Author Archives: Peter M. Routhier

Internet Archive Joins Communia, Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

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The COMMUNIA Association is an international network of activists, researchers, and practitioners from around the world. Founded a decade ago, Communia advocates for policies that expand the public domain and increase access to culture and knowledge. Now, in celebration of its ten-year anniversary, Internet Archive is pleased to announce that it has officially joined Communia.

At its founding, Communia issued 14 policy recommendations. Broadly speaking, these recommendations stand for a balanced approach to copyright that would help expand access to knowledge. On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, Communia held a series of events, and launched a new webpage, to reflect on these recommendations in view of the past ten years of copyright policy and to consider what the future may hold.

Meanwhile, Communia has continued to engage in the day-to-day work of advocating for a more balanced copyright. For instance, over the past several years, Communia has been a key voice regarding the European Union’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Like many others, we spoke out against many aspects of this new law. But the work did not stop there—as an EU Directive, this new law has to be transposed by each EU member state: implemented through passage of their own national laws. And because member states have discretion in how exactly to implement the directive, there has remained the important—but challenging—work of trying to guide its implementation in the best possible way. Communia took on this extraordinarily difficult task.

To do so (as they recently explained), Communia built a network of local advocates in each of the 27 member states. They then worked with these local advocates to try to guide the national implementations of the DSM directive so as to maximize access to knowledge and culture and the protection of users’ rights. More recently, they launched the Eurovision DSM contest, tracking the status of each member states’ implementation of the directive and scoring them along important metrics including transparency and safeguards for user rights. This is challenging and resource intensive work; as a result, the public interest often does not have a seat at the table. Communia ensures that it does.

So we congratulate Communia on its tenth anniversary, and are thrilled to support and join in its work. We look forward to working alongside Open Future, Creative Commons, and all the others who have made Communia such an important voice in the copyright community over the past decade and are sure to do the same in the years to come.

Automatic Filtering: Back to the Future

Image of a Filter
Image From Bühler, Friedrich Adolf, Filtern und Pressen (Leipzig O. Spamer 1912)

The Government of Canada continues to consider fundamental changes to its copyright laws. In its latest proposal, what’s old is new again, as Canada once more considers automatic content filtering online. Internet Archive Canada strongly opposes these proposals, and submitted a formal response to the Government explaining why.

Image of a Filter

Unfortunately, these are not new ideas. For over a decade, website blocking, automatic content filtering, internet bans, and other draconian copyright measures have been urged on governments around the world. With political leaders looking at large technology companies with a new eye, both the United States and the European Union have expressed a new openness to these previously rejected ideas. Now styled as attempts to reign in “big tech,” what is really at stake is the free and open internet, which offers so much to the individual user and makes websites like archive.org possible.

Fortunately, while the Government has outlined a variety of potentially troubling changes to Canada’s Copyright Act, it has also stated that “[s]ignificant changes” to Canada’s copyright law are “not presently being contemplated.” In the circumstances, Internet Archive Canada is simply asking the Government to recognize the tremendous significance of these kinds of proposals and refrain from enacting them at this time. Many others have done the same; indeed, our friends at Open Media asked all Canadians to voice their concerns .

Internet Archive Canada is proud of its history in Canada, and we have often lauded Canada’s bright and positive approach to copyright. We are hopeful that reason will once again prevail in the Canadian copyright debates, and that the Government of Canada will work to ensure good copyright policy and strong libraries in the 21st century and beyond.

Challenges and Opportunities in Canadian Copyright Reform

Map of Canada

The Government of Canada recently agreed to extend its copyright term by twenty years. This is a great loss for the public domain; among other things, this term extension means that the public domain will not be refreshed in Canada for decades. Fortunately, the Government of Canada is exploring various ways to mitigate this loss. Internet Archive Canada was pleased to submit its views—based on its own experiences working with the public domain in Canada—on the best way to do so.

Internet Archive Canada has been working with Canadian libraries, patrons, and others for over fifteen years in support of the mission to provide Universal Access to all Knowledge. Over that time frame we’ve digitized more than 650,000 books, micro-reproductions, and a variety of other archival materials. Today, Internet Archive Canada has a substantial collection focused on Canadian cultural heritage and historical government publications. Along with our partners, we’ve made a significant investment in and contribution to the accessibility of Canadian digital heritage. 

For example, you may have heard of Canada’s Group of Seven, groundbreaking Canadian landscape painters that have also been known as the Algonquin School. The Group and related artists were active in the early part of the twentieth century, meaning that much of their work is already in the public domain. As a result, substantial efforts have been made by a number of institutions to digitize and make their work more broadly available. And there are a fair number of these kinds of materials in Internet Archive’s collections, such as works by and about Emily Carr and Lawren Harris. Many of these are either in the public domain or were expected to enter it soon. For example, as Lawren Harris died in 1970, under Canada’s current life+50 copyright term his works should be entering the public domain now. But under the new proposal to extend that term to life+70 years, we’d be another twenty years away. 

Emily Carr's Kitwancool

Emily Carr, Kitwancool, 1928

In order to mitigate the harm caused by this extension, the Government of Canada is considering allowing some use of older works that will be kept from the public domain—especially by libraries like us. And while the exact parameters are at this point uncertain, we applaud the Government’s careful attention to this matter and inquiry to stakeholders like us. 

As we emphasize in our letter, it is important that rules which allow for use of older works in theory make sense in practice. Oftentimes they do not, as the experience in the United States has shown. When the United States implemented its own copyright term extension, it allowed libraries and certain others to use works in the last twenty years of their copyright term—similar to what Canada is proposing—but only if they met certain onerous requirements. Internet Archive undertook substantial work to try to make use of these provisions—including a substantial amount of time with a professional researcher and several interns—but was only able to identify about sixty works that qualified. Subsequent work has raised that number to a few hundred, but the bottom line is that this is needlessly hard work. That is why, as we highlighted in our comments, we believe that it is important that Canada’s mitigating measures not impose onerous restrictions on use. 

That said, we are optimistic about the future in Canada. Canada has a long tradition of respect for library and user rights, with an engaged academic and library community, and the Government’s proposals include some very good ideas. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Canada and all our Canadian friends and neighbors to ensure good copyright policy and strong libraries in the 21st century and beyond.