Tuesday, April 17, 2012

how you can tell something important happened for Canadian creators and students

Yesterday, Access Copyright (AC) and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) made a joint announcement about a model collective licence for Canada's post-secondary sector.

While the licence is "model" in that it still has to be adopted by individual universities across the country, the good faith negotiation that brought about this agreement between The Voice of Canada's Universities and The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency signals an end to the ridiculously destructive collective licensing "opt-out" campaign endorsed and/or organized by some of Canada's most comfortable and well-paid free-culture theorists. The opt-out campaign went into full-swing last summer, and created a situation in which a large number of this country's post-secondary students and teachers were forced to spend a complete academic year in legal limbo, finding their way through curriculum copyright complexity with little to no backing from their institutions. In effect, this tiny cabal of tenured professors used their colleagues and students as front-line cannon fodder, expecting others to take real-life legal risks in a battle to justify the theories they teach.

So, how can you tell that this model licence is an important positive development in the real-world copyright relationship between Canada's post-secondary students and Canada's cultural creators? Because not one of those same self-appointed free culture crusaders likes it very much, and because their dear leader is pretending it never even happened.

UWO's Sam Trosow, whose own university broke the opt-out wide open when it signed its own licence agreement with AC, is doing the standard free-culture dance for when things go drastically wrong - act like the powers that be are hiding something. On his new blog (I knew he had a new blog, because the professor's old blog contains this announcement "This web sit (sic) is no longer being updated"), Trosow is calling for the release of the full text of the agreement, implying that there is something evil buried therein. He throws around standard free culture barbs like collusion and overbroad and accuses AC and AUCC of being celebratory in their press release.

In a bizarre turn, U of T's Ariel Katz, who also experienced some free-culture vertigo when his school signed an AC licence some months back, has locked his own disappointed analysis of the model licence behind a password wall. I'd love to openly share with you what this free-culture theorist thinks about the licence but, as I'm not a subscriber to his thinking, I'm not allowed to read it.

Finally, over at Michael Geist's blog at the University of Ottawa (U of O was never actually part of the opt-out, btw), there is no mention whatsoever of the AC/AUCC agreement. After campaigning hard for the opt-out, and publishing a series of vicious attacks against Access Copyright, Canada's free-culture megaphone is strangely silent on possibly the most-important development in his entire story.

You know something good has happened for Canada's cultural creators when Michael Geist ignores it.

UPDATE: Someone in the increasingly barren free-culture fort must have picked up the red phone and made a call to the University of Ottawa. Professor Geist has formulated a sputtering comment on the model licence. In his latest blog posting, he blames everyone and everything involved for what he insists is "a terrible deal for AUCC."

It's a bad-tempered scattershot, using the sawed-off rhetoric of anti-copyright. Those signing the agreement were "two parties anxious to settle;" it was based on "a broken Copyright Board model;" Access Copyright somehow magically managed the deal despite "relatively weak bargaining position;" the AUCC must have signed because it is not "comfortable with the copyright file," paying out millions without giving it a thought because they see "copyright as a cost, not a cause;" the AUCC is passing costs on to students in order to save millions in legal fees for itself; it was clear the Copyright Board has "fashioned itself as a guardian of the collective;" and the kicker... "AUCC is seemingly more interested in "cost certainty" than in education innovation."

Wow, there's a man having a bad day.

Remember how free culture used to tell us all that the new educational category of fair dealing shouldn't worry Canada's writers and publishers? Funny how Geist is now saying that AUCC shouldn't have signed this deal because with the new category "the law is increasingly on AUCC's side." When the free-culture sales pitch changes with each new development, is it any wonder no-one's buying it?

Even UPDATIER: Oh, the clunky wheels of free culture have started to turn again. Ariel Katz has heard the trumpet, and released his attack from behind its password protection. The takehome point? Access Copyright is like the mafia. The mafia! A collective of Canada's low-wage cultural workers negotiates a fair deal for the use of work its members have created and own the rights to by law, and a law professor making well over a hundred large in a tenured job for life calls us the mafia?

Professor Katz, your "poem" sucks, and your offensive characterization of Canada's artists is a stain on my alma mater. Shame on you.

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Sandy Crawley said...

I must admit I tak pleasure in your pointing out the contradictory positions, the conspiracy theories and the outright paranoia of these free culturists.

As more interested parties catch up with the reality that many academics have been used as pawns by technology companies with a predatory interest in seeing copyright weakened around the globe, I think we may also be seeing early indications of a shame they must feel is more and more difficult to keep secret. If Mssrs. Trussow, Geist and company have read Robert Levine's excellent history of this behaviour, "Free Ride", I'd love to read their reviews...

Gordon Graham said...

Nicely said, John.

I totally agree: Shame on this handful of comfy tenured professors telling impressionable students that Canadian creators don't deserve to eke out a living.

And congratulations to Access Copyright for finally, hopefully, putting an end to this nutty attempt by a few universities to rip off a vulnerable segment of our society.

Get it through your thick skulls, Profs, most writers in Canada earn about as much as your nannies.

John said...

Great point, Sandy. If anyone wants to hear Robert Levine's opinion of the self-appointed protectors of free, listen to my interview with him when he was in town recently:


... and I quote "a lot of these people are just disconnected from reality."