Tag Archives: postaweek2012

When did I license Library & Archives Canada to sell my dissertation?

I’m discovering that the ProQuest thesis and dissertation database is full of surprises. Like my dissertation.

As a doctoral student, I had never consulted my alma mater‘s graduate student calendar copyright policy. While it states that the student is the copyright holder of the thesis or dissertation, it also stipulates, “as a condition of engaging in graduate study in the university, [that] the author of a thesis grants certain licences and waivers with respect to the circulation and copying of the thesis.” These licenses are for the university library, naturally, but there’s also one for Library & Archives Canada (LAC), to which the dissertation author grants “a licence to microfilm the thesis under carefully specified conditions” (7).

I didn’t read the fine print of the university’s copyright policy for graduate students, but before I defended, my supervisor made a point of advising me to treat and protect the work as my scholarly capital. And it was in this work that I began researching copyright. So I think I would remember if I was ever briefed on the “carefully specified conditions” of the LAC’s license. I wasn’t.

Canada's Fortress of Knowledgtude. LAC photo CC-licensed from Padraic Ryan.

The LAC cover on my dissertation in the ProQuest database informs me, however, that I (“the author”) have

granted a non-exclusive license allowing Library and Archives Canada to reproduce, publish, archive, preserve, conserve, communicate to the public by telecommunication or on the Internet, loan, distribute and sell theses worldwide, for commercial or non-commercial purposes, in microform, paper, electronic and/or any other formats.

The cover also assures me that – while LAC has just said it can basically do whatever it wants with the work – “the author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis.”

Now, most of this I don’t object to, in principle. I’m fully on board with archiving and preserving. I support LAC as a vital institution serving Canadians’ public interest. And I’m all for open access – not that the ProQuest database itself is open access (though it does make more research more accessible). But I do object to the LAC’s unclearly-got license to sell my work internationally and distribute it “for commercial purposes” – like, say, to this ProQuest database, whose own bottom line the dissertation now gets to gild, with neither my informed consent nor share in any profits.

Not that I would expect the work to yield much of anything in that way. It’s a dissertation, after all – it’s not even a book. (Which suggests an implication for graduates who, unlike Yours Truly, might want to turn their dissertations into books: does ProQuest database availability compromise publish-ability?)

What I object to is the commercial latitude of the LAC’s license, and the opacity of the university policy about this license. None of the protocols of depositing the dissertation with the university involved any “careful specification” of the license I apparently gave to Library & Archives Canada to sell my work.

Work Cited
Graduate Student Calendar. U of Guelph, 2012.

Protest works. SOPA won’t. Next: boycott Big Content?

CC-licensed from Aaron Escobar

By most accounts, yesterday’s #OpBlackout Internet strike made the right kind of noise. Copyright law scholar Sam Trosow calls them “an event of potentially historical magnitude.” Activist organizations like Avaaz, DemandProgress, the EFF, and FightForTheFuture developed an arsenal of different protest tools. Today, reports show much more Congressional opposition to SOPA.
The Pirate Bay posted a feisty, combative press release:

SOPA can’t do anything to stop TPB. Worst case we’ll change top level domain from our current .org to one of the hundreds of other names that we already also use. In countries where TPB is blocked, China and Saudi Arabia springs to mind, they block hundreds of our domain names. And did it work? Not really. To fix the “problem of piracy” one should go to the source of the problem. The entertainment industry say they’re creating “culture” but what they really do is stuff like selling overpriced plushy dolls and making 11 year old girls become anorexic. Either from working in the factories that creates the dolls for basically no salary or by watching movies and tv shows that make them think that they’re fat.

Of course, we already knew before yesterday that the ███████ bill won’t even work. As has been widely reported, opensource developers have already created and distributed apps and plug-ins that pre-emptively subvert SOPA:
“Internet circumvents anti-circumvention bill before it even passes.”

