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All stories relating to copyright

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UBC responds to complaints over fair dealing

The University of British Columbia has responded to complaints from The Writers’ Union of Canada that the university is failing to compensate writers and publishers for the use of their works in photocopied course packs.

The dispute stems from differing interpretations of fair dealing under the Copyright Act. TWUC’s position is that, in opting out of a collective licence offered by Access Copyright (which remits royalties to creators), UBC is in violation of existing regulations. The university does not agree.

In his response to an open letter from TWUC, UBC president and vice-chancellor Stephen J. Toope says the university is “committed to meeting its legal obligations” with respect to copyright, noting that it pays “in the neighbourhood of $25 million to publishers and authors every year” via library acquisitions, digital subscriptions, and book sales.

The letter also notes that UBC seeks “transactional licences” for materials that do not fall under fair dealing. Toope suggests that not all creators have been willing to play along:

It has come to our attention over the last year or two that some publishers and authors have decided not to grant any transactional clearances. This is unfortunate, as this restricts faculty and students from utilizing the materials produced by the affected publishers and authors and, it would seem, unnecessarily cuts-off a source of revenue for them.

This salvo will hardly be the last in the ongoing skirmish between post-secondary institutions and this country’s professional writers and publishers.

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TWUC protests UBC’s claim of cost reductions in student course packs

The Writers’ Union of Canada has issued a blistering riposte to the University of British Columbia, resulting from the latter’s claim that the cost of student course packs has been reduced by up to 33 per cent. In a broadcast e-mail sent on Sept. 11 and addressed to UBC faculty and staff, the university claims that it has achieved significant cost savings in the area of student materials created and sold through the UBC Bookstore.

From the UBC e-mail:

Price reductions have been made possible by:

1. Use of Digital Subscription Licences. A significant portion of the material used in course packs can be accessed through digital subscription licences.

2. Reliance upon Fair Dealing. In 2012, the Copyright Act was modernized and the Supreme Court of Canada issued several landmark rulings about the scope of fair dealing. The result is an expanded role for fair dealing in the production of course packs.

3. Avoiding Onerous Blanket Licencing Terms. When UBC’s licence expired, Access Copyright proposed dramatically increased fees and unacceptable terms including surveillance of student and faculty activity. UBC concluded that, within this context, proceeding on terms dictated by Access Copyright would not provide sufficient value for students.

TWUC chair Dorris Heffron today sent a letter to UBC president Dr. Stephen J. Toope, arguing that the savings the university is claiming come on the backs of writers who are not being paid for the use of their work. Heffron writes:

Guidelines claiming 10% of a book, entire short stories, entire chapters, etc. as fair dealing are not supported by established law in Canada, nor are they likely ever to be. Canadian writers and publishers, through our common copyright collective, are right now involved in legal action aimed at confirming such extensive uses are unfair to the cultural creators on whom institutions like yours depend for so much quality educational content.

She goes on to express dismay that a university boasting one of the country’s most prestigious MFA programs for creative writers should take what TWUC characterizes as a cavalier attitude to those writers’ livelihoods:

There is a terrible irony in a university like UBC, one with such an illustrious history of preparing creative writers for careers in the arts, claiming costs savings on the backs of Canada’s writers – a group who can ill-afford to lose any income sources. The Writers’ Union of Canada considers such unauthorized and uncompensated use of our members’ work to be expropriation of the property of some of Canada’s lowest paid professionals by some of Canada’s highest paid professionals. There is nothing fair about that scenario.

As of this writing, there has been no official response from UBC.

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Book links roundup: is U.S. publishing born from piracy, visually impaired Canadians address copyright committee, and more

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Book links round-up: happy authors, Amazon in Spain, and more

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Lawsuit targets efforts to digitize books

Quebec’s Writers’ Union, the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains Québécois (UNEQ), is one of three major authors’ groups that filed a lawsuit yesterday against five U.S. universities for copyright infringement, The New York Times reports. The writers’ groups, which include the Authors Guild and the Australian Society of Authors along with eight individual authors, argue that the digital archive known as HathiTrust, a partnership between universities and libraries that houses millions of books and journals, does not respect authors’ rights.

From The NYT:

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, contends that “by digitizing, archiving, copying and now publishing the copyrighted works without the authorization of those works’ rights holders, the universities are engaging in one of the largest copyright infringements in history.”

The plaintiffs are also concerned with the security of HathiTrust’s files. Rather than seeking damages, authors’ groups are asking that HathiTrust remove their digital collection.

