Access Copyright – Copyright Debate Will Rob You Of Your Livelihood

It seems Access Copyright, the same collective responsible for the Captain Copyright fiasco a few years back, has hit the panic button over the formal copyright debate happening in Canada. You’d think that a collective who watches over written works among other things would be highly adept to reading comments. Unfortunately, a recent press release would have you wondering if they bother getting all of their facts straight first.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Reading through the comments and transcripts, there’s been a lot of insightful comments with regards to the copyright debate being run by the Canadian government. One of the themes throughout the consultation has been allowing uses that are already legal in Canada for copyrighted works even though there is a digital lock on it. Another theme is an expansion on fair dealings, something many commentators and creators of works would more than likely find thrilling because it would allow greater flexibility when it comes to producing content. Another theme, which ties more closely with Access Copyright’s latest comments, is alternative ways creators can get paid in a digital environment.

Unfortunately, if you just read their press release entitled, “Copyright Debate Takes Aim at Your Livelihood”, you’d think that the consultation was nothing more than random people telling the government that people don’t deserve to get paid for their work. If one were to actually read through the consultation, such comments would either be extremely rare or non-existent. Very few, if any, are saying creators don’t get paid for their work in the consultation.

“This is because an important aspect of these consultations is being expressed online,” the press release states, “and that debate is dominated by individuals who do not agree you should get fair compensation for digital and other reproductions of your works.”

This is, unfortunately, either an ignorant statement or an outright lie. What this comment is doing is scaremongering their own members into believing something that is simply not happening. First of all, already, there are people from all walks of life, from scholars, to artists, to software developers to average users to business all commenting on the consultation. Second of all, if one were to actually read the commentary, even just some of it, one would realize that you would be extremely hard pressed to find anyone saying artists don’t deserve to get paid for their work. Already, there is an established consensus that people do deserve to get paid for their works in the consultation.

“It’s a simple fact that users outnumber us. But Canadian users involved in the online debate are so adept at leveraging the internet and social networks to their advantage, there’s a danger that your voices as Canadian creators and publishers will be drowned out by the chatter.” The press release further reads.

Unfortunately, those two sentences is also misleading to their own members. While a number of people at the consultation are average consumers, numerous content creators are also there expressing their opinions. In reality, content creators are a large part of the consultation and are in no danger of being completely drowned out by any one other single stakeholder. The reality of the consultation is also the fact that there are several large stakeholders involved including businesses, software developers, game developers, musicians, librarians, museum people, educators, the government (crown copyrights being a hot topic), novelists, publishers, record labels, consumers, critics, distributors, pharmaceutical companies, telecommunication companies, essayists, photographers, poets, and scholars to name a portion of them. It’s not a small consultation and it’s not just about one or two stakeholders. It’s a large number of stakeholders involved and no one stakeholder, so far, has been necessarily singled out in the whole process either positively or negatively.

“Your interests need to be expressed as forcefully as possible, and it’s up to you to get involved to make that happen.” The press release continues.

Probably the only positive thing in this press release is the fact that Access Copyright is letting their voice be heard and encouraging individual members to do the same. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, misleading their members in such a manner and saying that its members needs to have their points of views “as forcefully as possible” is wrongheaded. Whatever happened to having your point of view being voiced in a civil and polite manner? Certainly, at the end of the first round table, Minister Tony Clement noted, “as I anticipated, there, you know, we’re all polite, Canada is a polite society so I did have to read between the lines a little bit as to see there was some slight disagreements around the table.”

The question is, is Access Copyright trying to get their members to try and polarize the debate and dumb it down to, “Your stealing our work”? Is Access Copyright trying to upset the civility of the debate thus far? It’s one thing to voice your opinion, question someone else’s comments or even encourage other observers to voice a similar opinion, it’s quite another to use misleading or false information and encourage combative behaviour in an otherwise civilized debate. For those reasons, Access Copyright’s language was uncalled for.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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