Canadian Government asking for copyright assignment from visual artists?

Biff Mitchell posted a BLOG article of something he received from CARFAC. It claims that Library and Archives Canada is asking visual artists to sign over their copyright to the federal government. While I don't believe that any government in Canada should be allowed to hold copyright at all (Crown Copyright should be abolished), this assignment is unbelievable.

I can understand requiring a specific license in return for some specific service (IE: public exposure in specific environments otherwise unaccessable). This is what Google (Including via YouTube) and others do: in return for Google paying for all bandwidth and other charges associated with distributing your work, Google requires copyright holders agree to a license which allows them to put advertisements around the content. Google never asks for copyright assignments, which would be entirely unreasonable.

Should the federal government be allowed to offer their own licenses, possible royalty-bearing? I don't think the government should be allowed to collect royalties on government authored works (We already paid through taxes for the one-time fixed costs of production), so I obviously don't believe the government should be cheating these visual artists out of their copyright and then charging others.

Then again, this could be a misunderstanding. If anyone has any additional facts about this issue, I am very interested to hear.

Update: Globe and Mail: Archives backtracks on copyright contract.

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Recent developments

This has been an interesting turn of events for us.

I was at the CARFAC Ontario office on Friday, and got to see a copy of the contract. The contract basically said that by signing it, you allowed Library & Archives Canada to use the listed artwork for free in any manner, including use by contractors and including reversing the art (e.g. a mirror image). They weren't only asking for free use of the artwork, but also asking the artist to waive their moral rights to the work.

There has been a swift response by Library & Archives Canada. Here is an excerpt from and email received by CARFAC National late Thursday night:

"I have fantastic news regarding the news from earlier today. It seems that the Library and Archives of Canada has considered our statement on their use of those contracts, and have decided to stop using them immediately. They will review their licensing agreements and use something that is more respectful of the artists they work with. This is fantastic news!!"