Debating the future course of copyright in academia

Copyright and the Modern Academic: Congress 2014 Debate Series
May 25-29, Brock University
St. Catharines, ON

Copyright law is a contentious issue for Canadian academics in their roles as teachers, researchers and creators. Issues such as what counts as “fair dealing,” the future and functioning of copyright collectives like Access Copyright, the “open access” movement and the future of academic journals and academic publishing will affect every facet of academic life in the coming years.

In a series of three debates from May 25-29 and as part of Congress 2014, Canada’s leading copyright experts and practitioners will be tackling these key issues, making these sometimes-complex topics understandable for anyone in academia.

Our debate participants:

Michael Geist, University of Ottawa
Roanie Levy, Access Copyright
Samuel Trosow, University of Western Ontario
Howard Knopf, Macera & Jarzyna LLP
Glenn Rollans, Partner, Brush Education Inc.
Blayne Haggart, Brock University

The debates are open to all Congress attendees and to the general public. If you’re not at Congress, or can’t make the debates, we have you covered. Two of the debates will be livestreamed at http://www.calj-acrs.ca/home.php, and recordings of all three will be available, also at http://www.calj-acrs.ca/home.php.

Event schedule

  1. Fair dealing and Canadian academics: The “Copyright Pentalogy” and beyond

Sunday, May 25, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. PLEASE NOTE THE CORRECTED TIME
Sankey Chambers
This event will be recorded and livestreamed at http://www.calj-acrs.ca/home.php

This session focuses on the effects of recent court cases on academics’ ability to access and copy works, and considers the future direction of copyright reform.
The question: How will recent events around fair dealing affect Canadian academics?
In conversation: Samuel Trosow, University of Western Ontario; Blayne Haggart, Brock University
Main sponsor: Brock University Council for Research in the Social Sciences (CRISS); hosted by the Canadian Association of Learned Journals
AV sponsored by: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
Additional funding: Brock University Faculty of Education

  1. Debating Open Access and the future of academic publishing

Wednesday, May 28, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
South Block Room 215
This event will be recorded and livestreamed at http://www.calj-acrs.ca/home.php

This debate focuses on the opportunities and challenges that the Open Access movement poses for Canadian academics and academic publishing.
The question: Should Open Access be the primary publishing model for Canadian academic and research publishing?
The debaters: Michael Geist, University of Ottawa; Glenn Rollans, Partner, Brush Education Inc.
Sponsoring association: Canadian Communication Association
AV sponsored by: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
Additional funding: Brock University Faculty of Education

  1. Debating Access Copyright: Friend or foe?

Thursday, May 29, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
International Centre Room 119
This event will be recorded and made available at http://www.calj-acrs.ca/home.php

Today’s debate focuses on the future of the much-debated Access Copyright collecting society.
The question: Should Canadian universities opt out of Access Copyright and depend instead on the Copyright Act, including its fair dealing exemption?
The debaters: Roanie Levy, Access Copyright; Howard Knopf, Macera & Jarzyna LLP
Sponsoring association: Canadian Association for Information Science
AV sponsored by: Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education
Additional funding: Brock University Faculty of Education

For further information, please contact:
Blayne Haggart, Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science, Brock University
bhaggart at brocku dot ca

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I’ve written a book!

It’s called Copyfight: The global politics of digital copyright reform. It’s out now from University of Toronto Press. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s it about?

It’s the touching story of a young boy’s coming of age, but it’s also so, so much more. UTP PR folks, take it away!

Widespread file sharing has led content industries – publishers and distributors of books, music, films, and software – to view their customers as growing threats to their survival. Content providers and their allies, especially the U.S. government, have pushed for stronger global copyright policies through international treaties and domestic copyright reforms. Internet companies, individuals, and public-interest groups have pushed back, with massive street protests in Europe and online “internet blackouts” that derailed the 2012 U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But can citizens or smaller countries really stand in the way of the U.S. copyright juggernaut?

