Welcome to the website of the Creators' Copyright Coalition. We at the CCC are committed to access to our creative works just as we are committed to copyright: we work for copyright legislation that ensures both. Here on our op-ed pages we will be posting opinion, commentary, links, and news of interest to creators and others engaged in copyright reform. Elsewhere, you'll find our archive of studies, handbooks and press releases. And while we're not currently hosting a discussion forum, comments sent to us may be posted or noted here (unless you ask us not to).

Ontario Budget on Culture

By Op-Ed Editor | March 24, 2006

With apologies for being Ontario-centric, let’s take note of yesterday’s Ontario budget on cultural matters. (We tried for balance, but the recent big spending Alberta budget doesn’t seem to have anything on culture.)

The big item in Ontario is $50 mil for the building projects of major cultural institutions. But there is also $15 mil for libraries, and most of it for digital library development.

Well good. We need libraries, and we need digital access. But the governments that are spending so much on building the pipeline should not at the same time be trying to undermine the people who provide the content.

We need access and copyright, in libraries, in digital. Copyright’s federal, but the provinces have education and libraries in their bailiwick, and they need to get clear on this point.

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What they are thinking

By Op-Ed Editor | March 13, 2006

A new brief by the Canadian Counsel of Chief Executives (formerly the Business Council on National Issues, Tom D’Aquino, CEO) got some press coverage last month for proposals like transferring the GST and the health-care bill to the provinces.

There was not so much attention to another proposal in the report: that Canada should abolish taxes on income from intellectual property. Maybe the CEOs are thinking of Big Pharma drug patents and all, but the report specifically notes the benefits the national economy would gain from encouraging artistic and creative work and making Canada a haven for creative minds.

Sure is a sharp contrast with the thinking of the Canadian Ministers of Education, who seem mostly focussed on how they can get intellectual property for free. In fact, in discussing education as another wellspring of Canadian productivity, the CEOs note with concern such “inconsistent attitudes to intellectual property” as a problem to overcome in that sector.

Report title is “From Bronze to Gold” It’s downloadable at www.ceocouncil.ca.

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Thanks Russell

By Christopher Moore | March 7, 2006

Thanks to Russell McOrmond for noting that in my previous post I sometimes referred to “copyleft” as if the term could creep over to apply to anti-copyright positions. Copyleft is a valuable term and concept. It deserves to be used precisely, and has many valuable uses to offer creators — which was one of the points of the post. I’ve made a few changes.

Russell’s full post is available at: www.digital-copyright.ca/node/1979.

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Access Copyright II: Creative Commons

By Christopher Moore | March 5, 2006

Along with the selection of auditors, approval of the minutes and other routines, the Access Copyright annual general meeting in Toronto on Friday, March 3, had two items of particular interest to creators. Let’s take them in parts.

Creative Commons and Access Copyright

Maureen Cavan of Access Copyright and Marcus Bornfreund of Creative Commons Canada announced the two organizations will work together to create a new entity: an online, free, searchable Public Domain Registry – in effect, a comprehensive catalogue of Canadian works that are in the public domain. (It will be a list, not a repository on the lines of Project Gutenberg, but it will be able to provide links to online versions of public domain materials.)

The new Canadian Public Domain registry will work on wiki principles — editable by anyone using it — and it has the support of the Wikimedia Foundation, most famous for the editable online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Good idea. And the Access Copyright/Creative Commons partnership might also reduce misunderstandings that have existed among the partisans of Creative Commons and Access Copyright.

Participants in copyright debates sometimes fear that collectives like Access Copyright seek to commercialize and license everything. ( Consider the loudly expressed fear of Canadian Ministers of Education that someone wants to “license the internet” and collect money every time a schoolkid opens a browser!) Collectives only license certain uses of certain works. In some existing collective-license agreements, sampling, measuring, and reporting processes confirm that Access Copyright has no licensing interest in up to 95% of the material being copied. (The rest may be owned by the user, or in the public domain, or covered by fair dealing, or licensed in some other way, etc.) Yet the sheer volume of copying is such that it is still cost-effective to have a collective license for the remainer, which for large users can run to tens of thousands of licensed copies a year.

