Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am not a giant d*****-bag

Just a quick follow-up to my last posting about free culture bullies and their less than exemplary behaviour online.

This past weekend I received an e-mail from Erin Finlay, Legal Counsel and Manager of Legal Services for Access Copyright, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency with the above title as subject line. Ms. Finlay had read my last posting and could relate. You see, last week, she had responded to a CTV reporter covering the story of Canadian universities restricting the use of Canadian content in their classrooms in order to avoid paying a tariff. Her quote appeared in the CTV story online, setting Ms. Finlay up as the latest target of anonymous free-culture rage.

A pseudonymous blogger named mrlemurboy made this very public claim about Ms. Finlay:

"Erin, and the rest of the folks at Access Copyright are giant douche-bags. Yes, that’s right, douche-bags! I may even go so far as to say slimy douche-bags."
Though it seems ridiculously unnecessary, I'd like to inform the Internet that Erin Finlay is NOT a giant d*****-bag. Rather, she is a very nice law-talking person with a passion for singing. Erin has managed to combine her interests in both the law and the arts, and works very hard for the protection of Canada's professional creators.

Thanks Erin.

As for mrlemurboy, please get your facts straight before reaching into the free-culture can o' nasty. Things you got wrong:
Access Copyright has a Monopoly on copyright for educational institutions
Capitalizing and bolding the word monopoly does not make it an accurate description. Canadian educational institutions have many options for obtaining copyright protected materials. If they want the materials represented by Access Copyright, they should deal with Access Copyright. That's not a monopoly, it's a repertoire.
Access Copyright wants to increase what it charges by 1300%
The 1300% figure lemurboy quotes is so wrong not even moderately well-informed free-culture advocates try to quote it anymore (except when they think it might fool someone). Maureen Cavan, Access Copyright's Executive Director battles the free-culture misinformation on pricing in a recent letter to the editor, where she writes:
"Previously, students had to pay anything from $3.38 to over $200 per year in royalties. This included a flat fee plus 10 cents per page when protected works were included in coursepacks. That easily adds up. We have offered instead to blend the flat fee and the per page fee into one. Students would no longer pay the per page fee each time they buy a coursepack. The proposed tariff also includes digital scanning and posting, a growing practice not currently paid for.

While we suggested an upper limit of $45 per student, the actual rate will be decided by the Copyright Board, an independent arbitrator that will make its own value assessment based on facts presented by us and the educational institutions themselves. Pending that, no institution is facing a sudden cost spike. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise."

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Anonymous said...

You've reduced yourself to using internet trolls as an argument to support the wonderfulness of Access Copyright?

John said...

hmmm... says "anonymous."

I'm actually pointing out the smallness of the free-culture argument. mrlemurboy uses the blog Techdirt as his source for all the wrong facts he quotes about the tariff dispute. Call him a troll if you wish; he's still spouting the party line.

While it may be easy to anonymously distance oneself from the more hate-filled and least intelligent members of the free-culture army, I note that none of the highbrow theorists make any attempt to raise the quality of the anti-copyright debate.

Pieter Hulshoff said...

If they want the materials represented by Access Copyright, they should deal with Access Copyright.

That's the entire point though, isn't it John? Universities have taken a look at their use of AC material, and at the price tag that comes with it, and have decided to go with different (not necessarily free) material in stead. That's their freedom as a customer, isn't it? I honestly don't understand what your problem is with this. It's no different from me or you switching grocery stores when we feel we could get comparable products at a lower price.

John said...


That might be the entire point, if the way you describe the situation were accurate. It is not accurate.

The "price tag" issue is a red herring. The calculation the opting out universities claim to have done is based on a complete misreading of how the new tariff and old licenses work. It is also based on the highest possible price, which clearly will NOT be the final price. How can anyone do a serious cost-benefit analysis when one does not have actual cost figures?

