Paying protection money to Access Copyright.

The opinion piece by Chrisopher Moore of Access Copyright (Hill Times, Oct 3, 2005, P13) should sound familiar: pay us money and we will remove the threat that we represent.

The article contains considerable misinformation. The educational community isn't asking to get for free something that should be legitimately paid for. While the language of "exceptions" is always abused in the copyright debate, what we are really talking about is an attempt by educators and independent authors to stop Access Copyright from imposing themselves on their competitors. While Mr Moore's association is starting with the large target of educators, they will likely continue their campaign with other audiences.

Far from representing authors who make their materials available online, Access Copyright is an administrative body for a business model that most often doesn't apply to the Internet. The software of the Internet can be configured to facilitate a full spectrum of business models from those involving per-access royalty fees to those where the creators are pre-paid and the works are intended to be shared (and sometimes improved upon) without additional payment or permission.

The part of the Internet which Access Copyright wishes to extract money from is where the audience is anonymous. Just like when someone purchases a book they can know they don't need permission to read the book any number of times, to loan it, and to even sell it, there is an "implied license" for the anonymous part of the Internet which says that royalty-free verbatim copying is pre-authorized. What Access Copyright is asking for is no more legitimate than trying to collect a royalty each time someone reads a book, claiming that if people want to read books multiple times without additional payment that they are "pirates".

If an author wants a royalty for specific types of copying, then it is their responsibility to learn about and use the technology appropriately to express their intentions. While Access Copyright wants expensive lawyers in the pockets of all authors, and complex legalistic documents to express simple concepts, most Internet-era authors have been able to navigate these issues and the technology without this "protection".

(This letter was published by the Hill Times)