Monday, June 18, 2012

accessing clarity on the rock

Several weeks ago, the Newfoundland CBC radio program Weekend Arts Magazine featured an interview with a local librarian who expressed a number of anxieties about the possibility of her province's university, Memorial, signing a collective licence agreement with Canada's copyright licensing agency, Access Copyright.

Those of us in the creator community could only shake our heads at this latest example of a trained information professional getting her information about copyright so very, very wrong. Canada is in a humiliating phase of our cultural history, it seems, where the traditional partnership between our writing and publishing sector and our libraries is being seriously undermined by a small group of slick monorail salesmen pitching the wonders of free culture. Free culture slices; it dices; it juliennes, folks; and I can't do this all day, so get yer free culture now!

What's shameful is not that these hucksters are trying to sell what they don't own - that's what hucksters do; no, what's embarrassing for our country is that so many professors and librarians are lining up to buy into the freecult. To be clear, most profs and librarians continue to respect the traditional copyright partnership but, frankly, one professional librarian getting her facts wrong on the radio is one too many.

Thankfully, CBC Newfoundland's journalistic standards remain as solid as the rock on which they reside. In the responding interview above (just click on the play button to hear the whole thing), Weekend Arts Magazine host, Chris O'Neill-Yates talks with Access Copyright Executive Director, Maureen Cavan to get the other side of the freecult panic attack. The... y'know... calm, rational side.

O'Neill-Yates goes point by point through the freecult concerns with Cavan, and each of these ridiculous talking points falls from the picturesque bluffs of our easternmost province into the Atlantic. Will a copyright licence attack academic freedom or personal freedom of expression? No, and that is all spelled out in the licence. Doesn't the cost for the licence represent an enormous increase and burden for students. No, in fact many students will likely see decreased costs since the traditional 10 cent per page rate is being eliminated. Isn't the Access Copyright repertoire tiny and not worth the cost. No, in fact the repertoire is as large as our country plus the 29 other countries with whom we have reciprocal copyright agreements. Isn't this agreement trying to charge for hyperlinks? No, the agreement is about copying; but, just because a copy happens digitally rather than on a photocopier doesn't make it any less of a copy.

The winds are changing on copyright in Canada, I think. There's a fresh breeze of rationality and reason blowing from the eastern shores, and hopefully it will clear out much of this now stagnant freecult air that's been allowed to gather on our campuses and in our libraries.

Thanks to CBC Newfoundland for the embed link to the interview above.

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