The DOC Supports Expanding Canada’s Fair Dealings

Fair dealings is a very hot topic for debate in Canada. While a select few, namely Barry Sookman, don’t support any expansion on fair dealings, there is a growing chorus of people who support expanding fair dealings in some way. The more recent organization to support an expansion on Fair Dealings is the Documentary Organization of Canada, or the DOC.

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

The copyright debate is currently still in overdrive right now. Many who have tried to characterize the copyright debate as little more than a bunch of networked users versus big content have been almost entirely from the minority voice who wants to restrict copyright in Canada. In reality, the copyright debate spans much farther than just two kinds of people. It’s a total fabrication that the copyright debate is just a simple little issue that needs little attention.

In fact, in some respects, the issues surrounding file-sharing in the copyright debate have almost taken a side-seat for larger issues such as digital locks and fair dealings. This theme backs up earlier evidence that Canada is a country that pays for consumed content. If it was a piracy haven where everyone was just downloading copyrighted works, the digital locks issue would barely surface in the debates since people who download rarely, if ever, have to worry about encountering a digital lock.

The issue of fair dealings has been nearly a broken record had the need for “balance” in the copyright laws haven’t been such a dominant theme already. Fair dealings is an issue for most people who are interested in creating content in the first place. A chairwoman for the Writers Union of Canada wasn’t exactly supportive of expanding fair dealings and said how university faculty are on salary while contract writers were not. If one were to presume this was the only real part of the debate, they’d be greatly mistaken as there are several forms of other fair dealings as well – well beyond just writing.

The DOC has informed ZeroPaid that it supports expanding fair dealings for people who create documentary films. Here’s their position on the copyright reform debate:

DOC leads the charge on documentarians’ position to avail themselves of a Fair Dealing exclusion for their productions and to that end, works in tandem with the academic, legal and production communities to publicize this information.

While the issue of fair dealings with respect to documentarian’s for some might be vague and distant to some, in 2006, the issue of copyright as it relates to documentarian’s was a huge issue. The flash point controversy was Death By Popcorn where corporate owners used copyright to halt the production of that documentary surrounding a hockey team. It brought the harsh reality of copyright for documentarian’s right into the forefront of the public conscious.

“We are storytellers.” SUZANNE CHISHOLM, director of Saving Luna commented. She continued, “We believe in the power of narrative nonfiction storytelling to reach human emotions and explore the experience of life on this planet. We believe there is intrinsic value to society and to other lives in telling stories that try to describe things that matter with accuracy and honesty. Some documentary filmmakers want to use their work as advocates, to change what people do; we want to use our work as empathetic storytellers, to understand what people do.”

Given that award-winning documentaries are produced in Canada, it’s almost a travesty to see how many hurdles producers have to go through – and copyright is one of those big hurdles with such a tight fair dealings exemption in copyright while their American counterparts enjoy a much broader “Fair Use” exemption. One could argue it’s an unfair advantage in a way.

With the DOC, and their 800 members, arguing for an expansion of Fair Dealings, it drives the point home that there are many content creators seeking a loosened copyright law in some form or another to make it easier to make content in the first place. As Lawrence Lessig once said, innovation always builds on the past. The tighter copyright laws are, the harder it is to make content such as documentaries as they often end up incorporating other peoples works – inadvertently (i.e. on someones shirt) or otherwise.

Some might argue that tighter copyright laws will save jobs and help the economy. It’s a somewhat amusing claim given that the DOC “outputted $440 million in 2005-2006 (latest available figures) and generated over 15,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada”. An entity pulling in so much for the Canadian economy is asking for a fair dealings exemption – loosening copyright laws for the purpose of creating content.

The copyright debate has already had its dramatic twists and turns. A couple have argued for keeping fair dealings the way they are. Many, now including the DOC, are either directly or indirectly firing back asking for a loosening in the copyright law – in this case, expanding fair dealings for the purpose of documentaries. Who knew there were more players in the copyright debate than consumers and the big four foreign record companies and the foreign owned movie industry?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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