Meera Nair

Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

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.

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.

Sincerely,
Meera

Meera Nair, Ph.D
Edmonton

 

Update — January 25, 2016

Minister Freeland has posted an open letter, detailing the state of the TPP Agreement. It is encouraging to read that the Federal Government has undertaken widespread consultation, and is committing to fully evaluate the agreement in a transparent manner: “… this should include extensive, non-partisan consideration, analysis, and testimony from all regions, sectors, and backgrounds. Most importantly, this process will be fully public.”

Freeland also states the Canada will sign the agreement in February, but emphasizes that signing the agreement now does not commit Canada to full ratification in two years.  (Readers may remember Howard Knopf’s explanation during discussion of the WIPO treaties, that signing is like dating, whereas ratification is like marriage.) Freeland echoes the simile; stating that, by signing, we preserve our status as “a potential full partner in the Agreement, with all of the rights and powers that go with it.”

Canadian opinion concerning the TPP Agreement is divided. It will not be possible for any government to please everyone. Whatever decision is ultimately arrived at, if it is chosen by knowledgeable, non-partisan actors, with the aim of making the best possible, overall decision, and, with frank acknowledgement of the more deleterious consequences, then Canada will have been well-served by its government.

 

course packs at home and abroad

In Posts on October 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm

As I caught up on my reading, I discovered that course packs continue to make headlines. The September 17th issue of Outlook India featured “Copy This” by Gautam Bhatia; a few days later, The Varsity (University of Toronto’s student newspaper) published “After Access Copyright” by Iris Robin. Both articles speak to the continued need to probe the use of course packs with nuance.

Bhatia expertly takes readers through an ongoing dispute whereby in 2012 Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, instigated a lawsuit against a copy shop operating at Delhi University. The alleged crime was copyright infringement in the production of course packs. (I had previously written about the suit here.) Further coverage from Spicy IP indicates that many of the excerpts reproduced fell within the quantitative measure of 10% (see here and here) that is considered fair use by American courts in the context of education. The guidance of 10% is also followed by many Canadian educational institutions.

Bhatia indicates that Indian educational institutions are being pressed to adopt blanket-licenses with respect to provision of course packs. Aware of the culture of licensing and market-superiority that was once the predominant atmosphere of copyright in North America, particularly in the United States, Bhatia writes:

Even in Canada, a country immensely richer than India, the problem has been noticed. Canadian universities initially agreed to a licensing arrangement that was pegged at a reasonable price. Once they opted in, however, the price steadily increased, until it became unsustainable.

Canadian courts have been far more sympathetic to the predicament of universities and students than their American counterparts. In two important cases, they eschewed the economic approach, identified [fair dealing] as a “user’s right”, and imposed the burden of proving direct financial damage upon the publishing houses. The publishing houses were unable to meet this challenge.

On reflection, that is hardly surprising. If students are not allowed to copy, it is not the case that they will spend ten times the money upon the original textbook. In most instances, they will simply be unable to do so. They will not buy the book at all. And if that is true in a country as rich as Canada, it is certainly true—in a much stronger sense—for one as poor as India.

Turning to The Varsity article; Robin writes that course pack fees have increased since the university moved away from its Access Copyright blanket license. On cue, representatives from writers’ organizations provided comments of the I-told-you-so variety. Whereas Lisa di Valentino considers the larger question of why and suggests: “More likely, this is an issue with communication, specifically between the library and the instructors.” Noting Robin’s coverage – that the University of Toronto  is engaging in outreach to acquaint teachers with a better understanding of copyright and case law, as well as the myriad of possibilities to reduce costs to students – di Valentino concludes with:

UofT (and other AC-less institutions) is going through a transition phase. Procedures and protocols are changing in ways that directly affect how instructors do their jobs. Copyright is not just for lawyers and librarians anymore. Copyright literacy is fast becoming a necessary element of faculty members’ toolkits.

As publishers, teachers, and students wrestle with the seeming problem of piracy (with its seeming solution of licensing), it is important to remember that copyright only applies to “substantial” reproductions of work. An insubstantial portion of a work does not qualify for protection (see Section 3.1 of Canada’s Copyright Act, or Section 14 of the Indian Copyright Act). We only need to rely on exceptions such as fair dealing when the amount reproduced exceeds the insubstantial, and is not already legitimate use by other means (i.e., library-subscriptions, open-access, publicly availablility, or Creative Commons).

Fair dealing should never be summarily reduced to a measure of quantity – fair dealing can amply support reproducing 100% of a work, depending on the circumstances. However, from an administrative perspective, using a guide of 10% is prudent; the amount is not only cautious but it may not even cross the threshold of substantial. As long as teachers are aware that 10% is not the ceiling, and that fuller scrutiny via the framework offered in CCH Canadian  facilitates a legitimate decision to copy, the flexibility possible within the system of copyright will be preserved.