Reaction to Captain Copyright

Lately, Canadian pro-restricting copyright groups have had a difficult time trying to get their message across due to controversy over the various issues.

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

Now with a new figure that has been rolled out by Access Copyright, more controversy has been stirred up as a result. That, of course, is the Captain Copyright fictional cartoon character. Reaction to this new character has been less then a warm welcome.

“I’m going to do something that the folks at haven’t given me permission to do. I’m going to link to them… and then I’m going to say thing that may “be damaging or cause harm to the reputation of, Access Copyright” and when they “contact you (ed: me) and request the link be removed, you (ed: I) agree to comply with that request promptly” – well, I’m just not going to do it.” writes “Graham” of, “Access Copyright – you don’t represent the rights or desires of the artists – I’ll direct you to the Canadian Music Creators Coalition as evidence of that. Your actions – bringing a biased view into schools – is irresponsible and underhanded.”

Graham appears to not be alone. In the BoingBoing entry on this entitled “Canadian copyright agency launches kids’ propaganda campaign”, one user responded “I found this in their Intellectual Property Disclaimer notice (at the bottom of each page) under the title ‘Links from Other Websites’, where they reserve the right to prevent people linking to their site who are critical of them. So much for free speech!”

“Seriously, readers, 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.”

Writes Howard Knopf, a lawyer residing in Ottawa, Canada, “Is this the same Access Copyright that wants the Canadian government to enable it to license the Internet and to greatly increase its already considerable power and revenues through extended collective licensing? Is this the same Access Copyright that is already getting more than $30 million a year, mostly of taxpayers’ money, for its indemnity scheme? Is this the same Access Copyright that believes in “respect for copyright”?”

Michael Geist, a critically acclaimed commentator on copyright issues comments, “While my first reaction to the site was that it is just silly, as I dug deeper, I now find it shameful. These materials, targeting kids as young as six years old, misrepresents many issues and proposes classroom activities that are offensive.”

Michael goes in depth into the website, “Activity Four, which provides a situational exercise, is designed to teach kids about the limits of copyright law. The kids are to be asked about a music download and the printing of a class exercise in a textbook. Teachers are advised in the Line Master that “a person can download a song off the Internet where they pay for it or get permission” and “a person cannot copy a song that they have legally downloaded for someone else.” There is no mention of private copying which may cover the first example. In the second example, it is true that you cannot private copy for someone else, but that person can make their own private copy. The lesson continues by stating that “permission is needed to reproduce all of the work that you have written.” There is no reference to user rights, which are particularly relevant in the education context.”

“Incredibly, it gets worse. Activity Two seeks to build respect for the copyright symbol by asking the grade one students to role play by seeking copyright permission and to sell their copyright work.”

“When the students move on to Grades Three to Six, they write a letter to the editor supporting copyright.”

He then concludes, “Our children need to develop a love of learning, a passion for creativity, and an appreciation for the arts and sciences. These exercises provide none of that. Instead, they stoop to a level I have not previously seen in Canadian copyright. They are an embarrassment that should not find their way into any classroom in the country.”

“While my wife is a high-school teacher in the public system, it is the possibility that this type of offensive material would be “taught” in public institutions that has made me a supporter of Home Schooling.” Russell McOrmond wrote in one posting.

While there is an anti-linking and anti-criticism policy, it seems that there has been nothing but linking and criticisms online. As it currently stands, it would seem highly likely that criticism for this cartoon character will gradually worsen as awareness grows.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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