To answer this question, Copyfight examines the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization internet treaties that began the current digital copyright regime. Blayne Haggart follows the WIPO treaties from negotiation to implementation from the perspective of three countries: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Using extensive interviews with policymakers and experts in these three countries, Haggart argues that not all the power is in the hands of the U.S. government. Small countries can still set their own course on copyright legislation, while growing public interest in copyright issues means that even the United States might move away from ever-increasing copyright protection.

Pretty interesting, right?

Why should I buy this book?

If you’re interested in the politics of copyright, and if anything in the above description grabs you, then this is the book for you. Also, if you’re into online social movements (and who isn’t?), the book also tells the story of what I like to call the First Facebook Uprising. Turns out copyright politics is a breeding ground for all sorts of innovative strategies that eventually show up elsewhere, like in the Arab Spring.

If you want to understand the politics of the global economy, you should really be paying attention to how copyright and intellectual property work. Copyfight is my attempt to make sense of this relatively neglected corner of the world.

And! The Acknowledgements section features restaurant recommendations spanning three countries, and appearances by George Clooney, Nelson Mandela and the Sydney Swans of the Australian Football League. Go Swans!

I only buy books that have been approved by respected scholars. Who’s in your corner?

What, my word isn’t good enough for you? What about that I interviewed dozens of people in Canada, Mexico and the United States for this project? How about that it’s published by Canada’s top university press? Canada’s!

Nope. I want endorsements.

You’re a cruel taskmaster. Fortunately, Copyfight has elicited some very kind words from some academics I admire greatly.

Susan Sell, from The George Washington University, says:

Copyfight is a powerful reminder of the way in which the lines between multilateral, regional, bilateral, and domestic governance have become increasingly blurred. Well-written and based on extensive primary research, it is quite compelling.

Michael Geist, from the University of Ottawa and the architect of the aforementioned Facebook Uprising, had the following to say:

Blayne Haggart’s Copyfight provides an exceptional contribution to our understanding of how copyright laws are made, the role the public can play in influencing policy, and the global pressures faced by Canada and other similarly placed countries. His comparative analysis of Canada, the United States, and Mexico offers a unique window into both the similarities and important differences between the NAFTA countries, helping to explain why the laws have evolved in different ways.  With the ‘copyfight’ likely to continue, this book is a must-read for those seeking insight into the forces that shape our digital environment.

And Peter Drahos, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development, Australian National University

Modern copyright has become a shadowy labyrinth in which states, big business, interest groups, social movements, and activists engage in complex manoeuvres and fights. Blayne Haggart’s Copyfight tells the story of the politics of digital copyright in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through its wonderfully clear prose and conceptual framework it guides the reader through copyright’s labyrinth. It deserves to be widely read.

I’m convinced!

That’s not enough. Does it have a fancy cover?

Yes! How awesome is this?

Copyfight - cover copy

Wow! That would look great on a T-shirt.

We’re working on it.

Is it a #1 bestseller yet?

I don’t want to brag, but Copyfight is currently ranked #1,209,603 on amazon.com. Let’s get it up to #1,209,599 and give Thomas Piketty a run for his money! It’s doing a bit better on amazon.ca, at #54,955 (and  #6 in digital law books), but that’s probably because we have far fewer books here in Canada, most of which are sold as fuel to get us through the long, long winters.

I’m sold! Where can I buy it, and how much will it set me back?

You can buy it directly from U of T Press for a very reasonable $26.57. You can also get it for a bit less at amazon.ca or chapters.ca, or for a bit more from amazon.com. Probably elsewhere.

Have at it!

