Wednesday, August 17, 2011

is Canadian content being intentionally shunned in Canada's universities?

This morning in the Globe and Mail, I argue yes, it is:

Heading Back to School? Hope You've Memorized the Copyright Act.

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(image courtesy The Globe and Mail)


Crockett said...

Some needed clarifications to John Degen's suppositions ...

"The price for these new licences was designed to reflect assumed new and increased uses."

Many Universities have stated that for them the uses that Access Copyright want to licence are actually decreasing, not increasing. As well as the possibility of their catalog overlapping with other services they subscribe to.

"The administration that used to pay for a few thousand course packs of Canadian content now wishes to pay for none."

While this may be true, it is not necessarily so that they don't want to pay for the content at all, but rather want to pay in a different manner. Alternative subscriptions, direct licensing and use of free open licence resources also play a role.

Further, possible increases in fair educational uses of content, if the government proceeds as stated with their soon to come copyright law amendments, will have a huge impact on this debate.

Crockett said...

John you are a very passionate man that I think truly cares about writers and other creators, yet I think your passion blinds you from some of the foibles of your peers.

It seems that you find no fault in Access Copyright's increases or demands, as you often tell us the impasse at hand falls on the 'Bad Faith' of the education sector for refusing to negotiate.

It may be just me, but if someone is being reasonable and has something I need, I will work with them until we can come to an agreement. So what went wrong here? Are AC's prices and requirements too high and invasive or are the universities just being greedy pigheaded fools?

The are a few things though that you forgot to mention in your op-ed; cost increases in the range of 200%+, demands for a mandate to private university server access, and collected funds being used to fill the litigation war chest ... it's not a big mystery the post-secondary sector doesn't want to deal with you.

I understand your concern that some material may not be available to students because of the opt-out, yet Access Copyright has the option to offer those materials on a single transaction basis, which has been requested, yet refuses to do so, is this to strengthen their bargaining position or for some other reason?

So then, who exactly is keeping these materials out of Canadian Student's hands and blocking payments to the writers? One must wonder if the unreasonableness is really all one sided?

John said...


Your tactic of mass-posting unrelated comments to distract from the substance of the argument at hand is not unique. In fact, it is the standard MO in comment sections across the Internet whenever copyright is discussed from the artist perspective.

You have added a fresh new element to things, though. While most free culture apologists work from a script, you have decided just to copy and paste your own past comments from site to site. That must save you a lot of time and energy in your hobby.

I value good faith discussion on the real facts presented in any copyright discussion. For that reason alone, I have found the Michael Geist blog (where you seem to rent a vacation home) to be the epicentre of "free culture" agit-prop and groupthink.

Anyone is allowed to comment on my blog (unlike in many of the free culture fora, including Boing Boing), but only those who act in good faith are really welcome. You seem to labour under the misapprehension that you have fooled me into taking you seriously as someone who only wants the best for artists. Let me relieve you of that misapprehension and allow you to return to more fruitful territory.

I hope I've made my point.

Sandy Crawley said...

@ Crockett,

The Globe and Mail shut down comments/replies on this piece so I'm answering you here. You asked why the recalcitrant universities would resist setting up a reporting system to monitor digital copying. The answer is, the same reason they refused to negotiate licenses and then resisted the Copyright Board Tariff: They want something for nothing. And if the new copyright bill mirrors the old one, with an undefined exception for fair dealing in education, they will continue to force legal action. It is a very retrograde attitude that reveals short term thinking. Kind of like most of our politicians seem to be exhibiting.

(BTW, I am Alexander only at the Globe...)

Crockett said...

John, If your point is that I am not welcome on your blog I hope you also get the hint from the overwhelming derision you receive at Geist's site. But then again were would we be without your single mindedness and vehemence to embolden us on?

If you stop there, then I'll reciprocate here, otherwise no.

Honestly, John your double standards I think are your most endearing quality.

Crockett said...

I do see that header here is referring to the G&M op-Ed that proceeded yours, though yours was mentioned in the description on your main blog page. Even though I did not mass copy my post from your piece in your op-Ed but tailored it to this site, you are correct that it was off topic, my apologies.

As for good faith, the reason I pointed out the double standard above is the lack of good faith you show at Geist's site. If an individual is going to post on a forum their purpose should at least include a willingness to consider the others opinion. As you have stated that is not possible for you there, and with the sour vehmenence you treat others, how is it possible to expect the same in return?

I honestly think if you, and my sometimes equally reactive responses, chaged tack there could be actual productive discussion.

And yes, I do thing artists are important and deserve to make a living like anyone else. It is the sour victimization and harshness that seems to have looped between the camps that is causing the most harm. $8 million fine for sharing a dozen songs, that's just nastiness that disenfranchises people from your plight and cause.

A return to civility and an actual willingness to deal than demand would do everyone good.

John said...


For years, I have been the only dissenting voice on any of Michael Geist's ridiculous blog posts. The rest of the comments have been the standard "lining the pockets of corporations," "lobbyists undermining our democracy" dogma.

There's a difference between being the lone voice of reason in a mob of yes-men, and being just one of the many flying monkeys dispatched to clog comment sections whenever an artist voices opinion.

