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LAC Digitization Strategy Respondents Call For Stronger Copyright Position

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Friday February 29, 2008
Library and Archives Canada has released the public responses to its 2007 Canadian Digital Information Strategy.  The consultation generated a significant number of responses with many submissions urging the LAC to adopt a stronger position on copyright reform.  Key issues include:
  • freeing up orphan works
  • removing restrictive crown copyright provisions
  • ensuring that Canadians have the right to circumvent technological protection measures for lawful purposes
As Deb Thomas, President of the B.C. Library Association notes, "at a time when intellectual property regimes worldwide are becoming increasingly restrictive and slanted in favor of rights holders, the community of libraries, archives, and other memory institutions in Canada has a vital role to play in advocating on behalf of the user."  I earlier argued that the strategy suffered from its timidity.  It would appear that many respondents agree and that it now falls to the LAC to step up as a strong advocate for policies that facilitate digitization.
Comments (20)add comment

Crosbie Fitch said:

Try Copyright Abolition
I find the position of copyright abolition is by the most coherent. I recommend it as a strong position.

Either published works can be freely copied or they cannot.

If you cannot police a billion publishers then there's no point defining their free and uninhibited cultural exchange as an illegal violation of their privilege of copyright.

Remember, the privilege of copyright was created by suspending the public's liberty to share or build upon published works for 'limited' times. Somehow, I think the limit of those times has long been passed. Copyright should be erased from the legislature for the unviable anachronism it has now come to be.

The people would thank you for recognising the restoration and renewed protection of their natural right to liberty.
February 29, 2008

Mark said:

...
Copyright is not an anachronism... it was developed in the aftermath of the invention of the printing press, when it became evident that copying somebody else's works without a disproportionate amount of work involved was suddenly very possible for anybody to do. In today's age, where things can be literally copied at a push of a button with no real work involved at all, copyright is even MORE important than it used to be in securing the ongoing interests of artists and authors who will hopefully continue to produce new works. Before the printing press, benefactors would pay artists to do work, and would similarly pay to have those works manually replicated and distributed to the best of their ability. Did you seriously think Shakespeare, for example, wrote as much as he did driven by nothing more than love of the arts?

Now granted, I know that there will always be a large segment of creative people in the world that want to create for the sole purpose and pleasure of having made something, but it is a plain and simple truth that these people do not tend to significantly contribute to the arts as a whole, and the audience that might be interested in their work is usually too narrow to pique the interests of commercial investors. Those who believe they have something which might interest others are free to approach publishers to get their work distributed, but how many publishers would even _think_ of publishing an unknown artist's work if other publishers could potentially copy and profit from it?

No... we need something like copyright... although I will concede that this country needs a fair and balanced copyright system that does not restrict what people do for themselves with copyrighted works what they legally acquired, and I would further suggest that its duration be shortened, to reflect the fact that our culture changes so fast these days that works tend to be long since forgotten before their copyright has expired and often could have served more good if allowed to fall into public domain sooner.
February 29, 2008

Crosbie Fitch said:

Thanks Mark
Thanks Mark, that's a spirited counter.

I liked your introduction of the notion that greater ease of copying warrants a greater protection against it.

You appear to believe I consider a warm feeling sufficient to reward artists for their labours. I do not. I am a champion of the need to create a market in which authors can be monetarily rewarded for their efforts. However, I believe it is better for an authors' readers to make voluntary bargains with the author, rather than for the author to exploit the state's suspension of the public's liberty.
February 29, 2008

a guest said:

...
Of course that's better... but the implementation is problematic, because that approach requires the world be far more perfect than it actually is.

Abolish copyright, and I can _guarantee_ that no little publisher will ever publish again, since any big publisher could come along and snatch it.
February 29, 2008

Chris S said:

Shakespeare and Copywhat?
"Did you seriously think Shakespeare, for example, wrote as much as he did driven by nothing more than love of the arts?"

Well - he certainly didn't write it because of copyright! Shakespeare was dead for nearly a hundred years before the Statute of Anne in 1709. And there appears to be a strong case that he was effectively a paid employee of the theatre company, which would have been considered the owner of the scripts.

Less clear is whether authors of that time wrote with similar goals to authors of today. There has been research suggesting that the variations in the various editions of Shakespeare are not errors in copying, but because writers constantly revised and updated their works. It's worth noting that this is a viable alternative even today. Keep updating the work, because up-to-dateness can't be downloaded once and kept forever. Everyone has copied the old? Write something new! They can't download today what you will write tomorrow!

