Saturday, September 16, 2017

Taxpayers should pay authors for educational uses of works, not intermediaries

Replying to a Letter to the Editor in The Varsity.

It is taxpayers and authors that are paying the costs of this ongoing dispute, one way or the other.

What we are effectively discussing is a government funding program masquerading as copyright, and because of the misdirection that this is a copyright issue we are allowing intermediaries like educational institutions, collective societies, foreign publishers, and all their lawyers, to extract the bulk of the money.

If Mr. Degen was focused on Canadian authors getting paid he would be agreeing with me that we need to redirect taxpayer money misspent with the current regime towards a program similar to the Public Lending Right. The existing Public Lending Right funds authors based on their works being loaned by libraries, and a "Public Education Right" could directly fund authors based on specific uses of their works in publicly funded educational institutions. This would be applied only to that very narrow area of dispute between what educational institutions (IE: taxpayers) are already paying, and the clear and indisputable limitations of copyright.

Nearly all of what educational institutions use is already paid for, through payments via modern databases and other established systems. This includes the ongoing growth of Open Access. It is Access Copyright that has refused to allow the payment of transactional fees for the narrow area under dispute.

While Access Copyright had a victory with this specific lower court case, they will lose on appeal as they have lost other related cases. This area of law is quite clear, and contrary to Mr Degen's misdirection have not been on side with Access Copyright's interpretation of the law. This specific case is the outlier.

While the majority of the blame for this costly dispute lies with Access Copyright, that doesn't mean taxpayers or governments should be siding with educational institutions. We should be removing all of these unnecessary intermediaries from the debate entirely.

By fighting for Access Copyright's conflicting interests rather than authors, Mr Degen is pushing for policies which continue to reduce the revenues of authors. My hope is that he will eventually side with authors.

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