What is actually happening is that the educational sector is arguing for the broadest possible interpretation of fair dealing (before the Supreme Court), AND for education as a category in fair dealing (before Parliament) with the express purpose of being able to claim use of publicly available material (aka, AC's repertoire) would always be "fair" within an educational setting.

In other words, they are not choosing different materials; they are choosing to restrict their use of AC's repertoire until they can secure it for free.

That's very different indeed from switching grocery stores. And, in the meantime, students paying high tuition fees find their materials restricted.

Pieter Hulshoff said...

Dear John,

I seriously doubt universities would risk their access to materials on court cases and lobbying that may or may not be successful. As such, I also doubt their decision to drop AC is influenced by those possibilities. As to whether or not their decisions were based on completeness of information is for them to explain to their boards, neh?

If American and European universities can provide a proper educational program to their students without a license from AC, I'm sure so can Canadian universities. I see no real reason for students to suffer due to the choices these universities have made here.

John said...


I'm not at all surprised you choose not to see the plain facts in front of you. I'm quite used to that kind of appraoch here in my comments section.

This is essentially a labour lock out by certain universities, with the hope that government and the courts will provide a legal back door for them to bring the content in without pay.

You are aware that Canada is its own country, yes? We have our own laws and practices even. Sovereignty is a wonderful thing.

BTW, you'd better tell England you don't consider them part of Europe, as they have plenty of educational licensing going on over there.

Pieter Hulshoff said...

Dear John,

You have an odd way of interpreting my comments at times, but I guess that's your right. :)

In the mean time: I did not claim that Canada did not have its own sovereignty, nor that all American/European universities chose not to use collective licenses. I merely claimed that many don't have a license with AC, and yet still manage to provide a good education to their students.

You can claim all you want, but you honestly cannot know what real reasons the Canadian universities have for dropping their AC licenses. Perhaps it is as you claim, but my explanation is much more likely. Universities are very much aware of the law, and if your claims were true they would probably have waited a year for the courts/government to decide, before making a decision.

As for the plain facts: there seem to be an awful lot of people who disagree with you here, John. Perhaps they are not as plain as you make them out to be?

John said...


Today, I had lunch with more people who agree with me on copyright than have ever offered reasoned arguments against my positions on this blog.

The reasoning behind the tariff opt-out is not at all mysterious. It's a matter of public record. You just need open eyes to see that record.

Pieter Hulshoff said...

Dear John,

That's because you put everyone who doesn't fully agree with you away as misinformed and a free culturist, while ignoring every point they make, but attack them on points they didn't make. :) We've long ago given up on thinking we can debate with you; we're just here for the entertainment value. :)

Please provide us with links to that public record, and I don't mean links to articles from people such as yourself who think they know what the university's reasons for dropping AC are.

Contrary to your belief: most of us are more than willing to pay. Almost all of your regular commenters are against copyright infringement (though apparently we have to add that to every post for the message to sink in). We're also technical engineers, with a firm grasp of what can and cannot be achieved by means of technology, and we generally object to having our rights as law-abiding citizens stripped in an industry attempt, doomed to fail, to stop copyright infringement. Please, do not blame us for the laws of physics not being to your liking.

Mr. LemurBoy said...

I feel a need to comment here, since I found this post.

While I still do not appreciate the policies of Access Copyright, and I still think their numbers are rather bogus, it was, indeed, callous of me to call Erin Finlay a 'douche-bag'. I do not know Erin, and John, you may be quite right in your assertion that she's a lovely lady.

I think the prepared comment by Access Copyright from the CTV article is, indeed, disingenuous, as I doubt that any school out there is specifically trying to harm the educational experience, but just because Erin is the mouthpiece, and I disagree with the statement, does not mean that I should heap scorn on her. I should, indeed, have stuck to the subject matter and not gone on to petty name-calling.

And so, I am sorry, and will state the Erin is correct, she is NOT a douche-bag.

I apologize for my less than exemplary behaviour.