This isn’t the first time the Authors Guild has taken issue with digital books. In 2005, the guild filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google for its initiative to digitize print texts through Google Books. That case remains unresolved.

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Publishing at the polls: federal parties respond to arts and culture questions

The Canadian Conference of the Arts sent leaders of the five federal parties a series of questions pertaining to arts and culture, and have posted the responses on its website. All of the parties responded, except for the Conservatives.

The answers are published without edits, and in a handy table format so you can compare responses. Of particular interest are questions pertaining to the Copyright Modernization Act:

Which elements of Bill C-32 will your party keep, and which elements of the bill will your party remove or change in a new bill to modernize the Copyright Act?

Bloc Québécois: The Bloc Québécois will ensure that the new bill is fair to both creators and consumers. This balance must be achieved, most notably through: an upgraded system for private copying, applying to Mp3 players and other digital music players; reasonable royalties to artists for redistribution of their works; the abolition of the education exemption and fair recognition of the resale rights of visual artists.

The Bloc Québécois is committed to fostering a regime requiring ISPs to pay royalties, which will go towards a fund to pay creators in Quebec who have been harmed due to the illegal downloading of artistic works.

Conservative Party:

Green Party: The Green Party of Canada strongly supports artists’ rights to guaranteed fair compensation through fair patent and copyright laws. At the same time, we consider the digital lock provision in Bill C-32 to be excessively restrictive in that it will not allow students and journalists to properly create and conduct research.

We will work with the CCA and other stakeholders to sharpen the definition of “educational uses” to find the right balance to give researchers this ability in a manner consistent with a thriving information commons, fair dealing principles, and moral rights.

Liberal Party: Recent studies have shown that Canada’s out-of-date Copyright Act translates into major economic loss (up to $965 million lost last year due to piracy, according to an Ipsos/Oxford economics study) for Canadian creators all across the country; the Liberal Party will thus start working on presenting a modernized copyright act as soon as we form government. Bill C-32, the latest Conservative attempt to modernize copyright, was unbalanced and unfair; a Liberal government will work with all stakeholders to ensure creators rights and their sources of revenues are protected under the Copyright Act.

Digital technology offers many new opportunities, but enjoying content without compensating its creators shouldn’t be among them. A new Liberal government will introduce technology neutral copyright legislation that balances the needs of creators and consumers and reflects the principle that our artists and musicians should be paid for their work. We will stand with Canadian creators as they navigate both the opportunities and challenges of the new digital society.

During the debate on copyright legislation in the last Parliament, it was the Liberal Party that developed a practical solution to providing musicians with compensation through a new private copying compensation fund rather than a levy. A Liberal government will look to develop similarly innovative solutions to ensure that the Copyright Act protects creators’ existing and future rights and revenue streams in a digital age. Likewise, the Liberal party believes that any exception under fair dealings must be clearly defined with a clear and strict test for fair use so that creators are fairly compensated for their work.

NDP: In reviewing Bill C-32, New Democrats would closely examine a number of key issues contained in the proposed legislation, including (but not limited to) ISP liability, Technological Protection Measures (TPMs, or so-called “digital locks”), statutory damages, private copying and reproduction for private purposes, broadcast mechanical licensing and fair dealing.

In order to arrive at an equilibrium between the interests of rights-holders and those of consumers, New Democrats would likely begin developing new copyright laws, beginning by consulting widely with stakeholder groups with the aim of creating a legislation that is – unlike C-32 – truly technology-neutral, balanced and flexible enough to ensure its adaptability to new platforms and technologies in the years to come. We would also determine definitively Canada’s obligations as a signatory to various international treaties governing copyright and intellectual property.

And when you’re done reading all the responses, reward yourself with a visit to vintagevoter.ca.

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Friday funnies

Some vaguely related-to-publishing links to amuse you:

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Publishing at the polls: Arts and culture platforms

Tonight is the first televised leadership debate of the federal election. It’s unlikely arts and culture will be mentioned, so here’s a primer on how all parties (including the Green Party) stand on issues that impact the publishing industry. Here’s a summary of points, taken directly from each platform:

Bloc Québécois

  • Ensure that the federal government increases its support for our culture and contributes to its development

Conservative Party

  • We will provide ongoing support for the Canada Periodical Fund to support the distribution of publications to Canadians, while providing long-term, stable program funding
  • A Stephen Harper-led majority Government will also reintroduce and pass the Copyright Modernization Act, a key pillar in our commitment to make Canada a leader in the global digital economy. This balanced, common-sense legislation recognizes the practical priorities of teachers, students, artists, families, and technology companies, among others, while aligning Canada with international standards. It respects both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers. It will ensure that Canada’s copyright law will be responsive in a fast-changing digital world, while protecting and creating jobs, promoting innovation, and attracting investment to Canada

