My copyright consultation submission

Jumping on the blogger bandwagon, I am posting the text of my copyright consultation submission here. Nothing much here that others haven’t said better already, but it seems like this type of public recording may be a good idea.


To Whom it May Concern,

Thank you for providing this special opportunity for Canadians to make our voices heard by our lawmakers. Please find below my responses to the questions posed on the Copyright eConsultation Website:

1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?

As a librarian, university instructor, researcher, writer, musician and parent to an avid young media consumer, copyright affects me in multiple ways, every day.

As a librarian I frequently instruct others on legal use and re-use of books, articles, music, video, and other media. One thing I notice all the time is how confusing and unclear copyright is to the average person. People need to be able to understand the basics of copyright; no one should need a law degree to understand if they are acting within the law while watching a video or photocopying a poem.

As a university instructor I experience the frustration of my students as they face long waits for inter-library loans that their friends at U.S. schools do not experience, and when they cannot access materials that would benefit their work. My students and I need to be able to access various types of media for educational use and re-use. Copyright law should encourage open dissemination of scholarly research and fair dealing for educational use of media.

As a researcher and writer I publish both scholarly and creative works. These works are very different in terms of my copyright needs as a creator, as my scholarly works benefit me not by paying me royalties for copies sold, but rather by raising my reputation and profile in the scholarly community; thus as a scholarly writer I aim for maximum dissemination, not maximum profit.

As a media consumer and parent to a burgeoning media consumer, I am wary of legal threats by large recording companies, and at the same time wary of wasting money purchasing media that will become obsolete or unusable at some point in the future (due to DRM/TPM/digital “locks” that restrict legal use of media). I am also quite concerned about threats to our family’s privacy that are inherent in some technological protection measure. I recoil in horror at the stories from the US about single mums, teens and college students being targeted by lawsuits brought by large media companies because of non-commercial online music sharing, and would hate to see Canada brought down this same ridiculous path.

2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?

Copyright law should be based on strong basic principles, not complicated exceptions and loopholes. It should distinguish between commercial and non-commercial infringement, and promote legal re-use and re-mixing of Canadian material.

People accused of infringement should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and third party companies such as Internet service providers (ISPs) should not be asked to enforce the law.

Strong fair dealing provisions protecting library/archive/educational use of media are crucial to preserving Canadian national heritage.

In order to encourage use and dissemination of Canadian resources, government publications should be public domain, not subject to restrictive Crown Copyright licenses.

Copyright law should acknowledge that people own a device or copy of media once they pay for it, and any legal use of that media/device is legal, regardless of the technology they use to play or read it.

Finally, in order to stand the test of time, copyright changes should remain technology neutral as much as possible  — For example: while a decade ago we used to exchange “mix CDs” with friends to share and promote our favourite music, today’s youth naturally and natively communicate via the Internet; our old-fashioned understanding of media use should not criminalise our children’s same use of materials using different technology. One element of this involves the “blank media levy” from the late 1990’s, which is inconsistently applied to today’s technologies and should either be expanded as the Canadian solution to dealing with right-to-copy or taken off the books all together.

3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?

In order to best foster innovation and creativity in Canada, we should put public (government) publications into the hands of the people by publishing all Canadian government publications directly into the public domain (as in the US), rather than publishing them under Crown Copyright. Similarly, the Berne Convention standard term of life of the author plus 50 years is a sufficiently long copyright period to stimulate new creative works, while keeping them out of the public domain for longer (as some countries have chosen to so) inhibits creativity that can spring from derivative works.

Canada should broaden “fair dealing” to include parody and satire (as in the US), in order to encourage free expression.

Copyright law should allow all legal use of media, without laws specifically targeting DRM/TPM circumvention.  If someone is circumventing digital locks for criminal purposes, that criminal use is already illegal. Criminalizing DRM/TPM circumvention is akin to criminalizing physical lock-picking, even if the lock-picker is merely trying to enter their own house.

Canada should explicitly support a diversity of licensing options, to allow fine-tuning of rights management (I personally like to publish under Creative commons licenses, whenever possible) so creators can freely allow certain uses of their works.

4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?

Copyright law should maintain a “notice and notice” rather than “notice and takedown” (or 3-strikes) rule for potential copyright infringement. Putting ISPs in charge of policing users’ content not only changes the ISPs’ role, making them deal inappropriately with content rather than focusing on infrastructure, but also creates a hostile environment to creativity, innovation, and free expression, discouraging investment and competition in Canada.

Remaining technology-neutral, and basing policy on over-arching principles of copyright, encourages innovation, competition and investment. Specifying particular formats and technologies such as VHS, mp3, or PVRs in copyright law not only makes a law become obsolete very quickly in today’s world, it discourages future innovative use and development of these and other technologies.

Swift dissemination of information facilitates innovation, and encourages uptake and discovery of Canadian innovations in the marketplace. Supporting a diversity of licensing options to facilitate freer and more open communications and reuse of media, and putting government publications directly into the public domain, are ways to encourage openness and quick dissemination of innovations, supporting Canadian innovations.

5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?

All of the above. To summarize, new Canadian Copyright law should maintain Canadian values and promote Canada as leader in the digital age by:

  • Being comprehensible by “regular” people
  • Limiting fines for non-commercial copyright infringement
  • Being based on longstanding principles, not specific technologies
  • Expanding “fair dealing” to include parody and satire, as well as strong educational/archival/library exemptions
  • Eliminating Crown Copyright, making Canadian government publications public domain
  • Avoiding anti-circumvention measures
  • Avoiding “notice and takedown”/3-strikes measures, functioning rather with “notice-and-notice” provisions when infringement is alleged
  • Supporting finely-tuned copyright options such as Creative Commons licenses, to allow creators to better manage their rights and encourage maximum legal reuse of media

Thank you for this opportunity to respond to these pressing questions via the Canadian Copyright e-Consultation, and for your consideration of all the responses.



Filed under copyright, government

3 responses to “My copyright consultation submission

  1. Well done. This should be framed and posted in every library.

  2. greyson

    Aw, thanks Mark. Coming from you that is quite a compliment.

    In retrospect, I wish I had also hit on net neutrality in the above submission. Oh well. At least some others had the presence of mind to do so.

  3. Pingback: Was the copyright e-consultation bad for democracy? « Social Justice Librarian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s