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.