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October 5, 2004
Another Strike at IP Uber Alles
Laura Murray has a new article warning Canada not to sign the pending WIPO Internet treaties and explaining the difference between protecting IP for its own sake and protecting culture and creators. Below, a few intriguing snippets:
On copyright rhetoric:
Spend more than a few minutes browsing Canadian court rulings, policy materials, or public hearings on copyright, and you will come across somebody seeking or promoting "protection." "Protection" seems to be a good thing, and somehow copyright provides it, or should be providing it. But protection of what? Protection from what? ... Only a few argue for protection of consumers or those whose creativity builds on copyrighted works, and fewer still the citizenry or the public domain.
On "creator" vs. "consumer":
Even the metaphor of balance has its limits because it posits users and creators as distinct entities placed on either side of a fulcrum. In fact, as many have pointed out, we cannot draw a firm distinction between "creators" and "users": every single person alive on earth is a consumer of culture, and anyone who ever puts pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) is also a creator.
On copyright in education:
Even those who would not presume to the title of artist may seek to respond creatively to pop culture, however clumsily, and a copyright system must acknowledge and enable this participation in cultural production. This is where education comes in: one might hope for a copyright law that would acknowledge students' and teachers' role as participants in culture, not just purchasers of it.
On the copyfight in Canada:
[There] has been, to date, little public activism in Canada concerning copyright reform. It is true that when the government asked for public comment on copyright reform (and specifically digital issues) in 2001, they were surprised to receive 700 submissions. Of these, some 250 consisted of form letters from members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and there were a few other submissions from concerned individuals or experts, but most came from educational, industry, and cultural organizations, and many of these piggybacked on each other . Only in the past year has the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa established a profile on the Internet and become active in legal and policy intervention. Michael Geist is the only scholar commenting regularly in the Canadian media on public interest issues in copyright policy and cases.
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