Of note is a discussion started over at the BookMadam & Associates blog when blogger and Y/A author Jill Murray announced that she wants schools to use her books for free. Since the video was warning about a potential loss of educational licensing rights and revenue for authors, Murray's less than enthusiastic review of TWUC's message attracted a lot of attention. I mean a LOT of attention. The last count I saw had about 4000 sets of eyes on the blog posting and subsequent comment conversation.
The result? Undecided. I count myself among the writers (and commenters) who would like to assure Jill Murray that she can give her work away to anyone anytime she wants, and I will not try to stop her. My enduring concern is that the rest of Canada's writers receive the same consideration and they too are not forced to give up a business model (collective licensing) they want to use.
I also continue to be concerned that the legitimate concerns of TWUC and many (I would have to say the great majority) of professional writers in Canada not be misunderstood as some sort of attack against teachers and educators. So much of the comment surrounding this video assumed that writers were angry at teachers and trying to keep them from the content that will help them teach. As I said in one of my many comments about the video -- how does noting that teachers get paid for their work constitute an attack against teachers?
The "writers are fighting teachers" meme was accelerated by Cory Doctorow's post on Boing Boing claiming the Canadian copyright collecting society uses lies to pit creators against schools.
Doctorow's nasty swipe at Access Copyright is predicated on the idea that the writers in the TWUC video want to deny teachers and other educators fair dealing access to copyright-protected material. That certainly sounds bad.
Except that's not at all what's happening. Teachers have access to the exact same fair-dealing provisions that everyone else in Canada enjoys, and I don't know of a single writer who wants to take those provisions away from them -- in the same way I don't know a single writer who wants to stop Jill Murray from doing whatever she wants with her books.
The proposed fair-dealing category is not about extending rights to teachers they currently don't have, it's about increasing the industrial education sector's leverage in their claims against collective licensing. Let me say that another way - this is not about individual writers denying individual teachers easy access to their work; it's about huge university administrations not wanting to pay (as much, or at all) for the content they use to teach tuition-paying students.
Anyway, I was pretty sure I had that right last week when I entered the fray and challenged Doctorow on his facts. It's awfully nice to see some very authoritative legal opinion backs me up on this. Today on IP lawyer Barry Sookman's blog, fellow IP legal expert Dan Glover has spelled it all out better than I ever could:
What is truly at issue in this debate over C-32 is whether it makes sense to introduce a new allowable purpose of great potential breadth, thus asking one public good (publishing) to deeply subsidize another (education), when other economic inputs into the school system (energy, labour, supplies) face no such challenge.
Writers and publishers good; education gooder? Surely there's a better solution.