Sunday, January 6, 2008

21 Million Library Users Concerned About Copyright

Today, the Canadian Library Association (CLA) outlined the concerns of over 21 million library users and member librarians about pending copyright legislation.

"Our members are hearing from a growing chorus of public library users that copyright laws must reflect the public interest," commented Don Butcher, CLA's Executive Director. "Whether it is through library blogs, Facebook groups, or at the library front desks, we are getting the message that Canadians want a fair and balanced copyright approach."

As a result of this public debate and feedback, CLA is making public its core issues that it wants to see in any new copyright legislation. "As the voice of library users and professionals, we have an obligation to let the Government know that copyright issues are striking a cord with average Canadians and that this is an issue that will impact any election," added Butcher.

"Just one simple Facebook group on copyright gained 30,000 members in a few short weeks with another Canadian joining the group every 30 seconds. There have been public rallies in Calgary and Toronto. The Government needs to listen to average Canadians," concluded Butcher.

The most important change in copyright in recent years both for libraries and for all Canadians has been the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada judgment in CCH Canada Ltd. v. The Law Society of Upper Canada. Should the Government introduce amendments to the Copyright Act, any change must reflect the broad interpretation of fair dealing outlined in this judgment and ensure that users' rights are well-protected.

The library community's key concerns were outlined in a letter to the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage released to the public today. These concerns include:

- Any new copyright legislation must be carefully crafted so that it punishes copyright-infringing behaviour but does not ban devices that might be used to circumvent technological prevention measures. "Technological measures can be used to invade privacy and prevent Canadians from invoking their rights," Butcher said.

"The legislation must protect Canadians who are merely upholding their rights."

- The Government needs to recognize that government documents and government data belong to all Canadians and that all Canadians should have liberal access to these materials.

"Current Crown copyright rules can mean Canadians pay multiple times for the same information," Butcher said. "The increased costs are barriers to learning."

- Persons with perceptual disabilities must have the same right to access copyrighted materials as all Canadians have. This right should apply regardless of format in order to accommodate their particular needs. Legislation is required to give persons with perceptual disabilities access equity with others.

"Digital information is extraordinarily useful in overcoming physical, learning and perceptual disabilities," Butcher said. "This is a real opportunity to level the playing field."

- Libraries oppose legislation that makes the same mistakes as the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act. American law makes no differentiation in penalty between a counterfeiter circumventing technical protection measures for illegal profit and an individual circumventing technical protection measures to make a single copy.

"Even one of the architects of the DMCA has admitted it is flawed legislation," said Butcher. "Let's not make the same mistakes."

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