My thanks to the committee. My name is Carys Craig. I'm a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. I have been teaching and researching in the copyright field for almost 20 years. I'm a co-signatory on the Canadian IP scholars brief, about which you heard last week.
The views I'll express today are my own. I'll speak to some guiding principles underlying the copyright system. Then I will highlight a few key proposals that reflect, I think, these guiding principles.
The committee has heard from certain stakeholders that Canada's copyright laws have fallen behind the pace of technological development and that urgent reforms are needed in order to catch up. I would urge the committee to be skeptical of such claims. I've written about the principle of technological neutrality at length. The best way to future-proof our law is not to regulate the technical minutiae in response to the pleas of industry lobbyists but to seek to ensure the consistency of the legislation in its purpose and effect, across time and technologies. This requires steady reliance on guiding principles, functional standards, and core concepts, not narrow, technical, and inaccessible rules that will require constant revisiting.
The task, then, is to keep the policy focus on copyright's overarching purpose as technologies evolve, maintaining the balance between protection and the public domain that best supports the creation and dissemination of expressive works and a vibrant cultural sphere. Indeed, in the 2012 Entertainment Software v. SOCAN case, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with me on what technological neutrality really demands: “The traditional balance between authors and users should be preserved in the digital environment.” In the Robertson v. Thomson case, Justice Abella wrote that this means that “the public benefits of this digital universe should be kept prominently in view”.
If copyright is a lever to encourage learning and creative exchange, the Internet and digital technologies have advanced this goal enormously. Unduly curtailing their use in the name of protecting authors typically flies in the face of copyright's rationale.
This hints, I think, at the absurdity of much of today's copyright rhetoric. Consider how bizarre it is—how facially false it should be—to portray, as the self-interested antagonists of Canadian authors, our public educational institutions, students, the scholarly and research community, librarians, archivists, and academics, while casting a handful of commercial publishers, collectives, and content industry representatives as the natural allies of Canadian authors and the arts. This is the same tired narrative that powerful interests have employed to justify ever-stronger copyright protection for centuries. It's time to see past it and to imagine a better-functioning system of incentives and rewards, offering more public benefits and imposing fewer social costs.
The reality is that copyright does a disservice to today's creators not because of its limits and its exceptions but because of the restrictions it places on creativity and sharing, the monopolistic interests it helps to preserve, and its failure to actually attend to the real needs of the artists it is said to serve.
Today, more than ever before, the line between creators and users, between authors and the public, is more rhetorical than it is real. Today's users are authors, and authors are users. Authors are students and educators. They are consumers. They are curators. The task for lawmakers is not to “reprioritize authors”, as some have suggested, but to recognize the changing nature of authorship and the shifting realities of the information economy.
This brings me to my more concrete proposals. First, I think this should mean resisting calls to strengthen owners' rights and remedies. If the objective is to assist authors, copyright is a blunt tool indeed. An ever-stronger copyright brings inevitable collateral damage to the public domain, to free expression, to public education, and to the functioning of the Internet.
Second, this means recognizing and safeguarding copyright limits and exceptions and respecting user rights consistent with the internationally acclaimed jurisprudence of our Supreme Court and the constitutional right of free expression. This takes a variety of forms. It supports the move to an open, flexible and general fair use defence that is not limited to particular purposes but capable of evolving to embrace new uses that are consistent with the objectives of the Copyright Act. It supports shielding fair uses from the chilling effects of potential moral rights liability by clarifying that fair dealing and other exceptions are also defences to moral rights claims.
It means ensuring that neither digital locks nor boilerplate contracts are permitted to override user rights by foreclosing otherwise lawful uses.
It also means protecting and preserving the public domain in the same sense that you might protect a nature preserve from private appropriation. This must include finding ways to minimize the harmful impacts of any term extension—for example, by imposing additional formalities or costs on those who would claim protection beyond life plus 50 years.
It also includes finding ways to support the creation of an accessible intellectual knowledge commons—for example, by providing a right of retention for authors to deposit publicly funded research in online repositories and opening up government works to the public domain.
As a very final thought, I would note that this government prides itself on its feminist agenda and should consider what that means in the copyright context. Good copyright policy is concerned not only with providing economic incentives but also with advancing equality, and equality requires access to affordable education and to knowledge and supports an ethics of sharing and collaboration.
Leadership in this field cannot simply mean reinforcing 20th century models of private profit and control. It must mean preparing the copyright system to embrace the full potential of the 21st century while reflecting Canadian values.
With that, I thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions.