Input: Copyright and fair-dealing 

Managing the rights to original work in a digital age is an increasingly complex issue. While creative output must be recognized, the line between consumer and creator is increasingly being blurred in a remix culture. The Canadian government has attempted to introduce legislation in the past that has been criticized for placing corporate interests over consumer concerns. This year, they opened up the discussion with a consultation process that invited written briefs, comments and town hall discussions across the country.

What follows is a discussion of some of the issues from a university perspective:

Our university community includes creators and users of copyright works and we both create and use copyright works in carrying out our mission. We believe that balance and shared rights and responsibilities of all creators and users must be a fundamental underlying principle in the Copyright act... Ensure that user rights are inscribed in a broad definition of ‘fair dealing’ that includes educational purposes e.g. The right, as in the USA, to broadcast movies in classrooms... In any amendment to the Act, the ability of users of copyrighted materials to exercise broad fair dealing rights for educational purposes must not be compromised... Do not prohibit or criminalize the circumvention of technologies by library staff or other higher education personnel engaged in legitimate purposes (e.g. Fair dealing, collection management; collection preservation).

- Excerpt from the Concordia University Submission to the Federal Government’s Copyright Consultations

Copyright is a double edged sword. It grants the right-holder exclusive rights on the exploitation of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, thereby conferring monopolistic control on its use. This provides an incentive to the creator or to the right-owner to exercise their craft by enforcing a strong market-oriented property right. Conversely, it recognizes that a free and democratic society must be able to access, preserve and avail itself of protected works, for “fair dealings” such as news reporting or research, counterbalancing copyrights to other civil rights and imperatives.

Despite its obviously oppositional nature, the current debate is confounded by the attempt to regulate digital technologies. The ease of copying digital works makes copyright an ever more important tool to protect markets and industries. But if the government increases the monopolistic power of right owners, users and their institutions will lose much freedom and access to fair markets. At the fulcrum of the debate lies the notion of fairness, and the importance of mediating opposing imperatives. One can only fear how different lobbies will be received by the Canadian government.

- Associate Librarian Olivier Charbonneau

As someone who is both teaching and making work in a digital environment, issues of copyright and intellectual property are always coming into play. This is certainly the case in the classroom where students are regularly bringing in projects which have been fabricated with material “found” on the net (be it code, image, video, text or audio) as though it is unattached free floating raw matter, completely oblivious to the notion that this would somehow be infringing on anything other than their bandwidth usage. The reality of the matter is that it will be a very difficult tap to turn off at this point, and any policing and regulation will only strengthen the resolve of these netizens to basically do as they please with what they find. What is needed is a basic acknowledgment of the fact that file sharing and plundering of the net for base matter will be the sine qua non of the system, and from there try and reconnect with other forms of monetized/transactional scenarios, whatever they may be. DRM has failed time and again, as has litigation so it seems that it will take a herculean effort on the behalf of all interested parties to air this publicly and attempt to sort it out so that artists are actually seeing recompense for their work and fans/viewers/readers are also allowed to access, manipulate and create upon culture that has come before (creative commons being the seminal template), all while keeping at bay the creeping tide of repressive political and business collusion.

- Brad Todd, Part-time faculty, design and computation arts.

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