Any way you look it all, the history of copyright shows that there are an incredible number of ways to benefit from your own creations. "Write it now and sell it forever" is only one way. I think that if we all studied the history a little more, we would realize that the space that copyright inhabits will always be in flux, and trying to lock everyone down to one way of thinking for the next hundred years will serve us poorly.
February 29, 2008

Mark said:

...
Of course not. Shakespeare predated copyright by several generations. My point was that he wrote because he was PAID to... even before copyright existed. Copyright wasn't really needed to protect a work from being copied back then because it all had to be done by hand, and was so labour-intensive error prone that it was generally not worth the effort for anyone else to bother. Not that it completely stopped people, of course... there were plenty of copycats before copyright, but the inability for others to do so with any reasonable fidelity was so high that it fell far below the threshold of being a serious problem for the actual author's reputation.
February 29, 2008

Ole Juul said:

Books wanted
There's some good posts here... maybe it's another crowd that is concerned about books. :)

First, let me say that I feel for, and support, small publishing houses. It has been with horror that I have watched the bokok publishing world fall apart over the last 30 years or so. Something needs to happen.

Is there not now starting to be less of an advantage to large scale? Part of the problem in the past was the cost of a sizable "run". Now, it seems, that we are about to witness publishing runs as small as single units. That could be the key to a working business model. We used to need publishers to invest in the large run and keep inventory. Now they don't even keep inventory. Maby we have come to a time where we could be less dependent on publishers, particularly large ones, and authors can sell direct.

Regarding the library problem. I have found over the years, that almost all the books which I have borrowed, and which I subsequently wanted to buy, were out of print. I'll ignore the legislative reasons for that for now; but I used to be able to buy new books that were written many years earlier, now I can't. How can publishers expect to make money when I can't buy the book? Many times I have had to (maby I shouldn't say that here) photocopy large sections of a book because it is out of print. I would much rather have bought the book and consequently supported the author but the system doesn't allow for that.

I think that the publishing and copyright system is seriously broken. How many authors make huge sums of money? I don't know, but I am more concerned with the average author, and the ones who slave over a book for years who will never get properly compensated within the current system. With the technology now available, I believe that many authors could make more money. Maby even without copyright as we know it.

As for the Library? Put in more and better photocopiers. Allow copying of whole books. Send money to authors.

March 01, 2008

a guest said:

...
Isn't maby perhaps maybe?
March 01, 2008

Ole Juul said:

133t spelling
Oops, "maybe" it is then. Also book not bokok... I was a bit sloppy. Some of the first words I learnt when I came to Canada have caused me spelling problems. I too prefer the more formal (and correct) versions. Although not my intent, "maby" can be found many places these days, including the urban dictionary. Funny, I don't have trouble with newer words like h4x0r and 133t. Maybe that's because I take more care there. Even "09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0" is starting to look familiar after it became the lyrics to a song, but I admit that I had to look up the spelling!
I didn't have to write all that, but to me it highlights the difference between the internet culture and book culture. The rules are just not the same as they were in the 50's. I happen to embrace both worlds, but those that arn't so lucky, and who try to stick to old models, will just screw it all up for all of us... and our kids. I hope the LAC are clear on this and start embracing a freer digital world as well as protecting the paper past.
March 01, 2008

Darryl Moore said:

Alternatives to Copyright
It is an interesting argument to say that since copying is easier now then previously that we necessarily need stronger copyright to compensate.

This statement implies that control over ones work is necessary for the creation of art. The posters own example of Shakespeare proves that statement false. As pointed out in a subsequent post Shakespeare's works were not protected by copyright even at the time they were written.

I must ask the original poster what is wrong with the model that was employed in Shakespeare's time? That of financing the works through a benevolent benefactor. Indeed now with more charities and stronger government involvement in the arts. The opportunities for exploiting this business model are great.

The other point I have to make is that the ease of copying which the poster uses to justify greater copyright can also be seen as an ease of creation which lowers the barrier to more people creating art. Perhaps there will be less incentive for professional creators due to less control over their works. But perhaps, at the same time, there will be more incentive for many many more amateur creators for the very same reason.

I would also say that the increased strength required to make copyright law compensate for the loss of technical limitations, would be a significant blow to both freedom of expression and privacy rights. If the goal of copyright is to promote the arts, and we value both our freedom of expression and our privacy, perhaps it is time to reevaluate this property model of copyright we have been using and a significant scaling back of those rights are in order.
March 01, 2008

Mark said:

...
"Regarding the library problem. I have found over the years, that almost all the books which I have borrowed, and which I subsequently wanted to buy, were out of print. I'll ignore the legislative reasons for that for now; but I used to be able to buy new books that were written many years earlier, now I can't. How can publishers expect to make money when I can't buy the book?"

