Tag Archives: fair dealing

Meera Nair on Canada’s copyright review & fair dealing at Congress

English Matters, The blog of the Association of Canadian College & University Teachers of English (ACCUTE), features a talk by Meera Nair (NAIT) from the panel I organized & chaired at Congress on Monday, May 29, 2017: “Canada’s 2017 copyright review: academics’ perspectives.” The panel included three presenters: Sileshi Hirko (U Ottawa) made the case for re-framing copyright’s users’ rights (i.e. fair dealing) according to human rights and international rights agreements; Lisa Macklem (Western U) discussed the implications of intermediary lobbying (e.g. by Access Copyright) and international trade agreements (e.g. NAFTA) for users’ rights in Canadian copyright law; and Nair showed how not only users but also authors depend on fair dealing.
Read more about the panel at this link, where you can also read a free PDF version of Nair’s complete talk.

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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).

New Fronts in the Copyfight, Part 2

Now published, just in time for Fair Dealing Week 2016: Part 2 of New Fronts in the Copyfight, my guest-edited series in Digital Studies/Le champ numérique (DSCN). DSCN is an open access journal in the Digital Humanities. New Fronts in the Copyfight is a series featuring innovative, multidisciplinary directions in critical copyright studies. The new installment includes research articles by Dr Carolyn Guertin (author of Digital Prohibition) on digitally remixed creativity, and by Dr Daniel Downes (author of Interactive Realism and co-editor of Post-Colonial Distances) on a theory of “transproperty.” The installment also includes my review of Rosemary Coombe et al’s Dynamic Fair Dealing (2014), an excellent book, and a timely one, given the fast-approaching review of Canada’s amended copyright act and the copyright implications of the signed but not yet ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Margaret Atwood on McLuhan’s copyright contraband

I’ve just stumbled upon this great anecdote that Margaret Atwood told the Globe & Mail in 2011, about Marshall McLuhan and his first book’s tussle with copyright.

I was one of those people who luckily was able to obtain a copy of The Mechanical Bride, early on. You know that he had to pull off the shelves – do you know this book at all?

He reproduced a lot of ads, from soap companies and cigarette companies and everything. He showed the actual ad, and then he would do an analysis of them. And it is very funny.

But the companies whose ads they were took exception. Copyright issues. And he had to pull the book. But he had them in his cellar and if you had contact you could purchase one out of the back window of Marshall McLuhan’s house – so The Mechanical Bride, a piece of genius.

McLuhan’s work sometimes shows a critical concern with copyright; The Medium is the Massage anticipates and encapsulates more or less the whole argument of Mark Rose’s 1993 book Authors and Owners:

“Authorship” – in the sense we know it today, individual intellectual effort related to the book as an economic commodity – was practically unknown before the advent of print technology. … The invention of print did away with anonymity, fostering ideas of literary fame and the habit of considering intellectual effort as private property. … The rising consumer-oriented culture became concerned with labels of authenticity and protection against theft and piracy. The idea of copyright – “the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form of a literary or artistic work” – was born. (122)

This section goes on to theorize photocopying as a democratized, user-driven form of “instant publishing”: Anybody can now become both author and publisher. Take any books on any subject and custom-make your own book by simply xeroxing a chapter from this one, a chapter from that one – instant steal!” (123). McLuhan here presents an image of radical appropriation, of the kind that copyright maximalists like the photocopy royalty-collecting agency Access Copyright (formerly CanCopy) have been invoking to lobby and litigate against fair dealing for years now. This is not to say that McLuhan’s image exemplifies fair dealing, the users’ right in copyright law that allows for certain limited reuse of copyrighted works (see “What is Fair Dealing”): he leaves unclear whether the hypothetical user is assembling just one compilation (which would be more fair), or mass-photocopying multiple copies (which would be less fair); and whether the user is using the compilation non-commercially (more fair) or for sale (less fair).

Since not only The Mechanical Bride but also The Medium is the Massage, War and Peace in the Global Village, and Culture is Our Business made extensive collage use of cut-up print media samples, maybe there is, in Atwood’s suggestive anecdote, a fuller story worth looking into. One wonders if copyright was a legal pretext exploited by the advertisers whose work he reproduced simply to suppress what he had to say about them – what he had to say about postwar advertising wasn’t good. Atwood’s description of McLuhan’s purportedly infringing work as “genius” also related interestingly to her own statements on copyright from around the same time, which tended to side with proponents of the kind of copyright maximalism that would severely curtail not only fair dealing but even the kind of licensed, commercial reuse that made so much of McLuhan’s work possible and so distinctive in the first place (see Knopf; McCutcheon, “It’s unfair”). Were books like The Mechanical Bride and The Medium is the Massage in production today, it’s conceivable that the hefty fees now being asked for permission to reprint song lyrics, poetry lines, and photographs (McCutcheon, “Cento” 92) could prove prohibitive, and prevent them from ever getting to print.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. “Margaret Atwood, uncensored.” The Globe and Mail 29 Apr. 2011. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/margaret-atwood-uncensored/article578234/?page=all
Knopf, Howard. “To Margaret Atwood: Copyright and Cars cannot conflate.” Excess Copyright 14 Mar. 2011 http://excesscopyright.blogspot.ca/2011/03/to-margaret-atwood-copyright-and-cars.html
McCutcheon, Mark A. “The Cento, Romanticism, and Copyright.” English Studies in Canada 38.2 (2012): 71-101. http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/ESC/article/view/21280/16093
—. “It’s unfair to impugn #cdnpse…” Tweet 7:27 pm, 14 Oct. 2012 https://twitter.com/sonicfiction/status/257668880841973762
McLuhan, Marshall and Jerome Agel. The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967). Berkeley: Gingko, 2001.
Rose, Mark. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1993.
“What is Fair Dealing and how does it relate to copyright?” Library, Simon Fraser U, 4 Mar. 2015 http://www.lib.sfu.ca/faqs/copyright-fair-dealing

