Friday, April 14, 2006

Open Access and the Copyright Collective

It is time to rethink the idea of the copyright collective, for a number of reasons. In Canada, the copyright collective is called Access Copyright. According to the Access Canada website, "The agency now represents a vast international repertoire along with more than 8,000 Canadian creators and publishers".

With the world wide web, it is possible for virtually everyone to publish their own works, and a very great many of us do. What exactly is the point of a copyright collective representing only 8,000 Canadians? In a country with a population of 32 million, surely there are millions of creators, not thousands?

I myself am an example of a creator who interests are not at all represented by Access Copyright.

On the contrary, as an academic I am disadvantaged by this collective. Academic institutions pay the copyright collective; this takes monies away from the educational and research functions of the universities. This makes no sense at all! Universities are major creators of intellectual content - if those who create intellectual property are to be reimbused through collectives, the cheques should be flowing to the universities, not from them. I'm not suggesting that this happen; merely, that it would make more sense.

This situation is rapidly becoming much more obvious, as university libraries take on an expanded role in serving the interests of their own creators, through the OA academic presses and open access archives. Canada is a bit behind Europe in this respect, but nevertheless, it is time to begin preparing for the future - a future where university library open archives will include not only the peer-reviewed literature, but also a great deal more: open access to research data per se, and grey literature which was never included in the deals of any copyright collective.

All librarians have a responsibility, in my view, to be the spokespersons for the popular individual creators, who also have never been part of the Access copyright collective. We librarians need to speak up for more than just library exceptions. It is our duty to speak for the public, both as users and creators of information. It is this obligation that gives us the authority to request the library exceptions to copyright; it is not libraries per se that need special treatment. The rights belong to those we serve. Ultimately, this is everyone.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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