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To the Government of Canada,
Thank you for taking the opportunity to consult with the public on copyright. I feel that public input has not been adequately sampled in the past and that the public should play a more significant part of any copyright reform process, since copyright has considerable influence in contemporary Canadian life.
I am a graduate student in Psychology at the University of Toronto. In my research on human memory, I have explored how prior memories influence the creation of new ones. I have found insufficient flexibility and clarity in Canadian copyright for academic use. Copyright restrictions interfere with my ability to communicate my research.
First and foremost, I find research communication to be impaired by the lack of a public access requirement for research funded by Canadian agencies. Funding bodies in other countries, such as NIH in the United States, require funded research to be made publicly available in any resulting publications. As a result, academic journals have since arranged to make NIH research freely available for download from their websites. Without a strong open access policy backing Canada-funded research, journals are still able to require Canadian researchers to surrender most rights for publication (or pay considerable amount to retain open access rights). Public users are required to pay large amounts to access this research. As the public paid for the research to be conducted in the first place, I feel this arrangement is unacceptable. It is also detrimental to academic productivity — when I am seeking an article at a location outside of a university campus (e.g., a nearby research institute), significant time is wasted navigating online to journal websites, via a university portal, via several login authentication screens, to access each file. Articles without this restriction imposed (such as any NIH-funded article) may be easily downloaded with a google search and a single click.
Along the same lines, I feel industrially-useful discoveries made by publicly-funded Canadian researchers should be freely available to any Canadian individual or business who is interested. These discoveries should not be subjected to private patents through sale or other means. Enforced public access would facilitate the most rapid possible technology transfer of discoveries to Canadian individuals and businesses. The current approach to technology transfer allows the sale of ideas to private hands, with the proceeds going to universities and researchers (even though they received public funds to conduct the work). With the rights now privately retained, companies may levy unreasonably high prices due to their unique access to the technology, or even quash the technology by refusing to implement it. For instance, an oil company might buy rights to a breakthrough electric battery technology to suppress the innovation and maintain oil dependence. This arrangement is clearly not advantageous to the public at large.
A third issue concerns the ambiguity of "fair use". One topic of my research is how well humans are able to retain memory for changes to established memories. Corporate logos are perhaps better known by Canadians than any other stimulus class, and are also easy to visually alter. My understanding is that using original and altered logos in a memory test for research is currently allowed under "fair use". This was difficult to ascertain — better resources for academics are needed to explain how this concept may apply to their work. In addition, it is unlikely I will be able to publish the materials I used in a scientific journal to help explain the manipulation conducted. Even if a company consents to having their logo published, no company will allow a manipulated logo to be published, and no journal will publish copyrighted materials. Better clarity is needed regarding the legal precedence of "fair use" over other claims in research and research publications.
Finally, while the following do not pertain specifically to research, I would like to add my feelings about several other points concerning Canadian copyright reform that could be addressed through improved legislation:
1. "Fair use" in art, as in research, should be broadened and clarified to eliminate restrictions on creativity and better protect Canadian artists and individuals. For instance, youtube users who employ short music clips in their home movies, and fans who post fan websites, are contributing to Canadian culture and should be protected in these non-damaging, non-profit activities. This protection of such users should be made explicitly in expanded and clarified fair use rules. Similarly, acceptable parameters for "mashup" artists to produce their work should be defined (e.g., clips may not extend beyond a single "scene" or 1 minute, whichever is shorter).
2. Creative works should move into the public domain sooner. The long periods currently imposed (well beyond the lifetime of the author) appear to benefit property-holders at the detriment of our ability to enjoy our common heritage. For instance, is absurd that "Mickey Mouse", a cultural icon from the early 20th century, cannot be reproduced without license.
3. Digital rights management (DRM) technology should be abolished. As has already been seen numerous times when music services shut down, DRM-schemes are risky for consumers, who are left without access to their property when enforcement technologies are deactivated (as might happen when a company goes out of business). DRM is also cumbersome to use, insulting to the consumer (it assumes the paying consumer intends to abuse their rights), and I am unaware of evidence that it is effective in preventing copyright fraud.
4. Rights to creative works purchased in one format should extend to any format. Why should I have to pay for the rights to music every time a new playback technology is introduced? If I own a track on tape, should I not then be able to download the track as an MP3 for free or at a reduced rate?
In addition to the above issues, I hope you will carefully weigh the tactics that industry groups, who benefit from restricted copyright, appear to have employed to influence the process in their favour. As Dr. Michael Geist has documented on his website (http://www.michaelgeist.ca/), lobby groups cite one anothers' reports, creating the appearance of consensus; figures have been fabricated or distorted to garner support for policies; and "town hall" meetings during this consultation have been flooded by industry representatives who claim tickets well in advance. I would caution those overseeing copyright reform to be mindful of these practices and adjust their weighting of industry input accordingly.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my input regarding Canadian copyright.
cc: Gerard Kennedy, Parkdale-High Park MP