As a by-product of its measuring and recording processes, a collective builds up a vast bibliographic competency in non-licensable work as well as in those it does provide licensed access to. As a result, Access Copyright can immediately and at little cost provide a great deal of information about Canadian works in the public domain. And the Public Domain Registry should help demonstrate how collectives can facilitate public access to works and uses that are not under license as well as to ones that are.

Supporters of collective licensing have much to learn from this collaboration, too. Since Creative Commons puts so much emphasis on the right of copyright holders to waive their expectation of payment, writers, musicians and others who need to be paid for the value of the works they offer sometime wonder if Creative Commons is mostly “copyright for rich kids.” We fear that the $100,000 a year professors who choose to make their work available without charge through Creative Commons come to expect they can take everyone else’s work on the same basis — and are entitled to laws that make that a right. But in fact Creative Commons includes a “commercial use” clause. Those who need to be paid for commercial use of their work can put that right into their Creative Commons license. CC doesn’t need to imply surrender of one’s economic rights. Copyleft is part of copyright. (Or vice versa, if you prefer.)

What the Creative Commons process has not offered in this regard is the follow-through that collectives offer. If a user wants to make commercial-use copies of twenty CC works, it needs to hunt out twenty farflung rightsholders and try to negotiate twenty agreements and payment schemes. It’s hardly convenient or user-friendly, which means CC has a hard time delivering the goods to those who might exercise the “commercial use” rather than the “take it all” aspects of a CC licence.

The logic of licensing seems to be that Creative Commons systems are being driven either to become collective licensing shops themselves — or to link up with existing ones. Cooperating with one collective on the Public Domain registry may help open channels to explore CC’s options in that regard.

Meanwhile, the potential for a comprehensive, reliable road map to the Canadian public domain should be an unmitigated good in itself.

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Access Copyright I: Distribution Review

By Christopher Moore |

Along with the selection of auditors, approval of the minutes and other routines, the Access Copyright annual general meeting in Toronto on Friday, March 3, had two items of particular interest to creators. Let’s take them in parts.

Distribution Fact-Finding

The Access Copyright board announced it would establish a fact-finding commission to investigate and report on the distribution of royalties to rightsholders.

How the money is shared out is a vital concern of collective licensing agencies. Particularly in those shared by producers and creators — who are normally engaged in buy low/sell high economic competition — there is often a certain tension over the principles by which money is paid out. Since the amounts of money can be substantial, it’s easy for either side to doubt the other’s ability to be dispassionate about the application of those principles. As a result, such disputes can be difficult to resolve.

Many collectives find that resorting to independent arbitration is a useful way to prevent money disputes from festering. Access Copyright, however, has made no substantial changes in its distribution rules since the early days and minimal revenues of the early 1990s. Nor has it ever had an arbitration process, although its by-laws foresee the need for one.

Access Copyright’s newly announced fact-finding process is a response to a proposal several creator organizations made to the agency last summer. The creator organizations have argued that Access Copyright’s distribution of royalties need to be made with more attention to collective-licensing principles, more transparency, and more precision in linking payments to exposure to copying. These claims upon the agencies are not new. In recent years Access Copyright’s lack of action on them has been threatening the confidence of creators and their organizations in the work of the collective. (I write with some rueful knowledge of this, as a member of a couple of the creator organizations and a board member of Access Copyright.)

The successful operation of collective licensing agencies is increasingly important to Canadian writers, composers, performers, and visual artists. We need them to represent our rights in our work and also to provide us easy, prompt, fair access to copyright works we may need to license ourselves. And we need to trust them in handling the money they raise and distribute. Ensuring that Canadian collectives match or exceed the best practices of collectives here and around the world is a vital part of collective licensing in Canada. Access Copyright’s new fact-finder may play an important role in that.

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