  1. A parent informed me that her twelve-year-old had come home “scared to death,” all because of a strident lecture at school. A teacher had forbidden the students from engaging with content found via the Internet, a prohibition expounded in the name of copyright. 
  2. A parent informed me that her daughter’s creative efforts, posted to YouTube, had been removed. This budding filmmaker said to her mother: “I didn’t know it was wrong.” To be clear, she did nothing wrong. YouTube’s overzealous content-identification system had resulted in the take-down of her lawful creation.
  3. A group of worried students showed me a notice from a copyright-owner, threatening them with serious consequences if they had the temerity to quote from his father’s work, without first seeking his permission and making payment.
  4. A parent sent me a Use of Technology agreement required at the local high-school. Parents were asked to give consent such that the school may search a student’s smartphone if the school “feels” that a rule has been broken. Among the rules listed: “honour copyright.” This may be due to the misplaced fear that schools could be liable for the activity of students; it speaks to the reality that administrations prefer to play it safe and discourage young people from lawful uses of copyright-protected materials.

Such misinformation spread among our nascent creators is not what will place Canada in positions of strength in decades to come:

If we train generations of Canadians into believing that creative effort, scientific inquiry, technological advancement, or a free press, are all predicated on a system of permission-then-payment, Canada’s creative future looks bleak.

This will be all the more painful when we consider that current technology and current modes of engagement offer promise to young creators today. They now enjoy what eluded Canadian creators in the nineteenth century: the capacity to promote themselves at minimal cost. Upcoming creators have the opportunity to find their own audience;[1] a lack of publisher no longer limits awareness of Canadian talent.

Given that our Prime Minister has particular interest in fostering the next generations, it would be entirely appropriate for the Department of Canadian Heritage to give particular attention to how youth, students, and amateur creators, fare under the system of copyright, as it exists now and how it may change next year.

I closed with six recommendations. As the Heritage website has not yet been updated, my complete brief is here.

As I write this, my daughter is finishing her third year of engineering studies. The outcome of the copyright review is not likely to have any direct bearing on her remaining time as an undergraduate student, but there are many more like her to come.

 

[1] Canada’s Instagram poet Rupi Kaur comes to mind; her own self-promotion led to a publisher and then 77 weeks on the New York Times’ best-seller list; see Tariro Mzezewa, New York Times. Similarly, 2011 Canada Reads’ winner Terry Fallis began his successful journey via his own podcasts; see Shannon Rupp, The Tyee. Martin Kerr is a much-loved singer/songwriter/musician based in Edmonton; through his own talent and hard work, he has been independently producing music for ten years. Kerr began by singing in markets and festivals; today he sells out the Winspear Centre. One generation earlier that would have been an impossibility. With dreams of making it big, too many musicians were conscripted by record companies and emerged with only debt to show for it.

a guest post from Carys Craig

In Posts on December 17, 2018 at 7:09 pm

In connection to the current review of Canada’s Copyright Act, I was recently invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Dr. Meera Nair also testified at the televised meeting, and her insightful comments are available here. My remarks to the Committee—which focused on technological neutrality, balance, user rights and the public domain—are posted below, with thanks to Meera.


Thanks to the Committee. My name is Carys Craig. I’m a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, and I have been teaching and researching in the copyright field for almost 20 years. I’m a co-signatory of the Canadian IP Scholars Brief, about which you heard last week. The views I’ll express here are my own.

I’m going to begin by speaking to some guiding principles underlying Canada’s copyright system, which I hope might inform the Committee’s thinking about a variety of issues before it, and then I’ll highlight a few key proposals that I believe reflect these principles.

The Committee has heard from certain stakeholders that Canada’s copyright laws have fallen behind the pace of technological development, and that urgent reforms are needed in order to ‘catch up’. I would urge the Committee to be skeptical of such claims, and to resist pleas for technology-specific statutory amendments that will protect market incumbents while hampering the use and development of information technologies.

I have written about the principle of technological neutrality at length.[1] The best way to ‘future proof’ our law is not to regulate the technical minutiae in response to the pleas of industry lobbyists, but to seek to ensure the consistency of the legislation, in its purpose and effect, across time and technologies. This requires steady reliance on guiding principles, functional standards, and core concepts; not narrow, technical, and inaccessible rules that will require constant revisiting.

The task, then, is to keep the policy focus on copyright’s overarching purpose as technologies evolve, maintaining the balance between protection and the public domain that best supports the creation and dissemination of expressive works, and a vibrant cultural sphere.

