Friday, August 28, 2009

Copyright Consultation Process - Toronto Town Hall

From a message sent by Marcel Fortin to CARTA-l on August 28, 2009

As you probably know, the Canadian Government is poised once again to enact a new copyright law for Canada and they have been holding consultations throughout most of the summer through town halls and round tables ( I attended the Town Hall meeting in Toronto last night. I was invited to attend on behalf of the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives but alas there were too many people and organizers awarded speaking privileges through a lottery and I did not get to express the map and GIS library and academic communities' views.

Warner Music Canada managed to get three if not four of their representatives to speak. SOCAN got to speak, ACTRA got to speak, CRIA got to speak, and so did countless artists, authors and actors. In all, through two hours of three-minute-presentations, only two speakers mentioned the library community's perspective. Leslie Weir of the University of Ottawa represented the Ontario Council of University Libraries and someone from a community college library in Ontario also spoke. Two speakers did mention the need to abolish Crown Copyright, however. Unfortunately not one academic spoke and not one person mentioned the words data or maps.

Most speakers talked about artists (authors, musicians, actors, etc.) who can no longer make a living from their art because of what is perceived as a weak copyright law in Canada. It is clear from their passion and their stories that something needs to be done to help protect culture and artists in Canada through a new copyright law.

However, it is quite unfortunate that the entire debate seems to firmly center around this one aspect of copyright reform. Have a look at the debate on the web page above in the comments section, read the article in the Globe and Mail from yesterday , or Michael Geist's blog this morning

If I had been given a chance to speak I would have tried to convey these points:
- In the current Copyright Act, Maps are considered a part of what are described as "artistic works". But as we all know, very few paper maps are actually published anymore and most maps fall very short of being works of art. It's not a criticism of maps and map makers, it's just a
reality that maps are tools more than they are art. Gone are the days of the cartographer as the only map maker, for better of for worse.

- Most maps are now born digital as databases and anyone with a computer can now build a digital map using a variety of methods. But the key to building those maps is digital data. The better the data the better the maps. Herein is part of the issue. Without proper access to data, the academic and the Canadian public suffer, to say nothing of the economy.

- Canadian governments own most Canadian datasets which means that most data fall under Crown Copyright in Canada. For years governments have, willfully or not, hidden behind the copyright law to restrict access and to impose large fees for use.
- Over the years Crown Copyright restrictions have hindered the development of a proper geospatial industry to say nothing of hindering the education of Canadians in the booming world of digital data and geospatial data.

- As a result of this situation, I would like the Canadian government to single out maps and digital data (geospatial and otherwise) as separate categories and to eliminate or reform Crown copyright surrounding these in order to allow for better dissemination, flow, and use of these by

- And if Crown Copyright cannot be eliminated, that copyright be less restrictive or at the very least consistent. The issue of consistency is important. For instance the copyright notice on two of the federal government's web pages, and from Natural Resources Canada, state that:

"Canada hereby grants to the Licensee a non-exclusive, fully paid,
royalty-free right and licence to exercise all Intellectual Property
Rights in the Data. This includes the right to use, incorporate,
sublicense (with further right of sublicensing), modify, improve,
further develop, and distribute the Data; and to manufacture and / or
distribute Derivative Products."

Other Canadian government bodies should be asked to follow the same policy towards Crown Copyright in our new legislation and allow for the free flow of data to Canadians.

- Another important aspect of copyright reform, which is often mentioned but not specifically concerning maps and and data is that confusion should be eliminated from the legislation (simply think about the debate over the copyright of Fire Insurance Plans) Why, for instance, are paper
maps differently handled within Crown copyright than their digital counterparts? Consider National Topographic Maps (NTS) which are some of Canada's most important and popular maps. These are built on geospatial data, or in many cases the digital data have now been derived from their digital copies. Both the datasets and the actual scanned copies of these
maps are available for free for download from the web pages. But the print of the very same paper map that's available for download cannot be photocopied in its entirety from a depository library. In fact, within the current copyright legislation, only ten percent of a government map can be copied to be considered within the boundaries of fair dealing.

- There are many other issues I'm sure, but these are the points I wanted to touch on. With that in mind, I encourage you to let your views be known on this very important matter as the copyright law will be changed soon. Letters are accepted via their web pages here: Andrew Nicholson, president of the ACMLA has sent a letter on behalf of the association but it is important that individuals from the map and GIS community also send letters. If the cultural industries are the only voices heard, you can bet that only their concerns will be examined in the new law.


Marcel Fortin
Map and GIS Librarian
University of Toronto

No comments: