The different stakeholders in copyright revision.

I just read a Slyck article by Drew Wilson that was a follow-up on an earlier article by Michael Giest questioning Heritage Canada funding of the Creators' Rights Alliance to inform the government CRA's position on copyright. The article suggested that I was critical of John Degen, the executive director of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). While the PWAC is a member of Access Copyright, Mr. Degen was unaware of Captain Copyright and other such initiatives before they were launched by Access Copyright.

This article made me realize that when it comes to the different stakeholders in copyright, many people are still having a problem differentiating them. It is for this reason I wish to offer a little bit of my own categorizations of the stakeholders in copyright revision.

A. Stakeholder categories

Historically much of the discussion tried to differentiate between organizations representing "creators" and organizations representing "users". Unfortunately this confuses the issues as most creators are also users of the works of others, given that creativity always builds on the past.

In previous discussions I tried to divide into three groups: creators, intermediaries, and audiences.

Creators

Creators have a wide variety of needs and policy positions. Some creators believe that their fate is tied to specific intermediaries such as their publishers, their label (for musicians) , or their employers. Other creators believe their fate is tied to building closer relationships with their audiences, and consider existing intermediaries to be their greatest threat. Some creators are seeking copy-friendly business models where they don't charge royalties (but get paid for the initial creativity), while other creators seek to have royalty-payments imposed on all uses of creativity.

Audiences

Some audiences really do want to get something for nothing, and have no long-term interest in protecting the rights of creators as an incentive for creativity. While I believe that this group is a minority, it is a vocal group. I believe most audiences want to provide adequate incentives for creators, even if they disagree with the ways in which current law and/or business practises in the creative sectors provide these incentives.

Intermediaries

There is even greater diversity within intermediaries. There are copyright-holding intermediaries such as music recording labels which may think of themselves as "representing" musicians, but all too often like employers. This appears to be especially true of CRIA members (the 4 major transnational labels) who are likely as far from representing the interests of musicians as you can get.

There are business model intermediaries such as collective societies like Access Copyright and SOCAN which, while they have creators as members, represent only a narrow business model option for creators. They can not be said to represent the interests of creators, given creators should have the right to choose between a wide variety of business models.

There are the Library, Archives and Educational sectors which are seen to represent the interests of audiences, but have their own interests which can sometimes be quite separate.

B. Funding stakeholders to provide input to the government

In principle I don't have a problem with the government helping to fund stakeholders to provide information for the government. I have been hired by Industry Canada to do a report on software patents, and was hired by the Copyright Policy Branch of Heritage Canada to do a presentation on technical protection measures. As the new membership-driven association for Open Source called CLUE grows its membership base I hope that we will be able to get funding from Heritage to help us adequately document the interests of this community to the government.

Where I have a problem is when groups that already have a privileged position with a government department are given additional support when it is not needed, and when the government is missing critical information from other stakeholder groups.

Traditionally copyright consultations have primarily happened with various intermediaries. Copyright-holding intermediaries were claiming to represent creators, with the library, archivist and educational communities claiming to represent the interests of the general public. I believe that intermediaries already have the financial and other resources available to lobby their positions without the support of the government, and have thus far been greatly over-represented in policy.

The Department of Canadian Heritage has acted as a stakeholder in the process. Heritage funds a specific subset of the creator and copyright holding intermediary communities. Not only does this mean that Heritage has closer ties with this constituency than other stakeholders, but I believe there is also a financial conflict of interest. Heritage, as with most government departments, faces budget cuts. While they may not be able to offer as much financial support to their community as they have in the past, they can still privilege the stated interests of this subset of stakeholders in copyright policy. Just as I believe that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should never be allowed to be in a conflict of interest by also being expected to promote trade, the Department of Canadian Heritage should not be the lead on copyright policy due to its conflict of interest.

The specific group mentioned by Michael Geist's article is the Creators Rights Alliance. While the name might suggest that they are an alliance of creators, they are in fact a coalition of national artists' associations and collectives, with their membership including a number of intermediaries such as Access Copyright and SOCAN.

The interests of collective societies, which are management agencies for specialized business models, are already over-represented in Canadian policy. These agencies are seen by a growing number of creators as the greatest threat to their interests. Some CRA members appear interested in learning more about alternatives, and will be hosting an event in September on this theme. The fact that collective societies are members of CRA exposes their built-in biases towards specific methods of production, distribution and funding. Creators who are not interested in royalty-based business models will find it hard to feel welcome.

While I don't support the current make-up of CRA receiving government funding to educate the government on their position, there are many members of the CRA that I would support. One example would be the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Their membership is made up entirely of creators, without the pressure from publishers, collective societies or other intermediaries tainting their policy positions. Their membership has a diversity of views, but this is entirely consistent with the diversity of views that exist within the creator community. While I may not always agree with the positions that PWAC brings to the government, I believe that they represent the interests of fellow creators.

I believe it is important that when discussing copyright that people differentiate the different constituencies. The interests of creators may be diverse, but are not the same as the interests of the various intermediaries. As much hostility as exists for some of these intermediaries, some of it justified in my opinion, this hostility should never be allowed to extend to the creators themselves. The interests of creators and the general public are far more aligned than the current rhetoric in copyright policy circles indicate.

One thing that both creators and audiences need to come together on is a recognition that much of their current policy problems originate with various intermediaries and not each other. Intermediaries really should be treated in policy and in practise as "the hired help", chosen by creators and audiences to act only in the interests of creators and audiences.

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Drew Wilson Responds

Just thought I'd let you know that Drew responded to your post. Interesting read. :)