Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Copyright and The Academy

A whole bunch of brilliant European professors, including such well known people as Lionel Bently at Cambridge, Thomas Dreier, the Director, Centre for Information Law, Universit├Ąt Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Bernt Hugenholtz, Director, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam have just signed an important op-ed in the Times of London on the ill-considered proposal by the EU to extend copyright in sound recordings to 95 years. These folks often disagree with each other on the many controversies inherent in IP law - so when they speak together, it’s very notable and important.

Large numbers of American professors have also banded together on many occasions and joined in on may controversial issues in the USA before the Courts or Congress. Often, they file their own amicus briefs and otherwise make their views well known through articles, op-eds and increasingly through blogs.

This leads me to wonder where the members of the Canadian IP academy are on Bill C-61, when there is now so much at stake.

Unless I’ve missed something, there has been very little publicly available useful analysis or opinion from Canadian professors other than from (in alphabetical order) Jeremy DeBeer, Michael Geist, Laura Murray (who is actually neither a lawyer nor a law professor but who knows more about this stuff than many law professors) and Sam Trosow.

There have been a couple of frankly unconvincing attempts to find or stake out the prospect of a middle ground. I will come back to this proverbial quest for a “middle ground” another day. Suffice it to say that we are soon going to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the 1709 Statute of Anne, the origin of modern copyright law. There has been no lasting peace or middle ground since then.

Frankly, I believe that Canadian academics owe a duty to speak out - whether together or separately - on what they believe is good or bad about Bill C-61. They owe this duty to their students, their colleagues, their institutions, and to the Canadian taxpayers. They are given tenure and paid well in order to be knowledgeable and to express their opinions. Let’s hear what they have to say.


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