But as expert commentators like Trosow and Michael Geist point out, SOPA is just one of many legislative and trade-based manoeuvres being pursued around the world, manoeuvres like ACTA, CETA, and TPP that target “piracy” with reckless indifference to the vast collateral damage they will wreak on civil liberties and even human rights.

And yet the same small pool of usual suspects are behind most of these widely cast driftnets of regulation. Lawrence Lessig calls them Big Content: Hollywood and the Big Four Music labels. Massively concentrated, multinational, conglomerate corporations, these are vampire overlords of cultural production thatclearly show they don’t understand and actively hate the Internet, and yet whose productions command massive global popularity – and profits. I’ve previously blogged about an informative map that shows what the world looks like according to royalty exports. Let’s look at that map again.

CC-licensed from Worldmapper.org

In this version of the world, the USA is a bloated tick and the rest of the world, save western Europe, barely exists. The nervous system of this tick is Big Content: the entertainment and music conglomerates that tirelessly come up with new ways to make censorship, kill switches, and mass criminalization seem like common sense instead of straight-up evil greed (hey, BoingBoing said it). And all the while, Big Content still enjoys substantial, sometimes record profits.

While there are many reasons for Big Content’s continued profitability (amidst a horde of conflicting studies, independent and interested, that leave its purported demise a claim greatly exaggerated), let me get all “Universal soldier” for a minute and suggest the fault’s partly our own, as buyers of albums, DVDs, and movie tickets. If the Internet really wants to put the hurt on this torrent of bad ideas – drawn up in secret, promoted disingenuously, and possessing all the precision and finesse of a point-blank blunderbuss – maybe it’s time to #BBC: Boycott Big Content. I don’t know about you, but music seems to be getting along fine without big labels, self-publishing’s on an upswing, and Youtube’s as much fun as the silver screen. Quality UGC now comes in all shapes, sizes, and persuasions (like The Oatmeal, which was perhaps the blackout’s popular favourite statement). So maybe I don’t get out much – and maybe an old-timey boycott has its share of problems as an effective tactic – but Boycotting Big Content might be something to consider, the better to strike at the roots of the evil that is today’s out-of-control copyright regime.

UPDATES:
1. I just learned BBC means something other than British Broadcasting Corp. Makes the tag even better. (That said, public media like the BBC and the CBC provide vital public-interest service, unlike private conglomerates. They’re in a different, more respectable league of Big Media.)
2. A boycott’s one idea; the hacktivist group Anonymous is taking a more direct approach against Big Content, making DDoS attacks on not just state agencies but companies like Sony; check out the statement the group has issued.

Open letter opposing TPP talks over copyright

Michael Geist advises Canadians to participate in the public consultation on a possible trade deal with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could mean a longer copyright term, stronger digital lock protections, and ISP notice-and-takedown – measures that would toughen copyright beyond international requirements, stifle innovation and education, and undo some of the provisions in C-11 – a bill the government hasn’t even passed yet.

Given what the government’s considering signing away with CETA (you know, just water and health care and such), I dread what else the government may be considering by joining the TPP.

To participate is as easy as sending an e-mail to consultations@international.gc.ca. Here’s the one I wrote.

To whom it may concern,
I am writing, in response to the invitation for public comments on the TPP talks, to state that I object to copyright being part of these talks.

In particular, provisions being considered that would extend copyright term, strengthen digital locks, and introduce notice-and-takedown requirements for ISPs are provisions that would harm Canadian business, education, and culture. They would also run counter to many points in the new copyright legislation, Bill C-11. Some legal criticisms suggest the digital lock provisions in C-11 are themselves unconstitutional, and international criticisms of notice-and-takedown measures point out their inefficacy and flouting of due legal process. For the government to consider copyright changes under TPP that would require either revision or replacement of C-11 is a questionable use of government resources, a detriment to Canadian industry and innovation, and an unacceptable imposition on Canadians’ access to and use of information.

Sincerely,