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Olympic censorship, Olympic interference, the “A Rose by Any Other Name” edition

One final note on the whole CBC-IOC debacle. The two main criticisms I’ve heard of my article on the CBC’s problematic relationship with the Olympics were that I didn’t show that the IOC was interfering with CBC News’ reporting, and that this wasn’t really a case of censorship. On the first point, stopping the news from being broadcast is interference in the workings of the network. Furthermore, I maintain that because the CBC’s actions are so contrary to what we should expect of an independent news organization, it’s a fair question to wonder where the commercial aspects of the CBC-IOC relationship ends and its journalism begins.

The second point actually brings us back to the main focus of this blog, copyright (yay!). “Censorship” is a loaded word, and I don’t use it lightly. It’s also one of those things that the bad guys tend to do, it’s never something that we do. So people tend to react badly when the word is directed at “us.” It’s irrational, if understandable.

There’s also some confusion about what exactly should be classified as censorship. The common perception of censorship is that it involves the blocking of information for political or moral reasons. Most people are less comfortable with the idea that commercial agreements, backed by trademark or copyright claims, can lead to censorship. But whether information is blocked for moral, political or commercial reasons, the effect is exactly the same. There is no material difference between Singapore, say, blocking The Economist, in whole or in part, and the CBC blocking its Radio 1 livestream. In both cases, people are prevented from accessing the blocked information. The only difference is the justification: political in Singapore, commercial with the CBC. In both cases, it’s censorship, and we should call it by its name.

Oh, and that the news is still (mostly) available through other means is immaterial: Just because I can get around, say, Chinese censorship with a VPN doesn’t mean that it’s not censorship.

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The CBC walks back its Olympics censorship, a bit at least

It turns out that quite a few people were upset that the CBC stopped producing news podcasts (completely) and streaming Radio 1 outside of Canada “due to Olympic rights restrictions.” It’s been heartening to see the largely positive response to my Globe and Mail article. People really do like their CBC: I’m not alone in worrying about the short- and long-term effects of allowing an outside group, in this case, the International Olympic Committee, dictate how its news division operates.

It’s also nice to see that the CBC has decided to reinstate its news podcasts, as of Friday, judging by the World at Six page, with Olympics coverage cut out, according to this Toronto Star report. Stripping out Olympics reporting would still be a bit odd: I’d assume that reporting could be covered by fair dealing exceptions in Canadian copyright law, unless the CBC signed away its rights to report here, too.

 I’d also note that the CBC is still not streaming Radio 1 outside Canada. Not good, but at least people who want to get (non-Olympic) news podcasts will be able to, now.

There are still questions, of course. If the CBC thought it had to block podcasts and Radio 1 due to “Olympic rights restrictions,” which were presumably set out in a contract, what changed? If they weren’t required by the IOC to go to such villainous lengths, why did they, and who was responsible? Why not free the Radio 1 livestream? Most importantly, what has the CBC learned from this debacle, and will they undertake not to compromise their news operations in the future?

As I tried to make clear in my article, this is not really a CBC story: these kind of nasty deals is what the IOC does. It’s who they are. I’m happy to see the CBC belatedly own up to their mistake; they should be congratulated for it, even if they have not gone as far as they should.

The IOC’s bad behaviour, in this and other areas, will only stop when the media, viewers and athletes signal they won’t put up with it. Hopefully the awareness that there are some lines that CBC listeners won’t let their public broadcaster cross will strengthen all media organizations’ hand for the next round of Olympic contracts, and all our news media will be less willing to betray their core principles for the sake of the Olympics.

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CBC Radio embraces censorship because Olympics

As we begin our quadrennial celebration of winter sports (or, more accurately, hockey and some other stuff), I’m hoping that Orangespace readers can help me answer a question that’s been bothering me for a few Olympiads:

What is it about the Olympics that causes otherwise sane people to lose their minds?

I don’t mean the inevitable spike in the non-ironic use of the word “luge” in casual conversation. I get that. People are fascinated by shiny things (see: Bieber, Justin, legal problems of). It’s kind of what we do.

I’m talking about how, for the sake of a two-week international sports festival, intelligent people do and support things that they would never, ever otherwise condone.