That pretty much illustrates the point I was making before about feeling that copyrighted products need to fall into public domain a lot sooner than they currently do, so that they _can_ be readily available when the publisher is no longer interested in it.
March 01, 2008

a guest said:

...
"I must ask the original poster what is wrong with the model that was employed in Shakespeare's time?"
Nothing at all... except that the model wouldn't work any more. In Shakespeare's time, the printing press had only *JUST* been invented, so it was too new for unmetered copying to spin out of control to the point that the author's interests are no longer being met. It didn't take long after the invention of the printing press for publishers to realize that some form of additional protection was needed to keep unscrupulous publishers from capitalizing on another person's works, so Copyright was developed.
March 01, 2008

Ole Juul said:

Copyright chronism
Mark: "That pretty much illustrates the point I was making before about feeling that copyrighted products need to fall into public domain a lot sooner than they currently do, so that they _can_ be readily available when the publisher is no longer interested in it."

Yes, and that also brings up another point. When is the publisher no longer interested in it? From the way some rights holders talk, one would think they were interested even after their death. I don't wish to discuss reincarnation, but if they can't be bothered to keep a book in print, then wouldn't it seem reasonable to assume that they have lost interest at that point. So... how long are books normally in print these days? A year, two years, six months? Maybe that should be a guideline for the length of copyright.
March 01, 2008

Darryl Moore said:

More Alternatives to Copyright
To the anonymous poster at 20:14:22. It is interesting that you didn't also quote the next few sentences as well. "That of financing the works through a benevolent benefactor. Indeed now with more charities and stronger government involvement in the arts. The opportunities for exploiting this business model are great."

I guess because if you did then you would be unable to make your argument. Despite the fact that you failed to address the point I was making, I will expand on it further. Various organizations such as the BBC, which are paid for through taxes create works which would not loose any significant viability in the complete absence of copyright protection. Similarly, radio stations and cities in the past have had their own orchestras. The Wordsworth Trust in England has a resident poet. Television has had variety shows. All of these things would be wholly compatible vehicles for the creation of works, even in the total absence of copyright.

I am not necesarily advocating for the abolishment of copyright, but I am saying that there are a great many ways of producing works without realying on copyright protection. Perhaps the necessary complexity of copyright in todays world is not compatible with new technology which allows everybody to be an author and we need to seriosly reconsidder our relience on this particular monopoly.

We got rid of the telephone and Hydro monopolies, which had previously been considered necessary. Let us now consider getting rid of, or at least seriously cutting back, the copyright monopolies as well.
March 01, 2008

Ole Juul said:

Re: More Alternatives to Copyright
I agree. There seems to be a strong force always trying to make a business model which involves laws and lawyers and I don't think that is healthy. On another thread, I went on about paying the piper, referring to the old business model free of copyright problems, where musicians made a living by playing and teaching. The better players can get more students and charge more. This is still viable for symphony players and will allow one to buy a house and raise a family. That's fine for music. What about TV, Radio, and other broadcast production?

I worked for CBC-TV for a number of years and it has been sad to see in-house production dwindling. Why do we have to buy everything? Did we lose confidence? Are USian shows worth more? Did the CBC just decide that it was better to spend our money abroad? Canadian artists are certainly not benefitting a lot from US shows, except in as much as they can find work down there. I can't see a solution to that problem unless people stop thinking that US shows are worth so much more than our own. The problem here is that there are so many laws that control broadcasting, that fiddeling with little things like copyright, will have no effect. Hopefully, the internet will wipe the slate, or at least turn the tide.

Finally, books. I'm not worried about publishers because, in the long run, their contribution may not be any more valuable than record companies. That is to say, their value is only an artifact of the current technological environment. Content creation is another story. How do we make sure that authors get paid? Some works take years to research/compile/write and it is in the public interest to have them. Grants come to mind. That has worked before. Maybe in a world of self publishing we can get away with only minimal copyright, and cut down on the complex system of royalties, licensing, cross licensing, etc. etc. which is making this such an unfriendly world.

The more I think about this, the more I agree with 20:10:27 (above) when he said: "Abolish copyright, and I can _guarantee_ that no little publisher will ever publish again, since any big publisher could come along and snatch it." Except, I'm not so worried about the publishers, it's the authors we need really to protect. So Darryl, do you really think that we could get rid of the the "big publishers"?
March 02, 2008

Darryl Moore said:

Re: More Alternatives to Copyright
First of all, I'm not advocating the complete abolishment of copyright. Until we have achieved a utopian society where people do not have to work, we still have need for copyright as an incentive to produce. That being said, it must be clear that copyright is not a right protected by our human rights charter, it is a privileged. Any rights bestrode through copyright must not conflict with privacy and freedom of expression rights guaranteed in the charter.