Indeed, in the 2012 case of Entertainment Software v SOCAN, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with my statement that technological neutrality requires that “the traditional balance between authors and users should be preserved in the digital environment.”[2]

As Justice Abella wrote in the earlier case of Robertson v Thompson, this means that, when confronting questions about copyright and the internet,  “the public benefits of this digital universe should be kept prominently in view.”[3]

If copyright law is a lever to encourage learning and creative exchange, the Internet and digital technologies have advanced this goal enormously. Unduly curtailing their use in the name of protecting authors typically flies in the face of copyright’s rationale.

This hints at the absurdity of much of today’s copyright rhetoric. Consider how strange it is — how facially false it should be — to portray, as the self-interested antagonists of Canadian authors, our public educational institutions, students and the scholarly and research community, librarians, archivists and academics (all the while casting a handful of commercial publishers, collectives, and content industry representatives as the natural allies of Canadian authors and the arts.)

This is the same tired narrative that powerful interests have employed to justify ever-stronger copyright protection for centuries. It’s time to see past it and imagine a better functioning system of incentives and rewards, offering more public benefits and imposing fewer social costs.

The reality is that copyright does a disservice to today’s creators not because of its limits and exceptions, but because of the restrictions that it places on creativity and sharing, the monopolistic interests that it helps to preserve, and its failure to actually attend to the real needs of the artists it is said to serve.

Today, more than ever before, the line between creators and users, between authors and the public, is more rhetorical than it is real. Today’s users are authors and authors are users, authors are students and educators, they are consumers and curators.

The task for lawmakers is not to ‘reprioritize authors’, as some have said, but to recognize the changing nature of authorship and the shifting realities of the information economy.

And so this big picture brings me to my more concrete proposals:

First, this should mean resisting calls to further strengthen owners’ rights and remedies. If the objective is to assist authors, copyright is a blunt tool indeed — and with stronger copyright there is, inevitably, collateral damage to the public domain, to free expression, public education and the functioning of the internet.

Secondly, this must mean recognizing and safeguarding copyright limits and exceptions, and respecting user rights, consistent with the internationally acclaimed jurisprudence of our Supreme Court and the constitutional right of free expression.

This takes a variety of forms.

It supports the move to an open, flexible and general fair use defence that is not limited to particular purposes but capable of evolving to embrace new uses that are consistent with the objectives of the Copyright Act (for example, by adding “such as” to the fair dealing provisions and codifying the Supreme Court’s fairness factors).[4]

It supports shielding fair uses from the chilling effects of potential moral rights liability by clarifying that fair dealing and other exceptions are also defences to moral rights claims.

It means ensuring that neither digital locks[5] nor boilerplate contracts[6] are permitted to override user rights by foreclosing otherwise lawful uses.

It also means protecting and preserving the public domain (in the same sense that one might protect a nature preserve from private appropriation).[7]

This must include finding ways to minimize the harmful impacts of any term extension (for example, by imposing additional formalities or costs on those who would claim protection beyond Berne’s ‘life plus fifty years’).

It also includes finding ways to support the creation of accessible intellectual or knowledge commons (for example, by providing a right of retention for authors to deposit publicly funded research in accessible online repositories,[8] and by opening up government works to the public domain.)

As a final thought, I would note that this government prides itself on its feminist agenda, and should consider what that means in the copyright context.[9] Good copyright policy is concerned not only with providing economic incentives but also with advancing equality; and equality requires access to affordable education, access to knowledge, and supports an ethics of sharing and collaboration.

Leadership in this field cannot mean simply reinforcing 20th century models of private profit and control; it must mean preparing the copyright system to embrace the potential of the 21st century while reflecting Canadian values.

With that, I thank you for your attention, and look forward to your questions.

 

[1] E.g., Carys J. Craig, “Technological Neutrality: Recalibrating Copyright in the Information Age” 17.2 Theoretical Inquiries in Law. 601 (2016); Carys J. Craig, “Technological Neutrality: (Pre)Serving the Purposes of Copyright Law” in Geist (ed), The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law (2014).

[2] Entertainment Software Association v. Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada 2012 SCC 34, at para. 8.

[3] Robertson v. Thomson Corp. 2006 SCC 43 at para. 79.

[4] I wrote in support of adopting fair use in Canada in, e.g., Carys J. Craig, “The Changing Face of Fair Dealing in Canadian Copyright Law: A Proposal for Legislative Reform” in Geist (ed.), In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law (2005).