Fun fact: As the official Canadian broadcaster of the Sochi Games, the CBC agreed to stop streaming all of its Radio 1 programming outside of Canada. All of it — not just live Olympics coverage. Anyone outside the country (including Canadian expats) who tunes in hears the following:

“Between February 6th and 23rd, CBC Radio 1 live streams will only be available to Canadian audiences due to Olympic rights restrictions. However, our listeners outside Canada can still hear the favourite shows on demand by visiting cbc.ca/radio, or by downloading the CBC Radio app and following the links to their favourite programs.”

That last sentence is a bit misleading. Because their newscasts contain reports about the Olympics, they’ve also stopped producing news podcasts for the duration of the games.

Let that sink in for a moment. The CBC has turned over decisions about how its news and entire Radio 1 network will be distributed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which controls the rights to the Olympics.

The CBC calls it “Olympic rights restrictions,” but let’s not mince words. Letting the IOC dictate how the CBC runs its news and radio operations is nothing less than outside interference in the inner workings of our public broadcaster. While we’re being brutally honest, let’s call the decision to block the Radio 1 livestream and to stop producing news podcasts by its real name: censorship.

This is where the Olympics insanity comes in. Just imagine how Canadians, and CBC journalists, would react if, I don’t know, the NHL told the CBC that they couldn’t livestream an entire network or release news podcasts during the NHL playoffs. The righteous indignation would be palpable.

If any other group on the planet had tried this trick, the CBC’s bright lights would’ve (rightly) huffed about “journalistic integrity” and “the importance of independent media.” As a public broadcaster, Canadians’ trust in the CBC’s journalism is probably its most valuable asset. Yet, they’ve sold that asset (at an undisclosed price), because Olympics.

I can only assume the Conservatives, longtime CBC foes, are trying to figure out how to shoehorn “Olympic” into their name.

The CBC never should have signed this deal. Having signed it, its news operations should have been nowhere near it. As it is, I’m left wondering where the CBC draws the line when it comes to the direct interference of an outside group with its operations. Has the CBC’s commercial relationship with the IOC affected its coverage of an Olympics that, according to the Building and Wood Worker’s International union, already has a body count?

It makes it hard to take seriously, for instance, CBC Radio’s breathless “breaking” story on its 8 a.m. Feb. 7 newscast that the Russians may be blocking Canadian bobsledder Justin Kripps’ website because of some “gay” content. (I’d link to the podcast, but, you know, Olympics).

Gay censorship bad, Olympics censorship OK. Got it? Good.

In a sense, this is just how the IOC rolls. It is one of the nastier international organizations out there. Over the decades, they’ve used the Olympics to prop up history’s most horrific dictatorships, including China’s, the Soviet Union’s and (for Pete’s sake) Nazi Germany’s. For 22 years, from 1980 to 2001, the IOC’s president was literally a card-carrying fascist. And the censorship-friendly group has a long history of demanding strict control over everything even tangentially related to the Olympics. The CBC is just its latest victim.

But a willing victim, one that paid millions for the honour, even if our public broadcaster won’t tell us exactly how much. I’m curious to know what the going rate is for a public broadcaster’s integrity. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we now know what type of organization the CBC is, we’re just haggling over the cost.

Feb. 13, 2013: Edited to fix broken links.

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Is stronger intellectual property protection linked to “premature deindustrialization”? A thought experiment

Dani Rodrik has a fascinating chart up at his blog that’s got me thinking about the link between intellectual property and economic development, and that it might not be as straightforward as we’ve tended to think.

Typically, it’s been argued that economic growth and stronger intellectual property protection go hand in hand. As economies become more sophisticated, they move from benefiting from copying more advanced processes, etc., to wanting to protect their own processes. More economic development = stronger IP protection. And, of course, it’s assumed this is a good thing.