Green Party

  • Increase funding to all of Canada’s arts and culture organizations including The Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, orchestras, theatres and publishers. The goal will be to make increases in this sector commensurate with increases in support over the years for other sectors of the economy such as transport, the auto industry, health care, and the oil and gas industry
  • Restore and improve arm’s length principles in the governance of arts and cultural institutions and agencies under the federal jurisdiction.  In keeping with such a position, we believe that the heads of Canada’s cultural organizations such as the CRTC, Canada Council, CBC, and Telefilm Canada should not be appointed by the political party in power but by an arm’s length committee made up of competent people representative of the various diverse stakeholders in Canadian society
  • Increase support for community arts programs and facilities across Canada by establishing stable base-funding at a set percentage of the federal budget
  • Equalize federal funding for Arts and Culture among provinces, territories, and municipalities to make it consistent with the provinces and municipalities that have the highest current standards
  • Provide incentives to all provinces and territories to restore and improve arts and culture components to schools and extra-curricular activities not only in urban but also in rural areas
  • Extend income tax relief and incentives to artists (on the very successful models established by Ireland and the city of Berlin).  Doing so will: encourage artists to settle in Canada and build businesses here; result in other (usually) white collar “clean” industries that follow the arts jobs and dollars; help to provide meaningful jobs to university and college graduates;enrich schools and their offerings thereby attracting immigrants to settle in rural areas; revitalize and discover talent in communities where traditional industries are declining and young people are leaving
  • Follow and implement recommendations of Canadian Conference of the Arts in order to enable artists to access various social programs including Employment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation, and Canada Pension Plan
  • Change the Canada Revenue Act to allow arts and culture workers to benefit from a tax averaging plan that will take into account the fact that lean years often precede and follow the good year when a show is produced, a book is published and a grant or a prize is won
  • Protect Canada’s cultural identity during trade negotiations

Liberal Party

  • The Canada Council for the Arts is a major force in supporting working artists. A Liberal government will significantly increase support for Canadian artists and creators by doubling the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, from $180 million to $360 million over the next four years
  • A Liberal government will also restore the PromArt and Trade Routes cultural promotion programs, increasing their funding to $25 million. These programs play an important role in bringing Canadian culture to the world and increasing our exports. The new annual funding will help to create a domestic tours program as well
  • Digital technology offers many new opportunities, but enjoying content without compensating its creators shouldn’t be among them. At the same time, consumers should have freedom for personal use of digital content they rightfully possess. Liberals have worked to pass effective copyright legislation, including a private copying compensation fund instead of any new tax on consumers

NDP

  • We will promote the production and broadcast of Canadian content on Canadian television and in Canadian theatres, and will strongly support Canada’s performing arts, cultural institutions, and creators
  • We will ensure Canadian TV and telecom networks remain Canadian-owned by maintaining effective regulations on foreign ownership
  • We will increase public funding for the Canada Council and implement tax averaging for artists and cultural workers
  • We will explore the creation of a new international arts touring fund to replace the now-defunct Trade Routes and PromArt programs
  • We will develop a digital online culture service to broaden access to Canadian content
  • We will introduce a bill on copyright reform to ensure that Canada complies with its international treaty obligations, while balancing consumers’ and creators’ rights

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Publishing at the polls: Copyright reform

As Canadians head to the polls on May 2, Q&Q looks at key federal policies affecting the publishing industry. Stay tuned for upcoming features on federal funding, mass digitization, and foreign-ownership regulations.

After nearly a year of parliamentary hearings and heavy industry lobbying, Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act, succumbed to a sudden death on March 26, when the latest Canadian federal election was called.

For nearly a decade, publishers, authors, and other content creators have lived without a copyright act that takes into account the realities of a digital economy. Bill C-32 was the federal government’s third attempt to update the legislation. To get a sense of how outdated Canada’s current laws are, the last copyright reform, passed in 1997, instituted a levy on cassette tapes. It will now be up to the new government to table yet another copyright bill — and successfully get it passed for there to be meaningful reform.

As Canadians head to the polls once again on May 2, Q&Q spoke to several publishing copyright advocates about the lessons learned from Bill C-32.
(more…)

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Book biz round-up: Canada’s poor copyright rep, and more

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