Meera Nair

Posts Tagged ‘Graham Reynolds’

a belated “thank you”

In Posts on March 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm

On 5 March 2014, Intellectual Property for the 21st Century was officially unveiled by the Centre for Law, Technology and Society of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. The book is an outcome of a workshop held in the spring of 2012, where “interdisciplinary” was the word of the day. My contribution involved connections between Harold Innis and copyright as it is evolving through the 20th and 21st centuries. The diversity of scholarship set upon a common interest in intellectual property made for engaging discussion; it was a pleasure to participate with this endeavor.

The foreword, provided by David Vaver, an internationally acclaimed intellectual property scholar, includes these observations:

… patents, copyrights, trademarks, designs, and information and image rights have become vibrant individual disciplines and not just in law. … But crosstalk occurs less frequently than it could, and joint work, while growing, is still the exception rather than the norm. … Acting as facilitators [the editors] assembled a group of scholars and practitioners told them to get interdisciplinary with IP – whatever that meant to each one of them – and hope for the best. And as this volume demonstrates, the best can be very good indeed.

My thanks are due to Courtney Doagoo, Mistrale Goudreau, Madelaine Saginur, and Teresa Scassa. Their guidance before, during, and after the workshop, was immeasurable. Editing and shepherding a volume of this nature to completion is no small task – the book spans twenty-five chapters penned by more than thirty authors from different disciplines. I share Vaver’s concluding assessment: “This is an intellectual feast worth savouring and digesting. Anyone with even a passing interest in how society and intellectual property interact will enjoy sampling these delights.”

An overview of the book, and its table of contents, is available here. All chapters are freely available via Irwin Law’s Content Commons, see here.

While I recommend the book in its entirety, I must highlight a much-needed reminder from Graham Reynolds. In his exploration of the viability of a Public Domain Impact Assessment within copyright’s legislative process, Reynolds gives a broad explanation of what the public domain is. More specifically, it includes: “uses of material that are deemed not be covered by intellectual property rights through the application of defenses/exceptions to intellectual property infringement … (p.98).” Said another way, the public domain includes currently copyrighted works when accessed in accordance with fair dealing.

The stature of “public domain” is not only a function of the age of a work, it is also a function of how the work is used. (For further information; see Public Domain.)

heads I win …

In Posts on September 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Last week Howard Knopf alerted us to the latest movement by Access Copyright to impose blanket copyright fees across universities and colleges in Canada, regardless of ongoing work by educational institutions to ensure that legitimate copyright fees are paid and that legitimate fair dealing is not denied. In his post of 17 September 2012 Knopf provides Access Copyright’s statement of case to the Copyright Board of Canada, and draws attention to a number of details including the collective’s position that:

…  the fair dealing policy…  promoted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and adopted by many Educational Institutions, which purports to characterize as fair dealing amounts of copying essentially identical to that licensed by Access Copyright, is unfair and results in copying that is not fair

The statement of case explains in detail what Access Copyright will do (arguments to be presented, witnesses to be called, evidence to be produced, etc.) when the Copyright Board hears this case on 11 February 2014. The Board will then either signal a shift in thinking on their part, or offer Canadian education yet another opportunity for further strengthening of fair dealing by the Supreme Court of Canada. Unpacking that sentence will take several paragraphs; I ask for patience from readers.

The starting point is the work of law professor Graham Reynolds (previously at Dalhousie University, now at the University of British Columbia). In his chapter “Of Reasonableness, Fairness, and the Public Interest, Judicial Review of the Copyright Board’s Decisions in Canada’s Copyright Pentalogy,” Reynolds illustrates that, when certifying the Access Copyright tariff for educational institutions with respect to photocopies of excerpts in K-12 schools spanning 2005-2009, the Copyright Board applied a very narrow interpretation of the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada in CCH Canadian v. Law Society of Upper Canada. The Copyright Board’s decision was appealed and finally settled by the Supreme Court (favorable towards fair dealing) in one of the famed pentalogy decisions, Alberta (Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). The difference of opinion between the Board and the Court leads, as Reynolds suggests, to the conclusion:

[T]hat fairness (in the context of fair dealing) is not as discretionary a concept as it appears to be. [Alberta(Education) … clarifies] that the purpose of the Copyright Act requires a broad, liberal approach to fairness. By implication then, fairness is not broad and open-ended; rather it is infused with certain expectations with respect to the way in which it is to be applied (namely, in a large and liberal manner).

Reynolds makes plain that the purpose of the Copyright Act is evolving, moving away from an author-centric approach to an instrumental-public interest approach. Reynolds is equally specific that such a move is not an abandonment of owners’ rights; instead, the shift only ensures that limitations upon those rights are upheld as necessary to invigorate and maintain the public domain. In their examination of the K-12 situation of excerpts, the Copyright Board aspired to the earlier approach, even though the Supreme Court had consigned that approach to history.

The evolution of purpose of copyright in Canada illustrates a well-functioning system of laws and courts. Those authorities have made it abundantly clear that legal precepts are not immutable; they evolve in concert with developments in society. Evolution may take time, but is infinitely preferable to revolution.