A Partly Automated Sonnet-Cento About Copyright Present and Future

This partly automated sonnet-cento, about copyright present and future, is composed of lines from my tweets with the technical help of Poetweet (which I can’t stop using, now that #writing201 has alerted me to it).

“Can’t we cut a little bit more, drawn from our collective pasts”

you to go to jail for sharing files
despite undecided legal challenge
and anti-democratic trade deals
poverty and climate change

and clarify notice-and-notice
amendments on controversial
users with baseless legal threats
for the use of copyrighted material

information in payment demands
models and monopolistic advantage
emphasis on the need for balance
use of Canada’s cultural heritage

exec started making some calls
your personal information to trolls

A “Latent News” Report: Found Poetry and Fair Dealing

When I studied at the U of Guelph and belonged to its Creative Writing Society, in early 2004, we created found poetry by playing the Surrealist game Latent News: “one or more persons cuts out each individual line from several different newspaper stories, mixes them up, and then rearranges them as quickly as possible into entirely new stories, the only rule being that the lines must be arranged into syntactically correct sentences. The name is derived from the impulse behind the game: to disorder the mystification called ‘news’ and thereby to reveal something of its latent content” (Rosemont 169, emphasis added).

Latent News Report, Jan. 21, 2004

women who band together to seek
For example, the new guidelines
to Understand Men Through Their
having boards take this / from one of Radio 3’s other sites,
Apart from the fans, who are being
revenge after their wealthy, / anesthesia for a procedure to
a history of heinous allegations.
where this stuff is going. But / Canada has vehemently denied
an interim ruling yesterday,
Along the way, the Patriots made
South Africa’s Kalahari Desert, to help
busy, complex surroundings of a
sampler. Each of the four singers
A PROVEN MONEY MAKER. You receive
the groundwork for universal suffrage and
stream of independent Canadian
of the Month and Young Wives.
successful, who could not find a
volume of more than 14 million
studies. And I was happy to be here.

mccutcheon_latentnews2004 Over ten years later, I can’t attribute my source more precisely than to guess that this latent news report is probably taken from then-current stories in The Globe & Mail. (I’m a bit amazed to find that the CWS’ webpage about our latent news reporting is still up. The Internet really is forever…sometimes.)

This repurposing of found text to reveal the “latent news” represents another practice of fair dealing, the users’ right in copyright law that allows you to reuse copyrighted works in limited ways. In this case, a substantial portion of a news article (or more than one article) may end up being used, but what is most significant here the selection and sequencing of the words, which serve to turn the original piece into a critique of that piece and by extension a criticism of the assumptions, biases, and other really quite narrow parameters of “news-worthiness.” That is, the latent news is first and foremost a practice of criticism, and as such is eminently defensible as fair dealing.

It’s arguable that as a practice of Surrealist poetry, the Latent News doesn’t demystify the news so much as it may simply trade one kind of mystification – that of corporate-biased, corporate-owned news media – for another – that of avant-garde appropriation art. Is the form maybe a bit outdated? In the age of social media, readers and users have found highly effective ways to demystify, criticize, and call out the embedded, encoded, and otherwise less-than-obvious premises and biases in mainstream journalism. A vocabulary of memes and tropes has emerged around social media users’ criticisms of corporate journalism. Take, for example, the trope of “fixing” stories and headlines. Here’s one of my favourite examples, in which the ever-incisive @FugitivePhilo “fixes” a headline for Bloomberg Business News:

Sarcasm seems to play a big role in the Internet’s memes and tropes of media criticism. Some of it is maybe prompted by the extreme economy of words that a platform like Twitter demands; maybe more of it is a response to the rampaging stampede of trolls the Internet sometimes seems like, where every single news article is graced – by virtue of affording a comment box – with its own hundreds-strong club of assholes. (Present readers excepted…blog commentators don’t seem cretinous; it’s mainstream news that brings out the trolls.)

