Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jack Granatstein – On Political Donations, Access Copyright & Bill C-60

Prof. Jack Granatstein is a pre-eminent author, researcher, historian, political scientist, educator, and passionate Canadian. He has also become something of a copyright activist. He was widely quoted last week in Angela Pacienza’s CP Story on the controversy over campaign funding and fundraising activities involving the Honourable Sarmite Bulte that has loomed large in both the copyright and election realms in Canada. I’ve obtained a copy of an e-mail dated January 10, 2006 that he has sent to the Maureen Cavan, the head of Access Copyright (“AC”).

As a prolific author of over sixty (60) (!!!) books, Prof. Granatstein is quite understandably a member of AC. But he doesn’t believe that his organization should make political donations. And he doesn’t like Bill C-60. Here is his e-mail:

From: J Granatstein
To: Maureen Cavan
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 2:12 PM

Subject: Re: political donations

Ms Cavan, While I agree that advocacy is part and parcel of politics, I do not believe that an organization like Access Copyright should make political donations--ever. Nor did I like the Copyright Bill of the last Parliament primarily because, like many who benefit from Access' work, I wear 2 hats: creator and researcher/teacher. As a creator, I want to be paid for my work. As a researcher/teacher, I want free access to archival materials and as much free access as I (and all teachers and students) can get to published or www material. The bill did not achieve a balance that met my concerns, and thus I opposed it.

That having been said, you will certainly be aware of the furore now underway over Bulte's 19 January election fundraiser which is supported by major trade organizations whose interests are not mine. I don't think they speak for most of those you work for. Access Copyright unfortunately is now tarred by Bulte's broad brush, and I urge Access to reconsider its policy of making political donations. If there is a change of government, new ministers will not likely be willing to understand why Bulte deserved financial support--any more than I do.

I would like the board of Access seriously to re-consider its policy.

Jack Granatstein

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Previously, he was instrumental in the defeat of the contentious copyright provisions in the so-called “Lucy Maude Montgomery Act” (Bill C-36, later Bill C-8) in 2003 –2004 in which Canadian Heritage tried by stealth to inject certain copyright term extension provisions that would have severely impacted researchers, archivists, and historians into otherwise routine machinery of government legislation intended to merge that National Archives and National Library. This was attempted on the basis of a managed, limited and inadequate consultation effort and a problematic consultant’s report. I too was very much involved in that C-36 fight. But that’s water under the bridge and an important part of the public domain has now been rescued from private appropriation in Canada.

Now, Prof. Granatstein is weighing in on Bill C-60, the current debate about political donations from copyright organizations and even the policy of Access Copyright, his own collective.

For those outside of Canada, AC is the self-proclaimed English language collective for reprographic and, if they can pull it off, for electronic and digital reproduction of text and visual material in Canada. AC collected about $30 million in 2004, its most recently publicly reported year, mostly from various levels of essentially compliant and even supportive governments and educational institutions who have yet to effectively confront AC. The corporate sector has been very reluctant to take out licenses with AC, especially since the Supreme Court of Canada, in a landmark 2004 decision, has clarified users’ rights to engage in research, even in a commercial context. Eventually, even the pubic sector institutions will begin to realize that this decision empowers educators, archivists, researchers, and students to exercise their substantial fair dealing users’ rights without the need to pay copyright license fees, much less excessive fees.

Interestingly, AC has a legal “chain of title” only to a small portion of the material that is actually copied by its licensees, particularly governments and post secondary education institutions. It has been operating on a controversial and legally questionable “indemnity” basis, much like an insurance company, with respect to the vast bulk of repertoire to which it has no chain of title.

Quite apart from the money it happily takes but has trouble figuring out how to distribute, AC has also been largely responsible for instilling a culture of copyright chill (which it calls “awareness”) throughout the system, resulting in frequent fear and misinformation amongst teachers, administrators, librarians and students as to what can and cannot be copied, and under what circumstances. But this is also due in no small part to the excessively cautious risk avoidance mindset resulting from the “clearance culture” that prevails amongst many if not most of those who manage and advise taxpayer funded institutional users. There are also huge resource costs at the user end. I’ll have more on this in due course in subsequent blogs about the phenomenon of Excess Copyright.

AC used to be called CanCopy - but changed its name after the nickname “Can’t Copy” coined by Harry Arthurs, my former law dean and York University president, was starting to stick. Some have irreverently suggested that its new nickname could turn out to be “Excess Copyright”.

Some of the practices of Access Copyright are an example of what I call Excess Copyright. But this blog space will by no means focus on that particular collective, tempting as it may be to do so. There are many other examples out there of Excess Copyright – and you may wish to stay tuned.



  1. Everyday one hopes to learn something new. This article was very enlightening. I think you have set a high bar for your blog and have picked a great title for it. I will be reading it in the future. Thanks!

  2. Do we know how Ms. Cavan responded to Prof. Granatstein's concerns? I'd be curious...