Earlier in the month, a coalition of writer groups in Canada wrote a joint letter to federal Ministers Moore and Clement (Heritage and Industry, respectively) requesting "clear legislative guidance" on a proposed amendment to the Copyright Act that appears in Bill C-32 , the much-talked-about Act to Amend the Copyright Act.
The letter opens with praise:
On behalf of all professional writers in Canada we want to thank you for beginning the process of amending our copyright legislation for the digital environment. We recognize this process as an absolute necessity if Canada is to fulfill her role as a leader in the context of the growing global knowledge economy.
It continues with a request for clarity and an offer to open dialogue around the inclusion of the word "education" in the the fair dealing section of the Act. The intent is to make sure C-32 provides "clear, predictable and fair rules," which is one of the stated aims of the Bill.
The letter closes with gratitude:
"We thank you for your express willingness to amend C-32 and we will be presenting a comprehensive position that includes specific measures we hope will receive the support of your government."
It is signed by elected representatives of:
The Canadian Authors Association;
The League of Canadian Poets;
The Literary Translators' Association of Canada;
The Playwrights Guild of Canada;
The Professional Writers Association of Canada; and
The Writers' Union of Canada
All told, these groups represent over 4,600 working creative professionals in Canada, all of whom have chosen to join their industry associations and participate in the grassroots democratic processes that lead to policy statements such as this letter.
The tone of the letter is considered and reasonable; and it is absent any panic or dire warnings. It's surprising, then, that this is the same letter consumer advocate Michael Geist blasts as "fear mongering" on his blog, under the headline:
"Writers Groups Attack Fair Dealing Reform in Copyright Bill"
Geist criticizes the letter for inaccuracy and chides the creator groups involved for seeing uncertainty in the new amendment where there is none. He concludes with this remarkable back-handed accusation:
"If the writers groups are against fairness and balance in copyright, they should say so, rather than trumpeting misleading claims about the effects of the fair dealing reforms."
4,600 concerned Canadian writers against fairness and balance in copyright? Because they ask for "clear legislative guidance"?
What an astounding and nakedly biased charge from the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, whose stated research goal is "seeking to reach a better understanding of how the various stakeholders can effectively co-exist and how a traditional governance system of checks and balances can be replicated in the on-line environment."
If you've read Dr. Geist's blog for as long as I have, you might be a bit less surprised by all of this. Another recent headline is just as provocative:
"Access Copyright's 1300% Tariff Increase - Deadline to Object is August 11, 2010"
... and just as misleading. Subsequent discussion of the tariff referred to in that posting has revealed claims of a 1300% increase are wildly inaccurate, yet that headline and all related claims remain uncorrected.
Geist's sensational jab at thousands of Canadian writers is all very confusing, since encouraging Canadian citizens to express their opinions on copyright specifics has seemingly been the professor's full-time job for the last five years. I guess some opinions are to be encouraged more than others.
In related news:
Harry Potter Books Spark Rise in Satanism Among Children!
Martians Land in Grover's Mill, New Jersey!
Law Professor Opposed to Clear Legislative Guidance!