In my posting I predicted a nasty backlash from the free culture crowd. "Immediate and vitriolic criticism" is how I put it. And so it goes. The video went out early Tuesday morning, and the first bile was vented before noon. Check my previous posting for examples, or just go check the YouTube location of the video in the link above.
One of the quickest commenters was self-styled copyfighter Cory Doctorow. Mr. Doctorow is a very successful sci-fi and Y/A novelist, who has a side career lecturing every other writer about free culture.
I engaged with Cory on YouTube, because it was clear to me that he was labouring under a misunderstanding about the video and the opinions expressed therein. Specifically, I questioned Cory on his understanding of Canadian copyright law and the fair dealing provision.
Here's Doctorow on the subject:
"...educators should -- along with journalists and critics -- be allowed to quote "non-significant" portions of creative works without permission. I learned to write in the Canadian school system from teachers who felt free to use handouts with brief quotes, without paying a license. Why should I get paid for what I got for free?"
And here's my response:
"collective licensing is not about brief quotes -- it's about large-scale copying for industrial use. Educators ALREADY have the exact same fair dealing rights as the rest of us where quoting is concerned."
Soon after this point in the discussion, Doctorow bowed out. I thought maybe he'd gone away to do some reading on actual copyright law, but a tweet from Michael Geist later in the day pointed me to a posting on Boing Boing where Doctorow ramped up his attack on Canadian writers, calling us and our copyright collective liars for daring to understand fair dealing better than he does. You can see that posting here:
Canadian copyright collecting society uses lies to pit creators against schools
It seemed to me this posting depended on the same fatal misunderstanding of fair dealing to make its execrable points about Canadian writers, so I commented to that effect. A subsequent commenter accused me of intentionally confusing the issue and suggested the collective I belong to is "parasitic." I attempted to correct the facts there as well.
Today, I've noticed two things. First, parts of one of my comments on Boing Boing have been "disemvoweled" -- all the vowels have been removed from the words to make them near impossible to read with any comfort. Also my years-old Boing Boing account has suddenly been canceled. I can no longer comment as myself on Boing Boing.
Free culture loves to make the point that they mean free as in speech, not free as in beer. I see now what this means is that the speech that is free is Mr. Doctorow's, while mine is attacked, censored and denied.
BTW, all credit to Boing Boing -- they are honest about their disrespect for comments. Their comment policy states:
"Offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or disemvoweled."
I guess I offended Mr. Doctorow. Interestingly, their comment policy also states that they want:
"Factual corrections! We make mistakes, we fix 'em."
Since the bulk of my comment was a factual correction, I do expect to see Boing Boing's correction about Canadian fair dealing any minute now.
Aaaany minute now.
Here's my Boing Boing comment, with all the vowels attached (the revoweled sections are in italics):
The confusion you're experiencing is the result of facts colliding with your ideological worldview. I'm sure it's hard cutting through all the talking points coming from the free culture epicenter - are you also on Geist's mailing list, or does he just feed Cory?
The fact is, you and Cory both are just flat-out wrong about how fair dealing works in Canadian classrooms. There isn't a teacher or professor in the land who is restricted from exercising the right to quote, or any other fair dealing right enjoyed by the rest of us Canadian citizens. Wrong is what you are. How else can I say it?
But I want to thank you for, perhaps unintentionally, making the connection between the expanded fair dealing Geist is campaigning for (which would be a significant and costly change in the balance of copyright in Canada) and getting universities and school boards out of their collective license responsibilities. Canadian writers have received a lot of condescending pats on the head from the free culture advocates. "Don't worry, there's still the six-part test set out by the Supreme Court. No-one's trying to deep-six your rights or destroy your established licensing structures."
Except that's exactly what is being attempted, and you have just admitted it. No fair dealing right allows for the massive, industrial copying of large sections of published works into coursepacks. Yet as course materials move from physical to digital packaging, the free culture lobby is trying to argue that somehow the exact same actual use of the exact same material will suddenly be fair. The record of this advice from Geist and others is public and goes back at least half a decade.
To the anonymous Canadian writer, I'm not sure how anyone could think that noting the fact that a teacher or janitor is paid for their work constitutes an "attack" on those professions. Then again, when the full influence of the Boing Boing authority calls it an attack, I can see a lot of folks buying that line.
Oh, and Happy Freedom to Read Week next week, everyone. Especially you, Mr. Doctorow!