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First I'd like to say thank you for the opportunity to comment on the state of copyright legislation. I think consultation is a good first step for this process. My name is Suzanne Bowness and I've been a freelance writer for the past eight years so copyright primarily affects me as a creator, and therefore I believe any changes to the copyright should reinforce the individual creator's rights, and create laws that are simple, fair, and protect intellectual property.
While I am also a consumer of media and appreciate the need for continued accessibility, I think that the public needs to have enough respect for the creative endeavour that it compensates the individual and even the systems that allow professional creativity to flourish. That's why, to take a simple example, I have always purchased CDs or individual songs rather than downloading them (that said I do believe a song once purchased should be usable over different platforms). Although I've heard others try to justify illegal downloading by arguing that the actual artists don't receive much money given the many channels of the recording industry that also receive cuts from that purchase, I still feel that regardless of whether the system in place needs fixing (and I think the creative industries also have an obligation to regularly review their systems and make sure creators are at the heart of their business) I am willing to participate in even an imperfect system because at least some money is going to support artists.
At the end of this copyright consultation (and even earlier as a means of raising awareness), I think the single greatest initiative that the government could take is to begin an advertising and education program that instils in citizens a sense of pride at supporting creative individuals. While current tactics tend to frame the issue by branding offenders as thieves (which is often turned into glamorous rebellion), I think a campaign that emphasizes the benefits of supporting creative work would help the public to see that when they buy a creative product they are ensuring that that individual can continue to create new work. This sort of campaign might also try to put a personal face on the copyright issue, to make people realize that when they take work without compensation they are stifling the creative livelihoods of individuals who are also sisters, parents and friends.
Yet perhaps even before these campaigns are established, there need to be reasonable channels developed for people to access these works: incentives for the wider creation of web sites where music could be downloaded or other media could be accessed, as part of the current problem is that people have far more options to find far more material for free than to purchase. As a creator I am more than willing to consider new opportunities for making my content accessible provided that I can evaluate the compensation and decide whether or not to participate. As a content consumer I would look forward to new ways to buy creative products, for instance the ability to download individual television show episodes for a small fee. I think this is a huge potential for innovation, competition and profit for private companies in the digital space and I'm willing to be part of it as both a creator and consumer, so long as I'm given choices about opting in or out.
Another arena in which I see the need to re-establish the individual creator at the centre of the copyright concerns is within the creative industries themselves. Over the years I have seen writing contracts make it increasingly difficult for me to make a living writing for newspapers and magazines, with contracts ask for rights using language like "in perpetuity throughout the universe". Which borders on the ridiculous. As a creator, I can respect a system made to disseminate my work and I can appreciate the need for that system to make money, but in turn I want my efforts to be respected and compensated as well and this sort of language and attitude is not the basis for a friendly relationship. In fact I generally stop working for companies that have such contracts. While these are private companies, I think a government that would set the example to prioritize the individual creator's rights and even make them inviolable would help dissuade companies from making such overreaching claims on our work.
From what I understand of copyright laws of the past, a common problem has been quick obsolescence. I think laws that put the creative individual at the centre would minimize that concern as they would be more technologically neutral. Another concern is public access to information and fair use which I support (I think researchers and educational institutions should have access to information), but again I think that laws that put individual creators at the centre by involving them in the decision making process about what content to put into that domain would allow us to create a system that is fair. I am a member of Access Copyright and consider it to be a good initiative and model to begin with, although it should be constantly reviewed and adjusted to suit the needs of its members and the public. By allowing the creator to have the major say in how their content is disseminated and used, Canada would create a more secure environment for creators that would allow them to focus on creating, secure in knowing they would enjoy fair compensation, recognition, and rights.