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Straw in the wind: the mindset behind C-61

By Christopher Moore | June 17, 2008

The idea of copyright is that it adheres in the created work itself; respect for the work of others ought to be presumed.

Bill C-61 creates for schools (but not others) a new special exemption from copyright, for PAM (publicly available material). If you are a school, you can just take and use stuff you find on the internet; the usual presumption of respect for the work of others is waived. Then it hedges this privilege to plunder with complications. Not if it’s under a TPM (a digital lock). Not if the school “should have known” it’s made available without the owner’s consent. And not if the creator has attached to the work a notice saying “schools, no plundering please.”

Consider the difficulties of a school attempting to honour all these limitations upon its new right. Then consider the difficulties of the creator, and consider reverse onus. A creator who does not want his or her work appropriated by schools is obliged to post a notice to that effect right on the work. And it cannot simply be the internationally recognized copyright symbol, the c in a circle. No, it must be a “clearly visible notice — not merely the copyright symbol.” At some future time, the government may declare what constitutes a clearly visible notice.

This hedging about of the principle that rights should be respected is all contrary to the principles set out in the Berne Convention, but then the government is not planning to honour its WIPO obligations at the moment anyway.

It’s as if the drafters of C-61 are telling us, don’t make your work available, don’t provide access. Lock it up. Hedge it about with warnings, threats, and notices. And if you don’t, it’s your own fault.
And at the same time it is telling users, even privileged ones like schools, that copyright will be an endless headache for them, that compliance will always be difficult and time-consuming and fraught with uncertainty.

Bill C-61 is twenty pages longer than Bill C-60, its predecessor from the Martin government.

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