Jim Prentice has presented a new copyright bill in the House this past week that has Canada’s information world up in arms! The reaction was pretty incredible – Metro Morning’s tech specialist was freaking out on the radio, Michael Geist has been clogging up my google reader and the CLA listserv’s e-mails are scathing, to say the least. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it here… When did COPYRIGHT become such an exciting topic?! It’s great that so many people are making the connections between their own behaviours and activities, and federal legislation that is wordy and boring and not a great read on a Sunday afternoon.
For awhile now, I have been a member of the Facebook group “Fair Copyright for Canada,” which is administered by Geist himself (to date there are almost 60,000 members. Join! Everyone else is doing it…). It’s a great way to get some important insights about the state of legislation, and Geist is balanced in his approach. When he first got his paws on the documentation upon it’s release (formally known as Bill C-61), he blogged about the content, but reserved his judgement until he had some time to really process the implications of this bill. It took him about a half a day before he tore into the legislation to shreds and encouraging Canadians to join the mounting protest against this bill.
Before I started my MISt at U of T, I had never heard of the intellectual property debates (beyond the obligatory 18-year-old-outrage at Big Pharma and Big Music… remember Napster?). However over this past year, I’ve become more aware of the implications this, and other legislation have for my profession.
What is particularly ironic about this bill is when you consider the history of copyright law and its original intent. It began as an artifice that sought to stimulate creative culture-making in the American colonies; the Courts realized it contradicted the radically liberal ideology the U.S. was predicated on but saw it as a “necessary” evil, to ensure that authors, poets, playwright’s and the like could make a living off their creations.
In our digital age though, creativity has taken on a new face and laws should adapt accordingly; the goal of the original intellectual property laws was to invigorate the creative class and to foster cultural literacy among the citizenry. This value should be at the core of today’s legislation as well, and, as many have argued, such is not the case. Laura Murry from http://www.faircopyright.ca states the following:
(Imagine) you’re a librarian trying to stretch dollars by sending interlibrary loan materials digitally. Fine, the bill says, but make sure that file will evaporate automatically within five days. Not only is this requirement a technical and therefore financial burden on libraries, but it goes against their whole ethos of sharing knowledge. Librarians and teachers will be ever more confused and constrained; the kids and patrons will be ever more confused and… well maybe not so constrained. Won’t that be a pretty pickle? We could have had a clarified treatment of fair dealing, taught to kids from the getgo, which could have helped to rescue the idea of copyright.
Not such a hot option for librarians who will likely become insta-criminals should this bill pass. I can just imagine the level of creativity that will be stymied by this, and I hope you, like me, will write your MP and explain why they should quash this bill come September.