Fair Dealing by Giulia Forsythe (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dRkXwP
The Australian copyright community has been shocked by a scandal involving the Copyright Agency, a copyright collective that diverted millions of dollars intended for authors toward a lobbying and advocacy fund designed to fight against potential fair use reforms. The collective reportedly withheld A$15 million in royalties from authors in order to build a war chest to fight against changes to the Australian copyright law. I wrote last month about my experience in Australia, where groups such as the Copyright Agency have engaged in a remarkable effort to mislead policy makers on the state of copyright law in Canada. A former director of the Copyright Agency describes the latest situation as “pathetic” noting that it was outrageous to extract millions from publicly-funded schools for a lobbying fund.
The Australian case is far from an isolated incident. A quick search reveals plenty of examples of legal concerns involving copyright collectives with corruption fears in Kenya and competition law concerns in Italy over the past couple of months as well as recent fines against Spanish collecting societies. In fact, Jonathan Band and Brandon Butler published an eye-opening article several years ago chronicling an astonishing array of examples of corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency, and negative effects for both creators and users from copyright collectives around the world.
Creative Commons will hold their annual global summit in Toronto later this month. In anticipation of that event, I discussed copyright reform in Canada and around the world in an interview with Creative Commons’ Public Policy manager Timothy Vollmer. The full interview, which included discussion on copyright and trade agreements, educational exceptions, and empirical data, can be found here. An excerpt discussing the Canadian experience is posted below:
The Centre for International Governance Innovation, the well-respected independent think tank based in Waterloo, has posted the first part of an exceptional new series on innovation. From the introduction from Rohinton Medhora to several pieces on innovation and trade (Kahin, Haggart, Ciuriak, and Van Harten), the series promises to provide politicians and policy makers with valuable insights to support the government’s focus on innovation. I was delighted to participate in the project with a piece titled How Trolls are Stifling Innovators, Gamers and Netflix Junkies.
The contribution, which is accompanied by a video on the impact of copyright and fair use on innovation, identifies several areas of copyright reform that are closely linked to innovation policy. These include copyright flexibilities such as fair use, the need to prevent IP and copyright misuse, and the harms associated with restrictive digital lock rules. The article starts by noting that the Supreme Court of Canada highlighted the link between copyright and innovation in the 2002 Theberge decision:
Access Copyright issued a release on a 2016 Copyright Board decision on March 31st that might have been mistaken for an April Fool’s joke had it been issued a day later. Channeling White House spokesperson Sean Spicer’s penchant for implausible spin, the copyright collective commented on the board decision involving copying in K-12 schools by arguing the decision confirmed that “fair dealing does not encompass all of the copying in education.” Leaving aside the fact that no one has said that it does (hence paid access remains by far the most important method of access), the Access Copyright decision will come as a surprise to anyone who read its response to the decision when it was first released, when it called it a “deeply problematic decision for creators and publishers.”
Access Copyright filed a judicial review of the ruling only to lose badly at the Federal Court of Appeal, which upheld virtually all of the Board’s decision (the only exception was a minor issue on coding errors in its repertoire, which is the source of the reconsideration referenced in the release). Access Copyright presumably issued the announcement on a year-old decision in response to the fact that the deadline has passed for an appeal of the Federal Court of Appeal ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. What stands – and what Access Copyright seemingly endorses with its latest spin – includes:
The leak of the draft notice from the Trump Administration on the NAFTA renegotiation, which identifies at least 40 issues, will serve as the starting point for discussions once talks begin. Coverage of the U.S. interests has emphasized tariff issues, rules of origin, and tax treatment, but the digital issues should not be overlooked. The U.S. starting position looks a lot like the TPP, which suggests that we already have a very clear understanding of the text that U.S. negotiators will propose. This post unpacks some of the general language to decipher what the U.S. has in mind on intellectual property issues. A second post will review the other digital issues, including privacy and e-commerce rules.