If you're happy being such a functionary, then by all means continue. Just stop, please stop, also trying to convince me that you have my best interests at heart and that you're looking for compromise. It's not working. You're not good enough at hiding your actual agenda.

I know who you are; you know who you are. Stop pretending.

Someone actually interested in real reform would have stopped doing Geist's dirty work for him years ago. Notice how Geist has said exactly nothing about my op-ed? Why not? He doesn't have to. The monkeys have been released -- the truth is obscured by layers of mud and misinformation. You've done your job well.

Happily, though, I know my opinion piece reached a bunch of desks where it can do some good, and no amount of free culture blather in the comment section will make a difference. Thankfully, there's a segment of society that knows the difference between thoughtful analysis and mindless shouting, and we've all had enough of the blather.

A return to civility? You want folks in Geist's riflescope to return to civility? Do you also counsel deer to return civilly to the hunter's camp?

Honestly, stop being so naive.

Crockett said...

John, your self assurance is admirable if not misplaced, yet you and your peers fail to recognize the law of you reap what you sow.

I had to chuckle at the "the truth is obscured by layers of mud and misinformation". I realize Geist spins for his own emphasis but my goodness John, there has to be some balance, do you not read the press releases from the organizations you seem to admire?

Here are some golden ones:

"$5000 is a licence to steal" ... it may be only the crowd you frequent that thinks 5K is chump change.

"It's Canadian copyright law that is keeping innovative media services out of Canada" ... few bought that one and now even Graham has come out to say it was licencing negotiations after all.

"A copy = a lost sale" ... don't even have to defend that logic fail.

"Billions lost annually" .. based on the above complex math.

Couple that stratospherically inequitable punishments of $8Million fines for uploading 24 songs and the threat of banning users from the net ... the mud you so seem to disdain is I'm afraid all stuck to your shoes.

I consider it a favor to creators everywhere that such self destructive behavior and outright lies be shown for what they are so some semblance of reasonableness can return to the market and broken relationships repaired. You really are your own worst enemies, this has been the core of my message for years.

I'd ask you to not be so naive but I think you would not even be able to see it, which is really the root of your problem.

Crockett said...

Sandy, I have always appreciated your comments and the level politeness in which they are delivered. I would be very interested to hear your arguments and evidence that the universities want to deal for free rather than just in a different manner. Are they not purchasing other points of access and licences. If they only wanted for free why deal at all?

But contrary to John's assertion, I am not naive to think the education industry is as altruistic as John makes out AC to be. To some degree they are in it for as much as they can get. I just hope that somehow the mud and window drapes on both sides can be done away with.

Sandy Crawley said...

@ Crockett,

The universities and the ministries of education who are challenging the Copyright Board tariff at the Supreme Court have shown a willingness to exploit a narrow decision (CCH) for the purpose of evading what I see as their responsibility to Canadian society to ensure access to a broad spectrum of Canadian works in the post-secondary educational sector. It is a large economic sector and there is no reason that it should take unfair advantage of one of its suppliers, the suppliers of knowledge.

Far from exhibiting your call for a "willingness to deal" they have assiduously avoided even coming to a table to do so. All the evidence suggests that the tactic of sourcing materials from collectives outside Canada and from for-profit entities is actually driving up their costs. I can only assume that this is part of a political end-game in the expectation that the ill-defined exception for Fair Dealing under "education" will be introduced unchanged in the next federal attempt to reform copyright. I, for one, hope that this tactic and its larger strategic stance proves unsuccessful as I truly believe it will weaken the fabric of rights protection for original works.

The universities and provincial governments are thinking short-term, aping the corporate sector in many cases. There is a sad lack of creative imagination at play here. The answers aren't simple but their entrenched adversarial attitude isn't even seeking them, alas. I know for a fact that this is not so for the collective that is seeking a resonable accommodation. I hope the federal government will show greater vision.

Crockett said...

Thank you Sandy, it is good to hear of the other side of the table. I do hope the education sector will think of the long term implications as well as the short term pain it was presented with. Purchasing rights from outside Canada would I think include less Canadian content?

At the same time the tariff's stark cost increases and, as you have used elsewhere, the 'ill defined' range of access AC has demanded to universities networks was an unfortunate agitator.

I admit I do tend to react to one side more than the other as the tiring spin of the media sector is so easily prominent (see examples above), and their harshness counterproductive. Yet, I have also acknowledged the more than likely hope of the education sector to bide their time till c-32 redux, which from a strict business perspective is logical but again shortsighted.

So my next questions are, and I honestly ask these in the spirit of learning;

- the USA seems to have a broader fair use education provision. What impact has this had on writers there?

- will it have a similar impact here? why, why not?

- why are materials cleared for such a lower cost in the USA?

- is that expansion of fair dealing in education a + or - to students for the use of material in the classroom.

- it is often said that the quality of post sec higher education in the USA is the highest in the world? If fair use is destructive to the quality/quantity of the educational materials, then how does that compute?

Thanks again Sandy for taking the time, I look forward to hearing back from you.