Access Copyright Responds to Criticism

When Access Copyright initiated the Captain Copyright education initiative, few imagined the focus would divert from its intended purpose – at least to this extent.

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

Rather, Access Copyright’s Captain Copyright has earned substantial criticism based on its perceived bias approach to copyright education. Recently, Access Copyright made a public statement in response to the feedback it received.

One of the condemnations initially for Captain Copyright was its linking policy. Howard Knopf commented on the original linking policy, “it shouldn’t be necessary to say this – but it ironically is apparently necessary in view of just the kind of propaganda that disseminates these days – that linking to a website and criticizing it doesn’t require permission. To suggest otherwise is nothing less than an insult to the public intelligence.” Access Copyright responded to such criticism, “We are […] saddened by the misconceptions that have been perpetuated regarding our web linking policy. We want to be absolutely clear that is was never the purpose of the policy to limit debate regarding copyright or criticism of Access Copyright. The purpose of the policy was to protect children from inappropriate content by restricting the types of sites that could link to the Captain Copyright materials. While we have seen similar language in, for example, the policies of school boards, we acknowledge that it was not clear in this case, so we have hired a law firm with expertise in this area to review and revise the policy.”

There was another, much larger aspect of the uproar that occurred later on. This is, of course, the CLA’s (Canadian Library Association) actions both in their resolution to submit an open letter and the actual letter sent. On top of this was the criticism that there was a lack of focus on alternative licenses such as ‘Creative Commons’ as well as other parts of the Canadian law such as ‘Fair Dealings’ “We have already secured a number of subject matter experts and educators to serve on an advisory panel to review and revise the existing Captain Copyright materials, as well as assist with the creation of new materials focusing on topics such as the Creative Commons, fair dealing, and the public domain.” Access Copyright responded, “One organization, the Canadian Library Association, has, unfortunately, declined our invitation to work with us on making these improvements and has chosen instead to publicly condemn the site. Access Copyright has nothing but respect for the CLA and its members, so we are saddened that the CLA has chosen not to work with us on improving the site and materials for educators.”

Access Copyright also commented, “The site was launched as a pilot project in February and not widely promoted so that we could assess the feedback we received and add to or refine the materials. Access Copyright’s intention has always been to present a neutral and balanced view of copyright with these materials and it is unfortunate that some feel we have not met this goal. We have given very careful consideration to the criticisms we’ve received and we have learned a great deal from this experience, including what we can do to improve this tool for educators. We are taking action to make these improvements, and one of the first things we have done is to invite organizations with differing perspectives on copyright issues to participate in the process.”

While the CLA did make mention of the suggestion of shutting down Captain Copyright, Access Copyright says, “A great deal of work has gone into acting on the feedback we have received and there is still more to be done before we re-launch the site and distribute the revised lesson plan kits that have been requested by educators from across the country. We have repeated our invitation to the Canadian Library Association to be a part of this work and to help us ensure a balanced perspective on copyright is presented. We will continue to work to meet this goal, and a revised website and materials that represent all perspectives on copyright issues will be available to educators later this year.”

While some say Captain Copyright was nothing more than a propaganda campaign for young children, it appears as though this was not at all the intentions set forth by Access Copyright. When the site re-launches, it may prove to be an innocent education tool as opposed to a one-sided view as painted by many people who responded to this.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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