(earnings for Geist, Trosow & Katz from the Ontario public compensation list. Earnings for Knopf estimated by averaging the previous three. Earnings for Cdn. artists based on 2009 Hill Strategies study)
Canada's copyright licensing agency, Access Copyright (of which I am a creator affiliate), has just this week concluded a licensing agreement with two of our largest, most-populated universities. When the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario agreed to a new license allowing broad use (in both print and digital formats) of Access Copyright's vast repertoire of works for the reasonable fee of $27.50 per student, they essentially declared a belief that publicly available Canadian content has real value in their classrooms.
One might think that such a declaration shouldn't ever be necessary. After all, who would argue that publicly available Canadian content had no value in Canadian post-secondary classrooms?
Free culture, that's who.
Since the negotiation and signing of this agreement (and it was a negotiation - AC asked for $45 per student, and agreed to $27.50 per student) the Free Culture Strategy Office (FCSO) has been in a right panic. You could hear the sound of heads banging on desks as soon as the agreement was made public on Tuesday. So, in some sort of order:
1. Always classy fair-dealing expansionist, Howard Knopf, raised the specter of national socialism when he labeled the agreement a capitulation by the two universities.
2. University of Western Ontario Associate Professor Sam Trosow (one of the architects of the Access Copyright opt-out movement) repeated the c-word on his own blog, taking a broad swipe at his own employer for focusing on rebranding when presumably they should have been focusing on not paying artists. Trosow's blog posting is essentially a copy of Knopf's. That's just how these guys roll.
3. University of Ottawa law professor, Michael Geist, has so far not expressed his obvious exasperation with the agreement, choosing instead to feign objectivity and leave the public teeth-gnashing to his fellow free-culturists. But let history not forget, Geist was calling for the end of Access Copyright licensing more loudly and more harshly than anyone.
4. Yesterday, University of Toronto law professor Ariel Katz joined the grief parade, following Trosow's example and publicly attacking his own employer for agreeing to pay a license fee to Canadian creators. He went so far as to suggest that by signing the agreement, U of T is somehow participating in the suppression of learning:
"...UofT lost an opportunity to stand up, show leadership, and ensure that copyright law will be used for the encouragement of learning and not for suppressing it."The suppression of learning?
The attack on Access Copyright's licensing at Canadian universities was complex and deeply ideology-driven, but the free culture circus show was always careful to keep price and the suffering student front and centre.
The wailing we hear now from free culture proves their resistance had nothing to do with the price or the students. This was about inflexible ideology and wanting a win at all costs.
UofT and Western bargained in good faith for a repertoire of established value, and reduced the fee from $45 to $27.50. In announcing the agreement, both institutions highlighted the value being presented to their students. There's only one way you could see this as capitulation, and that's if you would only be happy with no license at all. Tens of millions of dollars for creators come out of this development, all of which would simply vanish if Katz's fair dealing muscle-growth were to be taken seriously.
The great victory for Canada's creators this week has little to do with an agreement that was all but inevitable - no, the great victory is that free culture has dropped its friendly mask once and for all.
We hear all the time "Sure I believe artists should be paid, but..."
Well, no more Mr. Katz, Mr. Geist, Mr. Trosow and Mr. Knopf. Skip the friendly opening clause. Canada's artists don't believe you anymore.
We're all right Jack!
As you can see from the bar-graph above, the combined annual earnings for the four* wise men of free culture and fair dealing in education are better than half a million dollars. That such comfortable members of the academic and legal professions can stomach their own advocacy against copyright payment to artists (average annual earnings at about $23,500) can only be the result of ideological blindness. These fellows are so deep into their theories, they can't see the reality in front of them.
Canadian universities use the Access Copyright repertoire. That repertoire is not free. The price Canada's artists ask is fair.
For those unfamiliar with the turn of phrase in my title, here's a succinct explanation from the urban dictionary:
"I'm all right Jack! - Narrow-focus, narrow-gauge pseudo-Darwinian selfishness glorified as a sensible philosophy of society and life."