Tag Archives: postaweek

“Really really Canadian”

Many thanks to Bruce Sterling and Wired for the kind word about my article on copyright, Canadian science fiction, and social media.

Some pretty good stuff here, even if it’s, uh, really really Canadian.

I’ll take “really really Canadian” as a compliment. (Would there by any other way for a Canadian to take it?)
Not sure why WordPress waited four years to notify me about this particular pingback, but better late than never.


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.


The U of A Faculty of Arts blog supports and quotes from the AU Faculty Association’s stand on the Alberta Enterprise & Advanced Education Ministry’s  controversial “Letters of Expectation”:

“We should take their letter to heart.

“Its single most powerful sentence about the Government’s letter:

“‘The Letter, ultimately, is best understood as an attempt to justify the unjustifiable cut to the province’s postsecondary budget, a cut so deep – and made in one of the world’s richest jurisdictions – that it must be understood primarily as political, not financial.’

“The little university that could! Can we follow their lead?”


Access Copyright sues York U over fair dealing policy

Access Copyright – the photocopy royalty-collecting society that has gradually morphed into a lobbying-and-lawsuit engine – continues its misadventures in litigation this week with  a lawsuit against York University over the institution’s fair dealing policy.

For preliminary expert analysis on the developing situation, see Howard Knopf’s blog post, and Michael Geist’s post on the legal action:

Access Copyright has decided to fight the law – along with governments, educational institutions, teachers, librarians, and taxpayers … it has filed a lawsuit against York University over its fair dealing guidelines, which are similar to those adopted by educational institutions across the country. While the lawsuit has yet to be posted online, the Access Copyright release suggests that the suit is not alleging specific instances of infringement, but rather takes issue with guidelines it says are “arbitrary and unsupported” and that “authorize and encourage copying that is not supported by the law.”

Read Access Copyright’s Statement of Claim against York University here.

Stakeholders in copyright and Canadian education are questioning the timing of the action, and the targeting of York, seeing the action as – variously – a test, as a fishing expedition, and/or as an intimidation tactic to chill the more robust and eminently lawful approach to fair dealing that is taking hold across Canadian schools and campuses. It may be too soon to forecast a decision, but the recent case law history and the now-amended copyright legislation (which explicitly provides for educational fair dealing) are both decidedly in York’s favour. The “quintet” of Supreme Court copyright cases that were decided last summer – cases that included Alberta (Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright) – have helped to restore some balance to Canadian copyright law in favour of users (for a welcome change), and, in the process, have made the legal climate very inhospitable to actions like the one Access Copyright is now pursuing.

One has to wonder whether all the money Access Copyright spends on legal expenses wouldn’t be better reallocated to its core business: remunerating writers.

Adventures in Academic Advertising

Mirrlees_GEMI recently had the pleasure of providing a short promotional blurb for a colleague’s new book: Tanner Mirrlees’ Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization (Routledge, 2013). It was interesting to observe the difference between what I supplied, and what they ended up using.

Here’s what I sent:

Comprehensive and tactically plain-spoken, Dr. Mirrlees’ cultural-economic study maps out the complex networks of production, consumption, and regulation that structure today’s culture industry, and offers a key for unlocking its meanings and functions in a neoliberal age dominated by neo-imperial corporations. In the process, this teachable text provides a primer – ideal for undergraduates – on key “macro” concepts in media and cultural studies, like discourse, globalization, intellectual property, and postcolonialism.

Here’s what they ran:

This teachable text provides a primer—ideal for undergraduates—on key ‘macro’ concepts in media and cultural studies, like discourse, globalization, intellectual property, and postcolonialism.

I’m not criticizing anybody, I just think the difference is interesting. (Also – note to self: you’re wordy!) And they ran the extended original on the book’s webpage. Publishers’ advertising and promotion people need a pretty free hand to work with what’s given: advertising is their expertise, it is so not mine. I just like contemplating the specific editorial moves involved here, and how they work to shift units, in this case an academic book.

And of course, Mirrlees’ book is very good, especially for its demystifying treatment of intellectual property, and its elaboration of theories of cultural imperialism.

Open letter: objection to Bill C-56, and to Canada considering ACTA ratification

To: The Hon. Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry minister.industry@ic.gc.ca
Subject: objection to Bill C-56, and to Canada considering ACTA ratification

Honourable Minister Paradis,

I am writing, as a copyright policy researcher, to object to the government’s introduction of Bill C-56, which would position Canada to ratify ACTA: a trade agreement that has been roundly rejected by jurisdictions around the world (like the EU), partly for harbouring disastrous copyright policies like those of the failed American SOPA and PIPA bills. By enabling Canada to ratify ACTA, Bill C-56 would thus lead to the partial undoing of the government’s own recently passed copyright legislation in Bill C-11 – which has made important gains for Canadians, towards better balanced copyright.

Bill C-56 is politically toxic, a shameless cave-in to US lobbying, and a flagrant waste of taxpayers’ money.

For further reading on Bill C-56 and the apparently unkillable ACTA:

Arellano, Nestor. “Will Bill C-56 resurrect ACTA?” IT World Canada 7 Mar. 2013.
Bradbury, Danny. “Canadian Bill C-56 raises spectre of ISP ‘copyright police’.” MS Geektown 6 Mar. 2013.
Geist, Michael. “NDP calls it: Bill C-56 is ‘ACTA through the back door’.” 6 Mar. 2013.
—. “What’s really behind Ottawa’s anti-counterfeiting bill.” Toronto Star 15 Mar. 2013.
Knopf, Howard. “Bill C-56: Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water?” Excess Copyright 4 Mar. 2013.


This weekend I figured out the secret logic and magic of the Harlem Shake meme. It’s a meta-meme: a meme about memes. Harlem Shake: the recursive metameme. Starts with one weirdo in the corner, then abruptly millions freak out, & … Continue reading