Looking at Rodrik’s chart (reproduced below), though, I wonder. It suggests that the returns to industrialization have been declining for a few decades now. As you can see, it notes the year in which the country’s manufacturing employment’s share of total employment hit its peak, charted against the GDP per capita at this peak.

While modern economies all seem to follow the same path of developing “first by industrializing, and then by moving into services,” Rodrik argues that “the onset of deindustrialization is now taking place much sooner, at lower levels of industrialization and lower incomes.” Economically, this is a problem because “it slows down growth and delays economic convergence. Politically, it forecloses the typical path to democracy – through the development of a labor movement, disciplined political parties, and habits of compromise and moderation arising out of industrial struggles over pay and working conditions.” So this is not a trivial issue.

Rodrik isn’t sure what’s behind what he calls “premature deindustrialization”; in a column he muses that global competition might be to blame for part, but not all, of it.

My hunch – and it’s only that at this point – is that the story has something to do with the fact that, thanks in part to ever-stronger global intellectual property laws, manufacturing doesn’t pay like it used to. Most of the $800 cost of a contract-free 64 GB iPhone, to take a purely hypothetical example, stays in the US, even though most of the actual assembly happens overseas, mainly in China. Because the large value-added categories have migrated away from manufacturing toward design and the like (protected by patents, copyrights and trademarks), we’d expect to see late-arriving countries hitting their industrialization peak at lower per capita incomes, and (maybe? I’m not sure of my logic here) at lower employment shares. It’s just not worth as much as it used to be.

If I’m right, then the more economic development = stronger IP protection link could continue to hold. However, it may also be the case that stronger IP protection may place a ceiling on industrialization and overall economic growth. In such a situation, I’m not sure that stronger IP protection would be an economically rational policy.

This might be a case where, when all you have is a hammer (IP-focused research, in my case) every problem looks like a nail. But it’s a fascinating question that’s worth investigating, in my opinion. What do you think?

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Copyfight: The global politics of digital-copyright reform

It’s the final day of Research Week here in the Orangespace and I thought we’d end it with an announcement.

I’ve been a big fan of the word “copyfight” ever since I heard Cory Doctorow (I think it was him) use it. It gets at the heart of what copyright politics is about. It’s rooted in economics and culture. Copyfight conversations are difficult because they involve thinking about sacred Western norms like the individual creator and private property, while also raising hackles because of how copyright violates other Western norms, like free speech and free markets.

(The good folks at the Copyfight blog — no relation — have a nice post on what “copyfight” means to them.)

Fuelled by money, power and ideology, the copyfight is politics in its purest form, which is why I’ve always found it a bit odd that more political scientists don’t study it. (Young scholars: come on in! The water’s fine.)

All this is to announce my upcoming book, Copyfight: The global politics of digital-copyright reform, to be published soonish (maybe early 2014) by University of Toronto Press. In it, I try to bring into focus the forces that shape global copyright politics at all levels, from developing countries to the international stage to the heart of the U.S. establishment that currently drives global copyright policy. I do so by telling the story of how Canada, Mexico and the United States  negotiated (along with other countries) and then implemented the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties, which to this day largely define what we mean by digital-copyright reform.

Or, as I wrote in the blurb that I’ve supplied to my fine publisher:

Copyfight is the first complete account of the increasingly contentious global politics of copyright policymaking. It offers a clear look at whether individuals around the world can shape a law that will affect creativity, freedom of speech and economic innovation in the 21st century.

You know what’s fun? Trying to summarize a 100,000-word book in 44 words.

I’ll probably make more announcements about the book as we get closer to its publication, but if you think this is something you might be interested in purchasing (I’m told that it will be priced quite fairly), send your email address to bhaggart at brocku dot ca and I’ll create some type of mailing list to let you know when it will be coming out, how to order it and all that jazz.

Posted in Canada copyright, DMCA, Mexican copyright, SOPA, U.S. copyright, Uncategorized, WIPO Internet treaties | 1 Comment