I actually blogged about this WRT the American First Amendment here: [ link ]

WRT TV and radio, in addition to straight government subsidies, illustrated by both the CBC and BBC, there are also many other shows which can prosper with minimal copyright protection. news, sports coverage, game shows, all can prosper because their residual value after the first airing is tend to be very low. People will want to see their first airing before 'pirates' have had access. Reality shows are cheap to make, and sitcoms can be produced with embedded advertising.

WRT books, I expect it will only be a few more years until we start seeing paper bound books going the way of the CD, the LP, and the doodoo bird. There will be very few 'big' publishers and even they will be a lot smaller. I expect in a minimalist copyright world there will be far less room for professional writers than there has been. I don't think this is a bad thing. There will be far more non-professional writers which I think will compensate greatly. What professional writers do exist will likely be supported either through a grant system as you suggest or by virtue of having established a reputation as amateur writers that people are willing to pay to hear them speak/read or there is sufficient demand for derived works that they can make money from TV/Movie/Coffee Mug royalties. Also corporations who what to have their products associated with a great writer can sponsor their next book. I think there are a great many possibilities. The stronger copyright laws we have and are trying to make even stronger are making it difficult for these business models to surface. Reduce copyright though and you will see many other models emerge. Art will not be lost, our charter rights will be upheld, and a truly new age of enlightenment will emerge with people sharing all sorts of information much more freely.
March 02, 2008

Olde Bill said:

Clearly we need more discussion
I'm glad to see that, at least in this thread, we are able to have a more reasonable discussion of the pros and cons of copyright. I really believe we must have a greater in-depth review of copyright, how it affects creators and consumers and our options. Too often the focus is strictly on the money large corporations can make for themselves, on works created by others, without regard for the consumer, creativity or the common good. It's all about the bottom line and squeeze as much as possible from every last scribble of art.

We need the means to craft a new copyright, one which more accurately reflects our needs and wishes today, even if it conflicts with the demands of vested interests and other (southern) national agendas.

BTW, this concept is not copyrighted, you may freely use it as often as you like.
March 03, 2008

Crosbie Fitch said:

Back to Nature
Rather than compound the mistake of copyright (easily perceptible with the luxury of technological hindsight), it is probably far better to get back to the more natural law that originally existed. That is, rather than attempt to reform the privilege of copyright, perhaps to distinguish between consumers and producers (a rather spurious and unhelpful distinction), we should recognise that we are all artists, all publishers, and all entitled to free cultural exchange and to build upon each other's published works with honour and integrity.

I wrote a tad about natural law here:
[ link ]
March 03, 2008

Chris Brand said:

A couple of thoughts
"some form of additional protection was needed to keep unscrupulous publishers from capitalizing on another person's works"

This, of course, has nothing to do with copying, and everything to do with publishing and/or distributing. You could take "reproduction" out of the list of monopoly rights granted to creators and still protect them against these "unscrupulous publishers".
(and of course the statute of Anne was only concerned with publication and distribution, not with reproduction - that was added later).

"When is the publisher no longer interested in it? [...] if they can't be bothered to keep a book in print, then wouldn't it seem reasonable to assume that they have lost interest at that point. So... how long are books normally in print these days? A year, two years, six months? Maybe that should be a guideline for the length of copyright."

The obvious thing to do here, rather than changing the fixed term, is to tie it to the book (or CD or DVD) remaining in print. When you stop producing it, you lose the copyright. Let other publishers produce it if they think it's financially viable. Doesn't work so well for paintings or sculptures, of course, but copyright is different for them anyway.
March 03, 2008

Chris Agnew said:

Some Archives want more restrictive copy
Interesting response from L&AC

But some Archives see their collections as revenue sources and want to closely restrict any use of the materials they hold. Esecially film and photographs.

Some try to invoke property rights on Public Domain works in order to prevent third party use once copyright has expired.

Following comments from the Provincial Archives of Alberta staff, from a discussion on an archivises list about the situtation where one archives holds the negatives of a collection now in the Public Domain, and another holds vintage prints:

"...I see no problem in an archival institution providing research quality prints to users of vintage prints held by the institution for research purposes. In this case there is no need to seek permission from the archives that may hold the negatives or the bulk of the records of the photographer/creator. Where I think it is important to direct users to the institution that holds the negatives is in the case of publication where permission for use comes into play on the basis of ownership not copyright. We are all underfunded and understand the importance of the revenues we receive from requests for publication of materials held by our institutions..."


June 04, 2008

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