The Ontario College of Art, which long ago added & Design to its name, holds an exhibition of graduating students’ designs every year.

Do you ever hear about it? Or read anything? Or see any pictures? No.

Why not? Because OCA is hostile to the press, lies about copyright, and impedes critics from actually covering the event.

I know this for a fact, since I was one of the few people to cover the 2007 grad exhibit and the only person to cover it in detail. I missed last year’s event. (Did it even happen?)

In ’07, I went around photographing whatever works I felt of interest, for later review and commentary. Not enough people know that you can reproduce copyrighted works insubstantially for review and commentary without anyone’s permission up front. It’s part of fair dealing, which Canada and many countries have and the U.S. doesn’t. (We don’t have fair use; they don’t have fair dealing. The two concepts are not the same and you can’t use the terms interchangeably.)

For some works, including photographs, paintings, and layouts, duplicating the whole thing is the only way to review or comment on it and does not constitute substantial reproduction.

Among the people who don’t know about fair dealing are the students and docents who try to keep order during the grad show. I got endless grief from these people. After the first hour and a half of full-on harassment, the minute I entered a new room I asked who was in charge and explained the facts to them. This did not always stop them from harassing me.

This year’s grad show, entitled OCAD+, opens tomorrow night. The institution has taken out print ads in numerous newspapers to promote it. I wrote OCA’s head of marketing and communications, Leon Mar, to ask if the 2007 fiasco was due for a repeat. He top-posted a reply thus:

The following information is being distributed to all visitors: “As you visit the Graduate Exhibition, please respect our students and refrain from photographing their work without first seeking their permission.”

We don’t need anybody’s permission, and nobody, including the copyright holder (in this case the student creator), can deny permission or turn us down. As the Supreme Court explained, fair dealing is a right. What was Mar’s response to that? “We simply hope that all visitors to our Graduate Exhibition will act respectfully towards our students and the work that they will be showing.”

I’d prefer that this publicly-funded institution of higher learning respected Canadian law and my rights as a writer. OCA thus joins the Art Gallery of Ontario in deliberately misstating copyright law and thwarting legitimate expression.

Really, this is pretty simple: Instead of issuing a handout that offers mealy-mouthed mendacity, tell people they can photograph works if and only if their purposes are permitted by copyright law. Then train the attending staff and volunteers to ask each person with a camera what they’re doing just to make sure. Rocket science? Hardly. Feelings and respect have nothing to do with it.

You wonder why these grad shows come and go like a neutrino whizzing through the earth, as I like to say? Because the sponsoring college lies about copyright, refuses to train its staff and volunteers, and interferes with and harasses the press.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.05.06 12:56. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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