Category Archives: politics

Open letter to Government of Canada against new online harms rules

Dear members of the Canadian government’s “Digital Citizen Initiative,”
I am writing to express my alarm and disapproval over the proposed “online harms rules” legislation that the Canadian government now proposes—a combination, it seems, of the worst, most rights-violating regulations adopted in other jurisdictions, many of which aren’t exactly known as bastions of democracy and expressive freedoms.
Your proposed legislation’s combination of
* prohibitions of broad and poorly defined speech categories;
* disproportionate penalties for insufficient blocking; and
* requirement of rapid compliance without time for adequate assessment or counter-notifications
all guarantee that the major tech firms, on which the onus of your proposed regulations falls, will block all kinds of legitimate speech — and will disproportionately affect marginalized and minorities to persons and communities, as has been shown where such rules have been implemented elsewhere. (See @doctorow’s analysis and that by U Ottawa professor Michael Geist.) Online harms rules have proven a human rights disaster in other jurisdictions; France’s rules were recently ruled as unconstitutional.
I urge you to take this whole proposal either back to the proverbial drawing board—or entirely off the table. The Canadian government surely has bigger and more urgent priorities then over-regulating and preferentially censoring citizens’ constitutional expressive rights and freedoms.
Sincerely
– Mark A. McCutcheon
Professor, Literary Studies
Chair, Centre for Humanities
Athabasca University

[PS: Have your say—contact the Government of Canada’s “Digital Citizen Initiative” to tell them what you think of the new online harms rules legislation.]

Link

New post at my other blog: “On fielding a press inquiry about how pop culture depicts the oil industry”

English professors don’t often get press inquiries, but a writer for EnergyWire, an oil business-facing news service, contacted me last week to ask what I think of the video for Justin Bieber’s new song “Holy.”…

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Who owns copyright in what you publish?

“Who owns copyright in what you publish?” is the talk I delivered for #ACCUTE2019 at this year’s Congress in Vancouver, and it’s now online, in full, as a post for English Matters, the blog of the Association of Canadian College & University Teachers of English.

“There are many interests vying for rights to your research, and many ways to assert or regain your own control over those rights. It’s important to know what the main regulatory contexts are — and what your options are.”

Read the full text of the talk at accute.ca/accute-blog/.

This research has been supported with the generous assistance of Athabasca University’s Academic & Professional Development Fund.

Open letter to my MP demanding #climatecrisis action

[delivered via GoFossilFree.org — send a letter to your MP too]

Dear Mr. Diotte,

I’m a constituent here in your riding. I appreciate that the House of Commons has held an emergency debate prompted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sobering report on limiting global warming to 1.5ºC.

That emergency debate was a great first step, but now we need emergency action. That’s why I’m delivering this letter today urging you to read the the IPCC report and pledge to take action.

Read the report here: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/.

After reading it, I urge you to propose, champion and support legislation to update Canada’s climate policies and bring them in line with the urgency called for in the IPCC report before the next federal election.

Right now, Canada has a climate plan that falls far short of what the science says we urgently need. We need to strengthen our international climate commitments, stop fossil fuel expansion that scientists keep telling us our climate can’t handle, and build a 100% renewable energy economy that respects Indigenous rights, and works for every single person in Canada. Our children’s future depends on immediate actions like these.

My contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Mark A. McCutcheon

#FairDealingWorks: Fair Dealing Week 2019

This week (Feb. 25 – Mar. 1) is #FairDealingWeek, a time to celebrate this vital statutory right’s affordances for expressive freedoms and the public good, and to dispel the misinformation that copyright maximalists spread about its supposed harms. Despite repeated, clear, and consistent Supreme Court rulings, big publishers and their intermediaries continue to treat the lawful exercise of fair dealing — by users, educators, and, yes, creators too — as if it’s debatable, dubious, or diabolical.

Among the many online resources and testimonials being shared this week — see https://fair-dealing.ca/ for an aggregated collection — Meera Nair, NAIT’s copyright officer and a vocal advocate for fairer copyright, has shared a blog post that brings home the importance of fair dealing.

“Fair Dealing matters. Individual writers, musicians and artists should not need to be well-versed in the intricacies of copyright law, to benefit by exceptions to copyright defined in the law.”

And if you wish to add your voices to those telling the federal government’s copyright review committee to preserve and extend fair dealing in copyright law, you might consider signing the Fair Copyright petition organized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Lastly: I’ve linked to its abstract above, but let me reiterate here that essential reading for understanding how fair dealing benefits creators is Eli MacLaren’s 2017 article on poets’ incomes and fair dealing.

#AuthorsNeedFairDealingToo.