[5] Footnote 64 of the USMCA’s Article  20.67(1) potentially gives Canada a small window of time to improve its anti-circumvention provisions in this way. We should take this opportunity to ensure that appropriate limits and exceptions are grandfathered from the Treaty’s highly restrictive TPM provisions. I argued against such anti-circumvention measures, and in favour of digital lock exceptions and user protections, in Carys J. Craig, Digital Locks and the Fate of Fair Dealing in Canada: In Pursuit of ‘Prescriptive Parallelism,  13 Journal of World Intellectual Property 503 (2010).)

[6] The UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, s.30A(2) offers an example that Canada should follow of the statutory protection of fair dealing against contractual override.

[7] I wrote about how to best conceptualize the public domain and its protection in, e.g., Carys J. Craig, “The Canadian Public Domain: What, Where, and to What End?” 7 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 221 (2010).

[8]  Belgian copyright law offers one example of such a provision (though I would recommend shortening any permitted embargo period).

[9]  I wrote about this in my blog post for Education International: ‘Ready for Real Change? Copyright, Education and the Quest for Equality’ (25-04-18). See also Craig, Turcotte and Coombe, “What is Feminist About Open Access?: A Relational Approach to Copyright in the Academy”  1.1 Feminists@law 1 (2011).

my remarks to the Industry Committee

In Posts on December 16, 2018 at 8:50 am

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of appearing before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, to speak on the subject of the copyright review.  Also participating were Carys Craig (Associate Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School) and Patti-Anne Tarlton (Chief Operating Officer of Ticketmaster, Canada).

Due to internal delays, the meeting was quite late in starting. Unfortunately, Carys and I had flights to catch that evening and so were unable to fully participate in discussion with Members of Parliament.

My remarks drew from the brief I submitted some months ago. In my allotted time I endeavored to place emphasis on the importance of supporting our next generations as they hone their capacity for creative and innovative thought—a capacity that Canada needs. I also reminded the Committee that altering copyright law must be placed in the context of Canada’s particular copyright history–a history where our law was designed to support foreign corporations.


Good afternoon. My name is Meera Nair, I am the copyright officer for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, but I am here in my capacity as an individual. For nearly fifteen years, my research interest has been with systems of copyright, both contemporary and historical.

One of the challenges in dealing with copyright is that people tend to forget that it was designed to regulate industries. Because of an accident of vocabulary, it now includes individuals. People also forget the baggage we have carried for 150 years; that our system was largely designed by other countries, to serve their advantage. To the extent that we have successful writers, musicians, artists and publishers, those gains came despite the system, not because of it.[1]

So, what are we talking about? The system of copyright is composed of two parts; there are rights of control and there are rights of use. Why do we have it? For a very long time, we had no purpose. Copyright was simply one of 29 responsibilities handed to the Federal Government in 1867, with no explanation attached. But if we look at our multicultural roots—the influence of both civil law and common law—we see a shared goal: to protect the process of creativity.[2] While our Supreme Court has operationalized this as seeking a balance between creators and users,[3] it might be helpful to take one step back and simply think about this process; how do we enhance it? How do you assist individuals to maximize their creative potential? And from that, there is reasonable historical data to believe that larger social wellbeing will follow.

I am drawing from the work of B. Zorina Khan, an economist who explored American intellectual property policies at the time of their nation building years. The U.S. deviated from the IP norms of the day, and instead focused on educating its people and creating a framework which encouraged everyone to enter the arena of creativity.[4]

A part of that framework was the theft of other nations’ work—to be clear, I am not recommending that. But we could adopt the best aspect of current American policy: their structure of fair use. It would give leeway for new ideas to take form. It bears remembering that the United States has capitalized on this, with repeated development of billion-dollar industries.[5]

A speaker from an earlier meeting alluded to challenges faced by Americans with respect to fair use; he quoted Lawrence Lessig as saying: “Fair Use was simply the right to hire a lawyer.” Just to put that in context; Lessig wrote those words after losing a pivotal Supreme Court case in the United States. He had led a constitutional challenge, arguing that Congress had overstepped its bounds by lengthening copyright term. The loss was hard to take; while fair use is meaningful, it is no substitute for shorter copyright terms.

Adding to Lessig’s distress was likely the reality that the United States had made a bit of mess of fair use in later 20th century. They are correcting that misstep; but at the time, their courts began treating fair use as simply a response to market failure.

Fortunately, the Canadian judiciary has already ensured that Canada can avoid such a self-defeating approach.[6] Creativity is a cumulative affair; whether we are talking about books, music, software, medicines or a free press, creativity relies on exposure to and use of prior work. Some uses must remain above the cycle of permission and payment, if creativity is to be sustainable.

