Earlier this year there was a fair amount of buzz about a Canadian Heritage commissioned study on copyright collectives. Conducted by Toronto lawyer Craig Parks, the study came to the public's attention after Parks launched a blog that invited contributions and public comment. It was an interesting approach, though critics noted that Canadian Heritage was not providing any support for the blog initiative and there seemed to be a lack of transparency about the process.
Documents obtained from a recent Access to Information request provides a bit more background and raise a series of new concerns. It would appear that the study was commissioned late last year with final contractual details ironed out in early 2006. Mr. Parks submitted his report, A Report on the Copyright Collectives Operating in Canada, on March 31, 2006. The report is effectively divided into two parts. The first part is a review of the collectives with unattributed comments highlighting specific benefits and problems. The second part is a directory of the collectives with contact information, key personnel, collective members, licenses, as well as a description of the role of the collective and its relationship with the Copyright Board. The prime source of the material in the study was a series of telephone interviews lasting an average of one hour each. Mr. Parks does not disclose who he spoke with, but rather that he "stopped counting after 50."
Interestingly, Parks notes in the introduction that "I can say that a more comprehensive survey would have yielded diminishing returns in terms of new and different comments in the areas of concern." Despite that view, he went back to Heritage in early May with a proposal to extend the contract to conduct some face-to-face interviews with the prospect of revising the March report. The revised report is due in mid-October.
In reviewing the ATIP documents, I encountered both substantive and procedural concerns.