The delay on the part of the Copyright Board can be explained with recourse to its very function; the Board’s mandate begins with:

The Board is an economic regulatory body empowered to establish, either mandatorily or at the request of an interested party, the royalties to be paid for the use of copyrighted works …”

This is not to imply that the Board is solely concerned with setting market prices. Yet it is hardly an accessible venue for discussion of exceptions; the lengthy and expensive process tends to discourage representations of public interest. As Knopf pointed out, even the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, in their wisdom, “abruptly withdrew its objections and withdrew from the Copyright Board hearing of April 2012, leaving its member universities unrepresented after having spent about $1.7 million.”

The Board’s past discomfort with endorsing a large and liberal interpretation of fair dealing (in both purpose and fairness) was quite evident; when reviewing the K-12 situation of excerpts, the Board wrote: “CCH now is the unavoidable starting point (para 75).” The connotation of “unavoidable” does not suggest the Board relished the task at hand. However, as Reynolds writes:

The end result is that post-Alberta (Education), the Copyright Board is significantly constrained in its ability to shape Canadian copyright law. Abella J’s reasons for judgment clarify that the Copyright Board does not have unlimited discretion under fairness (and fair dealing more broadly) to implement policy goals or promote values that are inconsistent with the purpose of the Copyright Act, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The difficulty for Canadian educational institutions, and Canadians in general, is that Access Copyright seems happy to play the game of “heads-I-win, tails-we-play-again”. In repeated and continued efforts to roll back the decade-plus evolution of copyright’s purpose — through lobbying, litigation and tariff applications — they display a lack of logic, as well as a questionable use of their members’ resources.

According to Access Copyright’s website, the following portions of the funds collected are withheld before distribution:

An administrative holdback of 20% to cover Access Copyright’s administrative and operational costs.

An allocation of 5% of copyright licensing royalties has been made toward costs for current and future tariff proceedings before the Copyright Board of Canada. These tariff proceedings help us ensure fair compensation for creators and publishers when their works are copied.

An allocation of 1.5% of copyright licensing royalties collected has been made for a cultural fund approved by Access Copyright’s board of directors.

The administrative holdback (20%) is high enough, leading to the question of why a further 5% must be withheld for future days in court. But that is not all; the information for title specific distribution  indicates that an additional 25% of royalties collected through the fee increase covering 2005-2009 has been reserved to “support current and future tariff proceedings held before the Copyright Board of Canada.”

Access Copyright is gambling (with its members’ money) that the Board’s decision will be favourable to copyright holders. But, if the Supreme Court of Canada should be called upon to revisit the issue, Access Copyright would do well to remember that each adjudication of fair dealing at the Court within the last ten years has only raised the profile of fair dealing and strengthened its application.

Creating creativity

In Posts on February 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm

In 2006 Professor Ruth Towse posed an interesting question: How do we create creativity?* She asked the question in light of the heightened attention by national governments to creative industries. Policy makers insisted that creativity offers economic gain on a national scale, and thus it was imperative to foster creative behaviour. As Professor Towse observed then, and still holds true today, “what is meant by creativity is not clear and it is far from clear how it can be encouraged by government policies.”

Copyright is deemed to be an incentive for creative effort because it appears to facilitate trade of creative effort. And so, when speaking of creativity, advocates of copyright expansion focus almost exclusively on the financial implications of the mechanism of copyright. Reading through the transcripts of the ongoing legislative meetings for Bill C-32, a constant theme is the amount of money that can be gained or may be lost through copyright. As to how those numbers are arrived at, the transcripts do not explain.

In any event, we need not argue: copyright does bring income to some people, some of the time. But the division of income is not evenly distributed between creator and publisher, or between domestic industries and international conglomerates, or the homegrown superstar as compared to the homegrown neophyte. Those distinctions have less to do with copyright and more to do with education, training, exposure, bargaining power, sheer luck, and that ill-defined term: creativity.

In the absence of a clear understanding of what creativity is, perhaps the policy objective of creating creativity can only be approached inversely. What deters creativity is the next best question. Lack of capital is a factor. But seen from this perspective it may be easier to recognize other factors. Access to past work is important and building upon past work is necessary. Yet fear is a palpable concern (as noted in my last post.)

To give creative endeavor more shelter I proposed making fair dealing illustrative. But if we must remain locked into enumerated categories of fair dealing Professor Graham Reynolds convincingly argues that a further category be added: a protection for those who engage in transformative work. In his chapter, “Towards a Right to Engage in the Fair Transformative Use of Copyright-Protected Expression,” in From “Radical Extremism” to “Balanced Copyright…” (free download available here) he indicates that Canada would not be the first country to take such a step, and, he stresses the importance of ensuring that the anti-circumvention provisions of Bill C-32 do not render such a right null and void.

Professor Reynolds reviews some of fair dealing case law where the defendants lost. Describing the rationale for those court decisions, he shows that there is good reason to believe that transformative works could be well received in Canadian courtrooms today, if the work can meet the first requirement of category of use.

Another interesting case concerning transformative use, and a success story at that, is Allen v. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. It marked a moment of discontinuity in fair dealing’s twentieth century ill fortunes; the outcome diverged from the tendency to subordinate fair dealing to copyright owners’ interests and was a much-needed reminder of the collaborative and transformative nature of creative effort.

* Ruth Towse. “Copyright and Creativity: An Application of Cultural Economics,” Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues, 2006, vol. 3(2), pp. 83-91.