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I am a Canadian novelist and teacher, and as an creative professional, I feel I must add my voice to a discussion which is likely to be crowded by special interest lobbies. It's my opinion that the voices with the most volume and money behind them do not necessarily represent the interests of Canada's culture or economy. Thus, I here add my voice:
Canada's copyright laws guarantee me part of my income from my written work. This protection cannot be sacrificed, for the good of all artists and the development of Canadian culture as well as homegrown industries centred around art and entertainment. My fear with copyright reform is that copyright will go the way of patent law, where a company may hold a patent over something they neither created nor invested in (Monsanto's copyright on species of corn comes to mind). Copyright should cover a whole work or broad concepts like specific characters, settings, melodies, etc., but must not be so permissive as to allow the copyrighting of small portions of works. If we allow, for example, the copyrighting of chord progressions or character archetypes, every Canadian artist, from working professionals, to children scribbling in notebooks or composing at the piano will be prey for corporate lawyers. This has happened in the patent world and it would be disasterous if it were to happen in the world of self-expression.
Canadian law must foster innovation, experimentation, and freedom of expression. I hold these to be the basis for a free society as well as the basis for development in art and small-economy businesses. If copyright changes must be made, it must be to preserve the scope of the fair dealing exception. The greater part of self-expression is in commenting on what one sees and experienced. Often this includes referencing, parodying or mimicking what one has seen. A restriction on fair dealing is a restriction of freedom of speech. If I wanted to write an editorial on a local news broadcast, it would be unconscienable to allow the company who owned that broadcast to sue me for copyright infringement just because I had quoted from it. I am concerned that the special interest lobby wants this measure of control over everything they produce. Such microscopic ownership of intellectual property would not, I am certain, be even-handed in practice, with the exclusive right to speak going to he who had the best lawyers.
Innovation and creativity require freedom. Though I make part of my living from ownership of my works, but my works are inspired by the works of others, and sometimes closely mirror them if one knows where to look. They are still my works, and knowing that I do not have to worry about being sued because my work is "similar" to someone else's frees my mind to create. If you want innovation in Canada — real innovation across the country — you must preserve our rights to express ourselves. This leads to innovation. The fear of litigation, even more than actual litigation, will stifle creativity as well as independent media and personal expression.
I do not believe that granting more stringent copyright laws to powerful interests will foster competition. Rather, it will allow them the legal means to suppress competition. This is what relaxed copyright laws have brought in other countries. I am one who does not trust that the government always has the best interests of Canada at heart. I rather trust the Canadian people, kind-hearted and hard-working as we are, to expand into legal spaces granted us, filling them with new art, new businesses, perhaps new industries. I live in the Okanagan and have seen the power of local business to foster community strength and it's something I would see more of.
Innovation in large part happens on the web and in digital media. This is because it is cheap enough that anyone can put their talent forward. This ability must be preserved. I would not support piracy of existing works as part of copyright reform, but I am wary of the power of big business to squash small business or individual artists through litigation. They will want this power, but it is not good for Canada. We have a wealth of creative talent in this country. If you had moved in these circles as I have, among artists and poets, bloggers and writers, you would see our strength to innovate, on a small scale but across many, many people. I would have this preserve — to have copyright law remain close to what it is, as practiced by most of the world excepting the United States, whose companies are the ones pushing for change.