Sifting through all the copyright commentary out there on the net, I came across an account of Dr. Michael Geist's recent presentation at the University of Calgary. A video interview of Geist in Calgary is available on the Fair Copyright Facebook group, and some net sources, probably his own website included, have his entire talk on video or audio file. Go wild.
Me, I'm a reader, so I dug into the blogs and came up with this very interesting account and analysis from one D'Arcy Norman, who appears to be a thoughtful and committed advocate for open source/open content. Mr. Norman attended the Geist presentation, and has complimentary things to say about it. And then he relates an anecdote about listening to others interpret what they've heard. He writes:
Walking back from the presentation, chatting with two unnamed faculty members. They were saying how eye-opening the session was, and how they had no idea that Fair Dealing was as useful and potentially as flexible as it sounds like it is. How great, that they can go ahead and scan books as PDF and post them in their courses in Blackboard.
Scan entire books as PDF, and then use them as unlicensed course material for tuition-paying students in a publicly funded institution? Is this a potential new practice Michael Geist is advocating for under expanded fair dealing? I can't imagine it is. Does it sound fair to anyone out there?
Norman goes on to register his own extreme discomfort with what he was hearing. His perspective is totally open content, which is not always my own, but I think our core values in this discussion are the same:
First and foremost, we need to model ethical and appropriate use of copyrighted materials. Hiding copyright infringements behind the Blackboard login is not good enough. You have to realize that you’re modeling this infringement for your students to see. “It’s OK to infringe on copyright, because The Man can’t see, right?” “uh… if Dr. Whatsisname could do it, why can’t I?”
Norman sends his readers to the University of Calgary's copyright policy for classroom use, which in itself is an education.
Under Print Materials that need to be scanned, they have this:
Discretion must be used in deciding what amount of a work can be copied as a fair dealing.
Ordinarily requests to use one article from an issue of a journal; one chapter from a book; or no more than 10% of a collective work such as an anthology will be recognized as a fair dealing.
... which clearly does not recognize a fair dealing that would allow unlicensed PDFs of entire books. Yet under Digital Material, the policy states it will allow use if:
- The material is available on the open Web, and the Library can provide a link to it.
... which sounds to me like the University of Calgary has an acting Publicly Available Material exception already in place. Note there is no mention of the copyright status of the material on the open Web, only that it is available.
So, a physical book that anyone can take out of any library cannot be scanned and used digitally in its entirety because of a recognized limitation under fair dealing. That same book available on the Internet (just as it is in a library), yet still protected by the same copyright law that determined UoC's fair dealing policy, is suddenly fair game as publicly available material.
So much respect for working creators as long as they kill trees; so little respect as soon as they hit the web.