Monday, April 28, 2008

really? no, really?

Penney Kome over at The Writers Union of Canada sent me a link to an article in Lawyer's Weekly by a University of Western Ontario law professor, one Mark Perry, who is advising that "copyright reform in Canada needs to be seen in the context of the changing creative environment."

As someone who works for a living in the changing creative environment, I'm excited by this idea, until I notice Professor Perry is not talking about me. The environment he refers to is one exclusively concerned with conducers "those who both consume and produce in the new age of mass involvement in creating content." This environment, apparently, is in contrast to what Perry describes as "the romantic ideal of the author." Seems something called the Internet is all wrapped up in this radical change as well.

I'd like to assure Dr. Perry that the 100,000 or so professional authors (content creators) represented by the Creators Copyright Coalition and its membership groups are only appropriately romantic and not at all idealistic. We are very real, very grounded in reality, and our concerns about our own copyright cannot be ignored in any reform process. We also work on the Internet.

I question a couple of assumptions posited by this article:

"... most copyrights are in the hands of corporations."

Really? Since any creative text is protected by copyright at the moment it is created, I don't see how this central point to Dr. Perry's argument can be true. Most copyrights, in fact, are probably in the hands of creators, either professional or conducive (?). Where corporations have gotten their hands on creative copyright, I would hope they paid well for it. That, in many cases, they have not paid well for it, is another issue that concerns creators; but I don't see much concern for it in this article.

"Serious commentators, at least those who do not have fiscal interests in the outcome, are looking to enhance "the public good" aspects of the balances that must be struck between protection and reuse."

Everyone in the discussion has a fiscal interest in the outcome of copyright reform. Wanting things to be "free" rather than "paid for" is fiscally interesting, no? The implication that money colours the opinions of certain interested parties and not others strikes me as quite inaccurate.

Finally, Dr. Perry advocates for a reform process "that will stimulate creativity by promoting ideas of consumer-created content and a "sharing" culture."

So, we're going to legislate "sharing," are we? Let me try that on my pre-schoolers, and I'll report back on the results. My guess is that sharing works best when it's voluntary. Taking away someone's ability to decide what and when they'll "share" under copyright is less about a creative commons and more about the end of professional creativity altogether. I wonder if Dr. Perry analyzed all the implications of such a scheme before promoting it.


Infringer said...

Well you have to admit John, that we send conflicting messages to our children; Teaching preschoolers to share their toys, then when they get older teaching them that they can't share what is protected by copyright.

As for the rest of the differences between you and Mark Perry, perhaps a link to your previous post will clarify.

Anonymous said...

How do you get from "promoting ideas of [...] a sharing culture" to "legislate sharing" ?

Seems to me that you've either misrepresented Penney Kome's ideas or you picked the wrong quote to illustrate your point.

John said...


The article is written by Mark Perry, not Penney Kome.

The context of the entire article is legislative reform, and this specific reference begins with talk of developing a copyright regime. My interpretation of Perry's argument came from a reading of the entire article.

Hope that clears things up.