In 2012 we came up short on fair use.[7] But one pleasant addition stood out: Section 29.21 (known as the YouTube/MashUp exception). I would have called it the Creativity exception. It gives future Canadian creators some reassurance that their government does not wish them to be prosecuted for doing what Canada needs them to do–which is to hone their creative skills.

We need our next generations to be at their best to address the intractable problems that are being left for them to solve. Drawing from the combined wisdom of Julie Cohen and the late Oliver Sachs, it is important for individuals to play with whatever content they are interested in, to cultivate a capacity to see something that others cannot, to build the curiosity and determination that we hope will carry them into ground-breaking intellectual effort across all disciplines.[8] Much is being made of our innovation agenda—we will not get innovation just for the asking, we need to nurture it.

Regardless of whether we have strictly enumerated exceptions, or a more flexible condition of fair use, we cannot gain the fullest potential on either unless we adjust the current language of digital locks.

This Committee has been asked repeatedly to do more to support Canadian writers and Canadian publishers; this is a worthy goal. But I hope proposed solutions will not include billing students for materials already paid for, or worse, billing students for works that are not prescribed at all.

Moreover, if we want to target Canadian operations, copyright is not an effective means. More money will leave the country than will stay in. As I wrote in my brief: “Copyright is a blunt instrument; it cannot distinguish between literary superstars and novice writers, between fostering a homegrown operation and serving an international conglomerate, or, between writing for an audience and writing for financial gain.”

As I mentioned at the start, our Act draws from both our common-law and civil-law ancestry. The Copyright Act has long been recognized as being bi-jural; we cannot help but see two of our Founding Nations in it. However, the third is present. Indigenous paradigms about creative endeavor and property are implicit to the system of copyright as we practice it today.[9]

Acknowledging this will not solve the difficulties encountered by Indigenous communities with respect to protecting their intellectual property. But given the objectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we ought to recognize that the Copyright Act is tri-jural.

I would like to close by acknowledging that we have gathered on the lands of the Algonquin people.

I look forward to your questions. Thank you.

 

[1] Meera Nair, “History begins with geology (a response to Margaret Atwood),” Fair Duty, 20 September 2016.

[2] “Where social utility meets with natural rights is in the belief that creativity itself is valued. Otherwise, the underlying purpose of copyright in either tradition becomes meaningless, raising the question of why have such laws at all? Therefore, natural rights must apply to everyone, including past, present, and future creators. Likewise, consideration of societal benefit must ensure that future creative processes are not stifled by the system purporting to encourage creative effort;” Meera Nair, “Copyright and Ethics—an Innisian Exploration,” (2009) Global Media Journal (Can. Ed.) Vol. 2, Iss. 1, (23-39) 30, .

[3] “…a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of the arts and intellect and obtaining a just reward for the creator …;” Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain inc., 2002 SCC 34 at para 30.

[4] Those policies fostered American ascendency from, “an undistinguished developing country with an agricultural economy to world leader in less than one century;” B. Zorina Khan. The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyright in American Economic Development, 1790-1920. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) 5.

[5] Meera Nair, “Outdated copyright law hinders innovation and growth,” Edmonton Journal, 12 September 2018. Details here.

[6] Fortunately, Canada has already taken steps to avoid falling down this rabbit hole; “The availability of a licence is not relevant to deciding whether a dealing has been fair. As discussed, fair dealing is an integral part of the scheme of copyright law in Canada. Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not infringe copyright. If a copyright owner were allowed to license people to use its work and then point to a person’s decision not to obtain a licence as proof that his or her dealings were not fair, this would extend the scope of the owner’s monopoly over the use of his or her work in a manner that would not be consistent with the Copyright Act’s balance between owner’s rights and user’s interests;” CCH Canadian v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13 [CCH] at para 70.

[7] Numerous organizations sought to discredit fair use; “… to each objection raised, a nuanced explanation or rebuttal exists;” see Meera Nair, “Fair Dealing at a Crossroads,” From Radical Extremism to Balanced Copyright—Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda, ed. Michael Geist (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2010): 90-120 (103).

[8] “Both copyright law and policy have shown little interest in understanding the processes by which these roles are performed, nor in inquiring what users need to perform their roles in a way that optimizes the performance of the copyright system as a whole (348).” See Julie Cohen,“The Place of the User in Copyright Law,” Fordham Law Review, Vol. 74, (347-374) 348, 2005. “Imitation and mastery of form or skills must come before major creativity;” see Oliver Sacks, “The Creative Self” in The River of Consciousness (2017) 137.

[9] Meera Nair, “Indigenous paradigms,” Fair Duty, 25 June 2018.