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Archived - Billon, Nicolas

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Dear Ministers,

My name is Nicolas Billon. I am a professional writer and as a 'creator', copyright is of vital importance to my livelihood. I support the assertion that copyright should protect my right to be compensated for my work.

However, a troubling aspect of the debate on copyright reform has been the perception that 'creators' and 'users' are on opposing sides. I believe this is a mistake.

Every creator is also a user. No artist works in a cultural vacuum, and it's crucial for creators to keep this in mind when arguing for reforms to the Copyright Act. Draconian reforms will only lead to creators biting the hand that feeds it.

So far, the fairest and most balanced approach I know of for copyright reform is that of Professor Michael Geist link, and I am enthusiastically endorsing his submission to Canada's copyright consultation.

In addition, I'd like to touch on two specific aspects of the copyright debate.

1. The Public Domain

I fully support Project Gutenberg Canada's submission link to the Copyright Consultation as it pertains to the Public Domain.

The Public Domain provides an invaluable cultural service to Canadians. It's been extremely useful to have access to thousands of works to learn from, build upon, modify, and adapt. Free access to public domain material (both in terms of cost and limitations) means that creators and users alike have use of source material regardless of their economic situation. The reason I consider the Public Domain a cultural treasure is because it adds value to a work by giving existing creators the chance to "stand on the shoulders of giants," as Newton once said. This is a perfect example of the double-status of user and creator.

Canada's current copyright law protects works for 50 years following the author's death (Life+50). This provides a creator's heirs — just shy of two generations — to benefit from his/her copyright. To me, this is a fair amount of time that balances the creator's right with that of the public good.

Any change to the public domain should be either to shorten the duration before a work falls into the public domain, or create a system — I'm taking my inspiration here from Professor Lawrence Lessig — of copyright renewal for the public domain. For example, copyright could extend for Life+25 years, at which time an estate can renew its copyright for an additional 25 years for little cost (e.g. $1). This would allow more works to fall into the public domain, and provides estates with the option to keep the full fifty years of post-life protection.

Extending the time before a work falls into the public domain would serve only to impoverish one of this country's most important cultural treasures.

Finally, I support the abolishment of Crown Copyright. Government documents created with public funds should immediately fall into the Public Domain, available to Canadians without the need for permission or payment.

2. Collective Licensing / Blank Media Levies

Many professional associations (including the WGC and PGC, of which I am a member) support collective licensing schemes and/or blank media levies as a way to compensate artists. I appreciate the simplicity of this system, and it has the advantage of being transparent to the user. However, I am hesitant to endorse it as a blanket solution.

My reasoning is that these fees imply there is copyright infringement when in many cases there is not. The Access Copyright fee added to photocopy machines at my local library is charged whether or not the material I am photocopying is copyrighted and/or being used for a purpose covered under the fair dealing provision of the Copyright Act. The same is true for the levy on a blank CD, which is charged even if I'm using the CD to backup, say, my vacation photos.

This to me is a serious shortcoming of collective licensing, and should be addressed before any new/further implementation of collective licensing and/or blank media levies are enacted.

In conclusion, I hope that the Canadian government will come up with copyright reform that strikes the right balance between users and creators. I urge the government to resist blindly following the recommendations of well-funded lobby groups whose agendas are rarely beneficial to the average Canadian user or creator.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate.


Nicolas Billon