The Rights of Creators

Bill Freeman, writer and chair of the Creators’ Copyright Coalition published the following article in today’s National Post. As an unpublished songwriter, I can appreciate that I would, one day hopefully, be in a position to reap the benefits of a successful song – something that I’ve created… As an ISP customer and media “downloader”, I’m not so sure how much I support the proposed SAC levy (see below for link), but it does seem to be the most feasible “tariff” system to ensure, in music as media anyway, that songwriters are compensated… It does not need to be $5.00/mo. however… $1 or even 50 cents would be a good place to start… You tell me…

New bill next week to bring copyright law into Internet age

Financial Post
: Yet again, the Canadian government will begin the difficult task of revising our copyright law when new legislation is tabled in Parliament next week. The effort is bound to be controversial. There are strong and influential interests on every side. Some user groups will argue for the free distribution of all content that appears on the Internet. Corporate interests, on the other hand, will argue for strong controls and restrictions on the distribution of all copyright material.

Creators occupy the middle ground somewhere between these two extremes. We want to protect our work, but we also want it widely distributed. Creators depend on their copyrights to grant us the right to earn money from our works, but we also need access to other creators’ works. Perhaps more than anyone, we understand that a balance between the interests of users and copyright owners is essential.

Canadians should take an interest in the new copyright legislation. Our information society is increasingly driven by the economic sector reliant on copyright. In 2001, some 131,000 creators in Canada spent the majority of their time working at their art. This does not include the thousands who depend on creators for work in the film, television, publishing, visual arts and music industries, and it does not include those in the computer software industry whose work is also protected by copyright.

Every professional creator in this country is an independent entrepreneur. Most of us work alone and find it difficult to promote and protect our work. Our environment seems to change every day. The Internet is providing new opportunities to deliver our creations to our audience, but inadequate legislation is making it difficult to protect our work in this new technological world.

Musicians are the canary in the mine, showing what can happen when copyright legislation gives inadequate protection. Today virtually anyone can download music on to a home computer without paying a fee, and almost every recording artist and songwriter has lost substantial income from pirating. This is only the beginning. Soon technology will allow the downloading of feature films the day they are released. Whole libraries of books are already available online. To creators, this provides a new and innovative way of marketing our works, but the content has to have adequate protection or it will be “ripped off ” just like music.

Creators are exploring the Internet as a marketing tool. Again, the musicians are pointing the way. The Songwriters Association of Canada has proposed a system to share music on peer-to-peer networks for a modest fee [read more about the proposal here]. Canadian book publishers are developing electronic publishing programs, and filmmakers are discussing similar projects. For creators, the Internet holds out the promise that they will have more control over their work and hopefully gain more income from it.
Producers and publishers also need copyright protection if they are going to operate in the world of the Internet. It costs money to edit, design, print and market a new book. Feature films today cost millions of dollars. The companies that put up that sort of money expect a return or they will not take the risk.

All of this is making us feel uneasy. The government promises that the new legislation will bring Canadian copyright law into the Internet age, but what will be in the legislation? Here are some major issues worth watching. Moral Rights Unlike the United States, Canada follows the European tradition that grants creators of copyright moral rights in their works, giving them greater control over how their work may be changed or used and how they will be credited for the use of their works. Will moral rights be reaffirmed and strengthened? Pirating How to reduce infringement while allowing a strong public domain? Creators need the right to charge a fee for their work, offer it under collective licenses, distribute it under licenses such as the Creative Commons or give it away. Internet Service Providers Creators support “notice and takedown,” a system already in effect in Europe and the United States. The legislation should give copyright holders the right, within reasonable limits, to require ISPs to take down illegally distributed material . Fair Dealing Creators support the fairdealing provision for the purpose of private study and research, but not of commerce. Educational exemption The Ministers of Education want to exempt all material that can be accessed freely on the Internet if it is not marked “copyright,” and its reproduction clearly prohibited. This is not necessary. Material on the Internet can be handled easily by collective licensing. Educators should not be trying to balance their budgets with an exemption that gives them such extensive free use of copyright works. Licensing Canadian creators and producers have formed licensing agencies like Access Copyright and SOCAN that facilitate the use of content. Such collective licensing agencies, which enable customers to access material and provide income for creators and producers, should be strengthened. Technical Protection Measures Producers and publishers say they need to stop the circumvention of TPMs and prevent the removal of digital rights management information from works. Computer programmers say that being able to circumvent TPMs is fundamental to programming and must not be made illegal.
The sides are shaping up in the copyright debate. Already the blogs are spilling over with impassioned statements supporting or opposing various views. As creators, we hope that the public understands that creators’ works need protection if they are to have the chance to earn a decent living.

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