Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Copyright, Copywrong — the follow-up

This Magazine Staff

Since my last posting, I have been too busy working on Canadian copyright issues to continue talking about Canadian copyright issues. The “anti-copyright as rebel sell” discussion took on a life of its own, and has been looked at by most of the larger players in this debate, so thanks to everyone who participated, and rest assured your views were heard.
I will go into more detail on all of this going forward, but to begin, let me just say that I think the landscape for fair, meaningful, respectful copyright reform in Canada has become much fresher and greener in the last couple of weeks. Spring is in the air.
As proof, let me point to three happenings of significance:
Number one: Access Copyright, at their annual general meeting last week, announced a groundbreaking partnership agreement with Creative Commons Canada. The two copyright licensing agencies are combining to form a third entity to be known as the Canadian Public Domain Registry. You can read all about it in many, many places. Start with the Access Copyright website, and the Creative Commons site. Scoot on over the Creator’s Copyright Coalition to get the opinion of a large number of Canada’s traditional creator groups. Michael Geist gives qualified support for the project over at his blog, and word is the news is traveling at speed through Canada’s education and library sector.
For me, this announcement demonstrates in a concrete way a message I, as a writer and Access Copyright affiliate, have been trying to send for some time now. My work does not exist without a strong, open and accessible public domain. Please pay particular attention to Chris Moore’s piece on the CCC site. He makes some great points about the percentages of licensed use Canada’s traditional creators are talking about when they talk about licensing.
#2: Access Copyright has also embarked on a distribution review. Longstanding questions surrounding how AC calculates its royalty splits will be subjected now to an official fact-finding mechanism. See more on this at CCC.
And #3: Russell McOrmond and I met for a great lunch in Ottawa last Friday (a three hour lunch, and yes the food was that good). We agreed to leave the rhetoric at the door and settled quickly on some core principles on which we can very publicly agree. Russell makes some very generous remarks about this meeting over on his blog.
PWAC is holding internal discussions about future copyright policy statements, so I’d rather not go into any great detail about what PWAC will be saying very soon on copyright. Suffice it to say I am taking my learnings from my meeting with Russell into PWAC’s discussions. What I had hoped to relate to Russell was that PWAC is not a static organization, that we recognize evolutionary change, and that while a submission to Heritage from 2001 may be a worthwhile starting point for discussion, it does not necessarily represent official PWAC policy on copyright at this moment in time.
So, our core principles as I understand them are:
Two from the UN Declaration on Human Rights:
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
and two from our discussion:
(3) ALL creators must be respected in the copyright reform process (the Creator’s Copyright Coalition can be justifiably criticized for NOT representing all types of Canadian creators. I would like to see that change. I want Russell and others like him at the CCC table, as I feel his rights should be respected AND he has a lot to contribute to the discussion going forward).
(4) There are myriad models for the production, distribution and remuneration of creative works. We need to create a copyright paradigm in which all models and choices are respected. Imposing a single model solution is undemocratic and absolutely not in the interests of the creative community.
You know, despite the -35 windchill in Ottawa, the last week has just about restored my faith in this seemingly endless copyright reform process. Thanks Russell for a great meeting. If anyone has any questions, please use the comments section.

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