But despite the new forms adopted and circulated by critical readers of news, there’s still a place and a role for the Surrealists’ Latent News, I think, and I think too that Latent News practice can readily adapt to the new media environment. (Maybe today’s Latent News can remix not only an article itself, but also its accompanying torrent of trolls.) New tools lend themselves to this game, tools like Poetweet, which eats lines from whichever Twitter account you feed it and spits out instant sonnets, rondeles, and other poems. With tools like these you can demystify your own news. Here’s a Latent News sonnet that Poetweet produced from my own Twitter feed, which tends to relay a lot of news stories (or else this process would produce not Latent News, strictly speaking, but centos more broadly):

Payment Demands

Emphasis on the need for balance.”
The social process of learning.”
Metric for measuring excellence.”
That it still needs explaining.)

Watches sunrise on giant TV screens
You to go to jail for sharing files
& thoughtful citizens.”
Vibes tickle your earholes.

Boots ’n’ cats
By children not vaccinated?
Users With Baseless Legal Threats

Public & the public interest.
Universal basic income as a right.
Paramilitaries to Clear Protest

The fact that Poetweet made this automatically points to another key Surrealist technique, automatic writing, which tries to free the writing process from rational control and self-censorship to the maximum extent possible. The Latent News offers an opportunity to closely read and materially engage with a journalistic composition; it lets you learn about such composition by taking it apart and not putting it back together the way you found it. It represents a warped, distorted kind of playback, and playback has proven an effective form of criticism in itself. According to playwright and critic Rick Salutin, playback is a major rhetorical device in the digital age, as demonstrated for instance by The Daily Show: “You simply repeat what your foe or target said, letting the audience realize how dangerous or vacuous it is. … [Jon Stewart] plays a clip by a public figure. Then he repeats it himself in an amazed tone. It’s devastating” (A17).

Latent News also deals in irony and timeliness (one of these is also a criterion of news-worthiness…guess which?). I’ve given a sample of the form made of news from way back in 2004, and I’ve lost the sources as well. So what news, precisely, was being demystified at the time is now lost to that time. It may be a kind of adaptation that works better – and that more effectively criticizes – when the reader can see the original and the cut-up remix facing each other. So maybe I should post again soon with a more current sample – together with a link to its source material.

That said, the Surrealists’ game of Latent News remains an engaging – and, let’s admit it, fun – exercise in close reading, critical reflection, and creative reinterpretation. It combines playback with cut-up, creating new contexts in which to understand “all the news that’s fit to print” – while exposing the contexts that made what’s in print seem fit to be news.

Works Cited

Rosemont, Franklin. “Surrealist Games, 2. Latent News.” Surrealism in the USA. Spec. issue of Race Traitor 13-14 (2001): 169-70.
Salutin, Rick. “Proud despite the facts.” Globe and Mail 18 Mar. 2005: A17.
The Globe & Mail, circa 2003-4.
van Veen, Tobias C. [@fugitivephilo]. “Fixed it for you: ‘How Big Pharma & Capitalism Failed to Stop Ebola Because Black People Aren’t Profitable’.” Tweet. 6:19 PM, 30 Sept. 2014. https://twitter.com/fugitivephilo/status/517106488717107200

New article on copyright and literary production in the Romantic period

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), prose centonist

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), prose centonist

My article in the new issue of English Studies in Canada brings some historical perspective to the copyfight, and suggests some precedents for fair dealing in the work of Romantic writers usually identified as exemplars of originality: William Hazlitt and William Wordsworth. The article focuses on the curious case of the cento – a genre of poetry made from quoted lines of other poems – and its various uses in literary production during the Romantic period. This was a very interesting period for copyright: neither before nor since has the term of copyright protection been as brief, and arguably as accommodating (to users and writers), as it was from 1774 to 1842. The article belongs to a special section in this issue of ESC on Romantic and Regency authorship, featuring some exciting new work on the period’s print culture – and its implications for cultural production and copyright today.

“The Cento, Romanticism, and Copyright.” English Studies in Canada 38.2 (2012): 71-101. [Published June 2013]
Published journal version (for readers with university library access)
Open Access version (for readers without university library access)

Abstract: This article excavates the obscure literary genre of the cento – a genre of poetry defined by its wholly derivative composition from quotations of other works – and its supplementary relation to Romantic literature and the period’s transformations of copyright regulation. The cento’s Romantic reworkings position this genre as a precedent for later appropriation art, especially digital culture’s sampling and remix practices. Specific uses of the cento form by the essayist William Hazlitt and the poet William Wordsworth suggest precedents in the period’s culture of literary production for fair dealing, the “user’s right” to the limited appropriation of copyrighted works that has more recently become ensconced in copyright law. By investigating the place of the cento in Romantic literary production, this study argues for the importance of fair dealing to both creative and critical forms of writing, and contributes historical context to the present-day “copyfight.”

The Open Access version of “The Cento, Romanticism, and Copyright” is made available with the author’s grateful acknowledgement of English Studies in Canada for the original publication of the article.