I’m back to blogging, and this time it’s because I had an argument on the internet. I do not normally argue on the internet; I am a very non-confrontational person, and the maliciousness that comes out so easily in cyberspace (in myself as much as others) is kind of frightening.
Still, after reading this I joined in on what turned into a bit of a mean-spirited pile on. I don’t think we scored librarians any points, although I think we were clearly in the right.
John Degen, an author and Ontario Arts Council worker, wrote a pretty scathing post about the OLITA resolution passed at last Friday’s AGM, a resolution I was proud to throw my weight behind (read it here).
I don’t think (surprise!) that Twitter did justice to the response I wanted to give so John, or whoever, here is what I have to say about your post, the OLITA resolution, and Access Copyright:
(But first of all, heck yes librarianship is political. I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to too many people.)
Degen disputes several of the resolutions clauses out-right, without explaining why he disagrees that students are broke, supreme court rulings on fair dealing give more leeway to educators, or that Access Copyright treats technology restrictively.
He then goes on to say:
What the resolution rather studiously does not point out is that when schools, colleges and universities decide to forgo licensing for copyright-protected content, millions of dollars in legitimate royalty payments to Canadian writers disappear
There’s not a lot of room for argument here, because I dispute that Access Copyright represents “legitimate royalty payments.” The structure of Access Copyright is bad. They spend a lot of money to collect a lot of money, very little of which actually goes to writers.
At one point in our incessant Twitter squabling Degen argued: “last time I checked, Spacing expected their copyright to be respected.” Spacing is an urban issues magazine. I am the books editor for this publication.
(Just in case you were looking for an answer, John, yes, I do expect people to follow copyright law when using Spacing. But copyright is obviously nuanced…if it wasn’t we wouldn’t need to have too many discussions! If you want to photocopy an issue of Spacing and sell it…there will be a problem. If you want to photocopy an article for your class, the law has come down squarely on your side, regardless of how Spacing’s editors and writers feel about it.*)
Fair dealing is real. This doesn’t mean I can photocopy twenty copies of his novel and pass them out to students so that they don’t need to buy their own. That’s obviously an extreme example of infringement, but Degen’s arguments take everything to an extreme. In another blog post he argues that yes, teachers should have to pay 30 licensing fees if they want to teach a news article in their current events class. First of all, what would be the logistics of putting this sort of mind-numbing bureaucracy into action? If handing out a single newspaper article to your class is not covered under fair dealing–what the heck is?
Degen’s issue is with the law itself–he doesn’t seem to believe in fair dealing, period. And if that’s the case then his argument is really, “the legal system is bad and doesn’t compensate authors properly, so underfunded libraries should be threatened with law suits until they pay more for content they have already legally acquired.”
(But yes, he’s right that the OLA and OLITA websites do not do a great job of explaining our membership…so hi, I’m one of them.)
* My guess is that they would feel pretty good about it –they are heavily invested in urban advocacy issues, and the article might just generate some new subscribers!