PMO to announce changes to Copyright Act

Submitted by martha on May 5, 2010 – 2:16pm

Today, I heard from a friend that a new Copyright Act is indeed imminent. As anyone who has watched my appearance at the Toronto Town Hall Copyright Consultation my own views are two-fold: first, that whatever is done we need public legal education on copyright for creators, users and everyone in between. Second, after reading multitudes of submissions and talking to many people smarter than I I actually think we need less law not more. By that I mean we simply don’t yet know where this technology is taking us. If anything there is an enormous diversity of views out there within the creative communities about copyright and its usefulness: one musician insisted that he did not want his work up on the internet until he heard from a fan in Germany. It is his life’s work and he has struggled mightily to preserve its integrity – he wants to control it but he needs the listener to give it life and new meaning. This a struggle that varies from person to person. The struggle may take a somehwat different form for a painter or photographer but the views still vary as does the perspective on control and integrity.

If you have any doubt listen to the story of sampling in Copyright Criminals and hear the nuanced views of many who have both made money and those who have not at the hands of an industry that is less interested in creation than it is in economic units. The law as it stands now is broken but fixing it could have grave consequences for artists if it is not done right. I have just completed an 8 day, 5 city tour talking about copyright in BC to more than 300 people. I can say that few artists I spoke to had even heard about the consultation. When we actually started talking about the Act there was a lot of confusion about copyright: many asked the same question how much remix is too much? Whether painters, photographers, scuptors, T-shirt designers, graphic artists, comic book illustrators, filmmakers or musicians that was the predominant issue. Whether it was a Google Image Search, FlickR or Terms of Use on a website overhwelmingly artists want to better access to works in all media, as well as their audiences. All with attribution. It was about control rather than money. When the conversations turned to reform efforts many expressed reservations about both the attempts by industry to lock down technology as well as those users who want “free” access since they don’t really know what that means to their livelihood – whether it is a writer who gets a cheque due to the Public Lending Right or a visual artist who gets a cheque due reprographic rights. For most they are not the industry they are individuals who find voice through their work and we are the richer for it I think.

Though Michael Geist and I have some disagreements I think anyone reading this should read his recent comments about the need for balance and compromise in any reform to copyright. You can read his comments here. More needs to be heard and read from creators and more. The Creators Copyright Coalition has also posted its views. The members of the coalition are not the only views of creators, however, it is important to remember that without some form of collective licensing and collection most artists would not have any remuneration from their work. Write to your MP and tell them what you think. For those of us in BC we need to contact James Moore, Minister of Heritage.

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