Has the Globe and Mail’s publishing reporter been hanging out with John Degen – that arts professional who believes copyright is a mechanism for payment, that stalwart defender of copyright (or at least of Access Copyright)? I got that impression from a factual error in John Barber’s scare piece about the future of freelance (“professional”) writers.

Barber ominously referred to “a recent Supreme Court decision that extended the rights of educators to photocopy books without compensating writers.” Alberta v. CCLA did no such thing. It merely held that teachers’ duplication of “short excerpts of [a] textbook” constituted fair dealing when considered with all the other factors that must be considered when determining fair dealing. The fact that only short excerpts were being duplicated was not in dispute at any point in the case.

Hence there is in fact no existing right for “educators to photocopy books without compensating writers.” And “educators” would never have been paying (“compensating”) anybody in the first place (i.e., paying a vig directly to a writer for copying their work).

I will note that Barber’s article appeared in a newspaper we spent 16 years in court fighting after it and its former parent company, Thomson, violated freelance writers’ copyrights. The future of freelance writers has been glum since the early 1990s when conglomerates like Thomson began to extort copyrights from freelance writers. What exactly are the terms of the Globe’s contracts with freelance writers (now and over the last 20 years)? And at any rate, do famous names like those quoted in his piece (and Peggy Atwood) ever have to sign such contracts?

In other words, structurally the position John “Fat Fuck” Barber holds is riven with contradiction and conflict of interest. Such a serious misreading of a straightforward Supreme Court copyright ruling makes Barber sound like an ideologue. I am talking about the kind of ideologue who:

  • cannot accept facts about Canadian copyright law, like the fact that fair dealing exists;

  • cannot accept that its side continues to lose at the Supreme Court (first in CCH, now in Alberta); and

  • dresses up its belief that every duplication, of any size, should and must result in payment in a crocodile-tears concern for “professional writers” or “creators”

But of course, anyone who disagrees, even by insisting on strictly accurate statement of fact, must be a “copyleftist” or a “free culturist.” Since Barber ignored the correction I mailed him, I was not able to follow up to ask if the foregoing represents his beliefs, or if his resemblance to Degen-like ideologues is mere coïncidence. (I could have sent another message, but that too would have been ignored.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2012.07.31 14:28. 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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