Charlie Angus introduces proposed changes to Copyright Act

Submitted by martha on March 28, 2010 – 2:54pm

Last week in Ottawa, Charlie Angus introduced a private member’s bill proposing changes to the Copyright Act. The proposed changes include a levy on iPod (and similar digital devices) to provide a new revenue stream to creators, and an expansion of fair dealing. Since its introduction last month an open letter has been circulating supporting the proposed changes to fair dealing. I have been reading and following some of the commentary and share the following thoughts.

While I agree with some of the principles contained I would disagree with the assertion that “fairness” as a legal doctrine will engender fairness. A significant part of my private practice involves advising artists who remix in various formats as well as those who actively share. What is fair to a large publicly funded institution (a library) may vary radically from the individual collage artist in Northern BC who is using National Geographic images in her work. Think about reasonableness as a legal standard and the critique will be obvious I suspect. Conflating creators and innovators as is done in the letter is also problematic. The language of innovation can often obstruct rather than clarify. Anyone who doubts that should have a look at the Conference Board report in its discussion of intellectual property that breaks what is art into economic units. Finally, I remain somewhat concerned about those who claim they understand the importance of ensuring adequate remuneration for artists while doing very little to actually make that happen. Every attempt to discuss some form of levy or funds based on usage of whatever medium fails to get traction when users/consumers claim they are being “taxed”. There is I think a significant amount of misinformation about royalties and the value to creators of collecting societies. It seems to me that the way arts and culture is funded ought to be part of the copyright conversation. Artists and many who work with them felt left out of the Copyright Consultation: after a screening of RiP: A Remix Manifesto at Emily Carr a 3rd year student stood up and asked what any of it had to with her art. I have heard this time and again when the subject of copyright comes up. Users can and should be engaging more directly with the creators of the content they are so anxious to access. Until we have more of that kind of conversation, I think we will remain at something of a legal (and intellectual) impasse. And sadly we will have ceded the ground to the industries and media moguls that continue to control (and impoverish) us all.

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