Submission to the Consultation Meetings on Digital Copyright Issues

Here’s the text of Mary’s address:

March 21, 2002
Montreal, Quebec
from the Electronic Rights Defence Committee

I am here as a representative of the ERDC which is the Electronic Rights Defence Committee, the force behind one of the three class actions suits against Canadian newspaper empires. At issue in our class action is: who owns copyright, the writer or the publisher; and should the copyright owners receive compensation for republication or retransmission of their work.

Our case is against Southam and its successors. The others are Heather Robertson against the Thompson chain, and the Association des journalistes indépéndents du Québec against Quebecor and others

I’m here, instead of our attorney, because we creators are the Davids in all this, we’re the bottom of the food chain. We’re the ones who come up with all this stuff that the guys up the food chain want to retransmit.

The ERDC has been running for the last four years on a very strict budget: to ask our attorney to come in would mean we’d have to pay her eventually (I should add that she is being extremely patient about being compensated for the many, many hours she’s put in on the case.) However, I’ll talk to you for free. This is an issue which is very close to my heart. It also has had drastic effects on my income.

At our ERDC annual general meeting a few weeks ago, we discussed these hearings, and we agreed that it would be good to make a presentation. So I searched around on the net, and came up with the focus documents.

My first reaction when reading them was incredulity and puzzlement. What in the world are you talking about? This “making available” right: where does it fit in with the problems creators face? How is it going to play out in a world where I write something for a publication which may be reproduced on many web sites without my permission and for which reproduction nobody wants to compensate me?

After quite a bit of reflecting, I’ve tried to figure out how you were proposing affects creators, and how those effects should be managed. Specifically I see two important points and two absolutely essential measures to take:

  1. That copyright lies with the creator unless expressly ceded to another party. The creator may license reproduction or retransmission either directly or through his or her delegated agent, but this does not mean he or she gives up copyright.
    This should be stated expressly in any revision of the copyright law.
  2. There is a crying need for a service to cover the problems of electronic reproduction, a service like which that Cancopy and Copybec provide for reproduction by photocopy, and which they propose to set up. Any revision of the copyright law must make it easy for this to happen, and must set up penalties for infringements.

For the Electronic Rights Defence Committee,
Mary Soderstrom, Member of the Executive

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