Friday, December 10, 2010

Copyright Update: Warpspeed

After years of hoping there would be some movement on the Canadian copyright landscape it now feels for many of us, that we are running to keep up with the latest changes. It has become at least a part-time job to keep up with the blog posts, respond to in-house queries, read the latest emails, participate in conference calls, review policies, draft memos, and hold education sessions – and I think that happened all just yesterday!

Suddenly providing a brief update for the newsletter is a daunting task with so many possible places to start, so I choose to start with the usual disclaimers. First the standard “I am a librarian not a lawyer” statement so this is not in any way legal advice; secondly by the time this will appear in the newsletter it will no doubt be out of date, in fact I think it may be out of date by the time I finish the next paragraph; and thirdly the highlights offered are a quick overview and don’t constitute the “whole story” by any stretch of the imagination. With those caveats in mind I encourage you to follow the links provided for more in-depth and current information and more perspectives.

The introduction of Bill C-32, The Copyright Modernization Act, in June of 2010, coincided (though surely not a coincidence) with news that the creator collective, Access Copyright, would be moving from a licensing to a tariff model for the post-secondary education system, having already had approved (though still under challenge in the courts) a tariff process for the K-12 system.

Proposed as a “balanced” Act, Bill C-32 does make significant strides to improve user rights while still protecting the rights of creators. It articulates an expanded definition of fair dealing, it is more format and technology neutral in its language, and does take into account current practices such as personal recording and use of TV shows and the personal mixing and remixing of media (the “YouTube” clause). One of the least supported and therefore most commented on, elements of the current Bill, from the perspective of user communities, is of course the overriding technical protection measures (TPM’s) which prohibit circumvention even for acts which fall under permitted uses of copyright materials. While a read of the Bill is an excellent investment of time in my view, I would also suggest one of the best overview documents is the Library of Parliament Legislative Summary on Bill-C32 (pub no: 40-3-C32-E). The summary goes through the Bill and compares it to the current Copyright Act.

Of course, as we know all too well in Canada, a lot can change between the introduction of a copyright Bill and final reading and passage into law. Bill C-32 has passed second reading and as I type it is now in committee and being debated and discussed in detail. In fact, I am listening to the audio of the first meeting of the Committee so for those who want to track the progress of the Bill and hear firsthand the work of the Committee I recommend a visit to http://www2.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness, where you can listen or watch live or take advantage of the archived audio. According to experts such as Michael Geist the committee is expected to continue their work into the new year, possibly concluding their work by February. Geist’s blog is a must read for the latest news and user-community perspective on the Bill.

Meanwhile…back at the office, those of us in universities and colleges are working through the latest news from the Copyright Board of Canada, which is currently discussing and hearing comments (aka objections) from the few remaining interveners in the proposed tariff review process. Following hot on the heels of the controversial removal of 97 of the 101 original intervener submissions, the Copyright Board is now considering Access Copyright’s request to put in place an interim tariff while the Board takes the needed time to fully review the details of the proposed tariff and the submissions from interveners. The implications of an interim tariff are significant both for current practices within post-secondary institutions, as well as for the future of a balanced review of the proposed tariff. The interim tariff in its most recent iteration is not an extension of the terms of the Access Copyright license, but rather of the terms of the proposed tariff. But again, keep in mind these details may have changed in the last few hours or in the next few hours. For the most current updates I would point you to Howard Knopf’s blog where he tracks the latest developments.

Meanwhile…on the frontlines, institutions have been busy educating faculty and staff on the use of already licensed electronic resources, as well as reviewing policies and procedures to ensure they align with copyright legislation and operation outside of an Access Copyright license. While most institutions have already confirmed they do not intend to sign onto the interim tariff as requested by Access Copyright, choosing rather to wait until the Copyright Board’s full review and decision is rendered, the impact of the Copyright Board issuing an interim tariff for January 2011 (if it goes through) will be considerable, both in the short term and the long term.

Although I have perhaps prompted more questions than provided answers in this update one thing has become very clear over the last few months: the need to work collectively. Whether it is the post-secondary community, the library community, or communities of shared interest within institutions, it is essential we have strong networks in order to develop the most informed responses to such rapidly evolving issues. So happy reading, meeting, advocating and educating.


Carol Shepstone, University Librarian, Mount Royal University

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