Research on unions and science fiction, mobilized

Last summer, the annual WorldCon (World Science Fiction Convention) included a panel, based on my & Bob Barnetson’s research on representations of unions in science fiction, that featured some of the authors I and co-author Bob Barnetson had discussed, namely Eric Flint and Cory Doctorow. (Wish I’d been there!)

Since then, that panel’s organizer, Olav Rokne, has hosted a still-continuing conversation on this topic via his Twitter account; see the thread (and Rokne’s excellent blog post):

(BTW, if you want a copy of Barnetson’s and my article, “Resistance is futile: on the under-representation of unions in science fiction,” e-mail me a request or see this link for details.)

In related news, I’m finally watching the enthralling TV series The Expanse, based on the eponymous novels by James S.A. Corey, which I think I’ll have to read too, since unions feature so prominently in this story — and, refreshingly, are depicted in a nuanced and more positive than negative light. (They’re about more than strikes, here; they enact an ethos of community, democracy, and the greater good.)

New poem in Toronto’s Into The Void Magazine

My poem “Heaven help the roses” — about Toronto’s famous Peace Lady, a.k.a. Pauline Davis — has placed as Runner-Up in Into The Void Magazine’s 2017 Poetry Contest. The complete poem is published at Into The Void‘s webpage featuring all contest winners (scroll down to the Runners Up section…but read the other winners too!).

It’s been almost one year since Davis died, and many more since she had stopped her public work towards the cause of peace, which remains as timely as ever (sadly). While I had hoped to get this poem published in Davis’ lifetime, I’m pleased it’s found a home with a Toronto magazine, since the Peace Lady is such a Toronto phenomenon — although her message is universal, and still urgent.

 

Six things the public & the government need to know about fair dealing

Amidst ongoing efforts by copyright-maximizing lobbyists to mislead both the public and the government (which is now undertaking its 5-year review of the amended 2012 copyright act) about what fair dealing is, and what it means for Canadian culture, innovation, and education, here are six evidence-based points worth understanding about fair dealing.

  1. Over a decade’s worth of Supreme Court rulings have firmly and consistently enshrined fair dealing as a users’ right in copyright law.
  2. If Canadian publishers are hurting, it’s not because of fair dealing.
  3. In the name of authors, lobbyists against fair dealing antagonize and vilify educators — but many educators are authors themselves.
  4. Far from “pirating” protected works, educators actively promote authors’ interests, e.g. by ordering Canadian authors’ works in large quantities for schools and students to buy. (See p. 2, item 4 of CARL-ABRC’s Fair Dealing fact sheet.)
  5. Authors need fair dealing too, no less than educators do.
  6. Fair dealing augments and reinforces our Charter-guaranteed freedom of expression: any change to fair dealing (or to copyright more generally) must be understood as a change to free speech rights.

All these points are supported by case law and rigorous, evidence-based studies (by nationally recognized experts like Bita Amani, Carys Craig, Michael Geist, Ariel Katz, and Meera Nair, among others).

So next time you read that teachers are killing Canadian publishing, or stealing Canadian content, don’t believe the hype.

Link

Fair Dealing Myths & Facts, from the Canadian Association of Research Libraries

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries has published a helpful, concise briefing on fair dealing in Canadian copyright law.
Get the facts, not the all-too-pervasive myths.
Fair Dealing Myths & Facts (PDF format; updated November 2017).

29 May 2017: Academics’ views on Canada’s 2017 copyright review (free & open to public at #CongreSSH)

At 1:30 pm on May 29, at Congress hosted by Ryerson U in Toronto, I will be chairing Academics’ Perspectives on Canada’s 2017 copyright review — it will be an Open Congress panel, meaning it’s free and open to the public.

Speakers:

Sileshi Hirko (uOttawa and Open AIR): “Reframing User’s Right under Canadian Copyright Jurisprudence as a Human Right”
Lisa Macklem (Western U): “Copyright’s Role in Preserving and Ensuring Access to Culture: The Way Forward”
Meera Nair (NAIT): “Copyright Review 2017 – a Plea to the Academics”

This panel will share perspectives on the federal government’s upcoming review of Canada’s amended copyright law (tentatively scheduled for fall 2017). The public discourse on this review is dominated by the views of publishers and copyright holders’ intermediaries who are calling for the government to revise if not retract the legislative expansions regarding fair dealing. Rights holders’ lobbyists like Access Copyright and the Writers’ Union of Canada have been claiming that fair dealing is endangering Canadian publishing and content creation. How can educators and researchers (who, in these roles, are also promoters of culture) respond to these accusations and demonstrate the social and economic value of “dynamic fair dealing”?

The panel is hosted jointly by the Association of Canadian College & University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) and the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities / Société canadienne des humanités numériques (CSDH/SCHN).