Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Howard Knopf, "Excess Access Copyright Tariff ruling," Excess Copyright, June 26, 2009

[This beginning of this article is heavy on the side of technical terms that are not explained. For example, "K-12 reprography" refers to making copies for classroom use in schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. FTE is an abbreviation for "Full Time Equivalent" which is a concept used by teachers and their employers to blend part-time students and full-time students into a single number.

Access Copyright is one of a growing number of Canadian organizations demanding and getting a tariff for the use of material that is copyrighted by their members. Mostly it represents a variety of writers and their publishers. Music, moving picture, broadcasting, and software companies each negotiate separate, usually multiple, sets of tariffs.

It isn't working. This February, CARFAC (Canadian Artists Representation Le Front des Artistes Canadien), an Access Copyright member, noted the widening gap between wealth created and wealth earned by Canadian visual artists.

Ottawa, February 4, 2009 – Recently released statistics from Hill Strategies shows that the discrepancy between the wealth created and the wealth earned by visual artists has widened.

While the cultural sector contributes more than $46 billion to the Canadian economy, visual artists earned an average of $13,976 in 2005. This is down from $20,936, in 2000, and $6,824 below the Statistics Canada low-income cutoff.

Breaking the numbers down gives an even bleaker picture. The median, or typical, earnings for a visual artist is less than $8,000 placing them in a position of extreme low-income. CARFAC has discovered that even Governor General Award winning artists find it difficult if not impossible to make a living from their art. Some have incomes that fall significantly below the national average and others work full time jobs to subsidize their practice.
It is a little reminiscent of what has happened to farmers, or for that matter codfish and rainforests. The middlemen in a dysfunctional, globalized, mass-distribution system incapable of living within its means and driven to desperation by the inevitable paying of the piper want you and your loved ones to pay more for something you thought you had already paid for, i.e, negative externalities and other market failures, bad decisions, deferred costs and transferred risks.

Will the Copyright Board's decision enable students to learn more more easily? Will it make teaching better? Will it nourish those who create content? Will it, in any small way, make the world a better place? Doubtful. More likely it will open the door to more Pirates Bay and Jammie Thomas cases, this time among teachers who are already overworked and school districts that are strapped for cash.

As usual, Knopf offers some useful tidbits that make ploughing through the whole article well worth the struggle. He isn't brief or folksy, but he is thorough and pragmatic--and he's on our side. -jlt]

While both sides will no doubt claim some element of victory, the Copyright Board's decision today in the K-12 reprography matter is bad news for Canadian educators, librarians, students, and taxpayers. The price of knowledge just went up a lot today in Canada.

Access Copyright (“AC”) was opposed by the provincial Ministers of Education (other than Quebec) and each of the Ontario School Boards (“the Educators”). It took that Board almost two years to issue a decision that essentially divides the amount sought by AC ($8.92) and the amount proposed by the Educators of $2.43 per FTE more or less down the middle to arrive at $5.16 per FTE. The exact arithmetic average would have been $5.68. Oh yes - there is a lot of detail about fair dealing - with a little bit of water in everybody's wine.

  ...the landmark 2004 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in CCH v. LSUC ...opens the door to fair dealing for purposes of research or private study, and says in crystal clear language that copying of an entire work may well be fair dealing.

Read the rest, including links to primary sources, here =>
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