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).

Poet Laureate stands up for poets

By Christopher Moore | December 19, 2006

John Steffler, the new parliamentary poet laureate, has discontinued the practice of posting a “Poem of the Week” on the laureate website.

According to Quill and Quire,

Steffler had initially planned to continue the tradition of posting a poem of the week, written by a Canadian poet, to the position’s official website — a practice begun by Bowering and continued by Pauline Michel — but he has put that idea on hold. “When I first realized I was going to take up this job, I was going around saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll maintain the poem of the week,’ but I’ve discovered that there’s no money for it — that is to say, no money to pay the contributors — and I’m not really pleased with that,” Steffler told Q&Q.

I’m often been struck by how savvy many poets are about the economic realities of a writing life and the need for creators to assert their interests. John Steffler is clearly in that tradition. Why were poets donating their work to subsidize Parliament?

That Parliamentary Poet Laureate website is here .

And — must say — the anthology-in-progress that was the Poem of the Week is impressive. Poem of the Week

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Status of the Artist

By Op-Ed Editor | December 13, 2006

Back when, this blog feature was supposed to be a minor traffic-director on the side of the website, drawing attention to all the important stuff elsewhere on the site. But new stuff on the rest of the site has run a little slow.

However, please investigate the tab up above that says “Status of the Artist.” All new material!

Creators — like those who created this coalition — have two realities. We need robust copyright law to enable us to assert our interest, economic and moral, in our own work. But even the best copyright law does us little good if we find ourselves surrendering rights to publishers and producers by private contract.

This site is about exploring what copyright should be in the 21st century. And Status of the Artist is about the other part — enabling creators to hold their own in the marketplace.

Status of the Artist is already in place federally, in Quebec, and in Saskatchewan. With so much of the creative industry focussed in Ontario, it’s Ontario law and practice that really needs to be informed by SotA rules.

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Documentary Access

By Christopher Moore | December 6, 2006

The Documentary Organization of Canada, an association of documentary producers and sponsors of the annual “Hot Docs” film festival, are in the news highlighting the problems filmmakers have with the cost of clearing rights to the material they need.

Their most vivid plea builds on examples of films withdrawn from circulation, or with useful material omitted, because of the cost of clearing rights Clearing rights to fragmentary clips of film or short musical excerpts can cost more than the film itself, they point out. We are losing our films, they say, losing access to what needs to be in our films.

Their letter is worth reading, as is the study by Otttawa lawyer Howard Knopf they are working from (it’s downloadable from the same page). But many of their problems are not exactly copyright problems.

As Knopf points out, “incidental inclusion,” street scenes, shots that include trademarks, etc., are already permitted under the Copyright Act. Too often, the problem is not copyright at all. It’s what Knopf politely calls “risk aversion” by lawyers and insurers that obliges filmmakers into messy and costly searches for clearances in many of these situation.

Doc Org includes film producers as well as film makers, and it’s unfortunate to see its briefing paper alluding to greedy unions as part of the problem restricting Canadian filmmaking — one wonders if the creator side got equal time here. When you read that 7 out of ten of the respondents to their survey agreed that “creators are overcompensated under current law,” you have to think they may speak for creators, but it’s producers they are listening to.

Impoverishing filmmakers is no way to improve the filmmaking climate. But the Doc Org and Howard Knopf have one very useful suggestion in their letter and background paper. They call for study of “a suggested tariff of rates, terms and conditions for use of third party material in documentary films.”

Now there is good thinking. What the film world need is not endless ramifications of new exemptions to copyright and new expansions of existing exemptions. What it needs, what we all need, is a culture of “access and rights.” When the operation of copyright in itself prevents access, clearly we have market failure, for rightsholders have an interest in encouraging, not preventing, access to their work. What is required is a market that can develop reasonable prices and convenient access.

In its suggestion that Canada develop a tariff system for use of third party material, the Doc Org is suggesting how to escape from the situation where you approach a rightsholder for permission, and the rightsholder charges $1 for the rights and $500 for the paperwork involved in these piddling, one-on-one negotiations. DocOrg seems to be pointing toward some kind of clearance centre, one that would apply pre-existing terms and rates negotiated between users and rightsholders, so that permission is virtually automatic, costs are reasonable, and creators are rewarded for the success of their work without users being denied access.

What that points toward is fewer appeals for legislative sledgehammers that attempt to predict and determine what the market for rights should be in every situation and circumstance. What would be much more worthwhile would be a rights marketplace that actually works for filmmakers: one where they pay (and receive) reasonable remuneration for commercial use of copyright material, not one where the search is more costly than the rights.

This kind of marketplace already exists in broadcast music, in photocopy licensing, and in many other fields. Usually the market is created through licensing collectives under the supervision of the Copyright Board. The Doc Org suggestion for a negotiated tariff is a lot more promising than its musings about importing unlimited application of “fair” “use” doctrines (that have not worked particularly well for American documentarians, to say the least) to Canadian filmmaking practice. DocOrg should run with that one.

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Sheffer on Robertson case

By Op-Ed Editor | December 1, 2006

A thoughtful analysis of the recent Supreme Court decision in Robertson v Thomson, by Toronto lawyer Warren Sheffer is downloadable at The Professional Writers of Canada site for November 30. Thanks to Warren, PWAC and Lesley Ellen Harris for connections.

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Quotable

By Op-Ed Editor |

“A day will come when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whiskey, or any other of the necessaries of life” — Mark Twain, speaking in Montreal, 1881.

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