Today two books – a travel guide from Frommer's and Paul Wells' Right Side Up – arrived from Indigo in my mailbox. I'm looking forward to both books – the travel guide will be useful for an upcoming trip and I enjoy Wells' blog and his Macleans review of the last election was terrific. As I flipped to the opening page of the Wells book, I was struck by the copyright notice (yes, I know that only a law professor would actually be struck by a copyright notice). It states:
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.
I recognize that few people actually read these notices and that most would consider this standard. Yet there is something wrong about Canadian publishers (in this case McClelland & Stewart's Douglas Gibson imprint) using legal notices that are exceptionally misleading and which perpetuate the incorrect view that nothing may be copied without prior permission.
It goes without saying that I just violated this particular clause by reproducing a part of the publication without permission, but I certainly have not violated Canadian copyright law in doing so. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has made it very clear that far more could be copied for research or private study purposes without a license and without violating the law.
These misleading notices must stop (the Frommer's book is far more reasonable since it states that the restrictions are limited by the exceptions under U.S. copyright law). The notice page in the Wells' book also contains an acknowledgement for the financial support of the federal government's Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Ontario Media Development Corporation's Ontario Book Initiative, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. This too is typical as the Canadian book publishing industry relies heavily on taxpayer support. Last year alone, the BPIDP distributed more than $26 million to Canadian publishers, including $578,365 for McClelland & Stewart. I think public support for book publishing in Canada is a good thing, but I also think that it is wrong to provide public support to publishers who then proceed to mislead the public about their copyright rights. The solution is simple – borrowing from the move toward open access requirements for government-funded research, government book publishing funding programs should insist on a condition that prohibits the use of overbroad and misleading copyright notices.
Sounds like what Jason Mazzone describes as ‘copyfraud’ to me: [ link ]
Speaking of copyright notices, were you not struck by the very one in the book that you recently coordinated, contributed to and edited. Here is the copyright notice from ‘In the Public Interest’: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher. All portions of this publication may be accessed at http://www.irwinlaw.com and are available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons licence. In the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from Access Copyright (Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency), 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1900, Toronto, Ontario, M5E 1E5.
Despite the confusing contradictions contained in the notice, surely you don’t believe your own publisher, that published your book with BPIDP funding and agreed to make it available under a CC licence, was trying to “mislead the public” on its rights.
Rather than take easy shots at boilerplate copyright notices, which evidently neither publishers nor users read, perhaps a complete, balanced explanation of the Supreme Court of Canada’s copyright decisions is in order so that everyone can better understand Canadian copyright law.
Why not simply say: (C) Copyright [the copyright holder] [date?].
People so ignorant of copyright law that it should be spelled out to them are presumably also too ignorant to take any notice of copyright notices. They are also not the customers to irritate.
If you\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’re going to sue anyone, you might as well leave notice of their misdeeds until that point. They really cannot plead that the absense of an exhaustive copyright notice implied a license to any selection of liberties of their choice.
It would be better to endear oneself to readers by coopting their enthusiasm to promote the author and publisher, e.g. by providing a reminder of fair use/dealing, and ideally a license that specified additional liberties by way of encouraging them to promote the book, author and publisher.
I am neither a student of law, or a reader of Paul Wells, but when McLellen and Stewert’s states, “The use of any part of this publication… or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher”, does this allude to collection databases? Or what does “retrieval system” mean in plain English? Thank you for a great story!
Alliance for Taxpayer Access
It is interesting, but in my RSS feeds for this morning with this article was the following:
FreeCulture has joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and blogged its reasons why:
[ link ]
It would be interesting to find out if anyone is interested in starting a similar group in Canada. I have tried to connect with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in the past, but didn’t get that far (corporate and road subsidies were OK to them).
It’s not just book publishers that are guilty of this overclaim of copyright.
Check out the following notices from various services which digitize old (often 19th and even 18th-century) newspapers:
Paper of Record:
Whether in the free section or in the subscription section of POR, all Content is owned and/or copyrighted by Cold North Wind, and its subsidiaries, or third party providers and may be used only in accordance with this limited use license. Paperofrecord.com is protected by copyright as a collective work and/or compilation, pursuant to Canadian copyright laws, international conventions, and other copyright laws.
Limited Use LICENSE
You are licensed to use the Content for personal or professional research, and may download Content only as search results relevant to that research. Resale of a work or database or portion thereof, except as specific results relevant to specific research for an individual, is prohibited. On line or other republication of Content is prohibited except as unique data elements which are part of a unique family history or genealogy.
Globe and Mail Canada’s Heritage from 1844:
All rights reserved. Distribution, transmission or republication of any material accessible through this service is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Toronto Star Pages of the Past:
Copyright 1892-2001. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. Distributed by Micromedia under license.
Distribution, transmission, or republication of any material from The Toronto Star – Pages of the Past is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.
All Content included in or with the Service is owned and/or copyrighted by Heritage Microfilm, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries, third party suppliers or affiliates and may only be used in accordance with this limited use license. Heritage Microfilm, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries, third party suppliers or affiliates are protected by international copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws.
Or archival para-copyright like:
No copies may be made for publication or exhibition without the permission of the National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, England, SE10 9NF.
The solution is simple – borrowing from the move toward open access requirements for government-funded research, government book publishing funding programs should insist on a condition that prohibits the use of overbroad and misleading copyright notices.
Why should this be restricted to publications which consumed public money in the process? Section 89 of the Copyright Act desperately needs to be made more robust, starting by adding:
Overclaim of copyright
89.1. Any claim, assertion, notice, license, or assignment of copyright which purports to assert, reserve, grant, or license a right, a scope of a right, or a duration of a right beyond the rights, scopes of rights, or duration of rights otherwise provided for in this Act, is, to the extent of the inconsistency with this Act, of no force or effect.
Some penalties would be nice, too.
Not only did your Canadian taxpayer dollars pay for the printing of the stupid book, but after fleecing you out of your tax dollars, the publisher now wants to dictate what you can do with that book. I say F— all of them. My tax dollars paid for it, so you can kiss my butt… After I photocopy it, of course…