University Of Toronto's Lawyer In Access Copyright Deal Also Advised Access Copyright On Related Legislation
from the the-bad-deal-looks-worse dept
In a recent post about the bad deal that Canadian universities are being asked to sign with the copyright collection society Access Copyright, I asked whether it was wise for the University of Toronto and the AUCC (which represents universities across the country) to work with lawyers who have a long history of arguing to limit fair dealing, when what the schools need most is a strong fair dealing argument. I noted at the time that even though both lawyers—Glen Bloom, who represented the AUCC in the negotiations, and Casey Chisick, who advised U of T—were presumably giving the schools the best advice they could, it seems virtually impossible for someone to effectively argue both sides of a contentious copyright issue like fair dealing. Besides, even assuming good faith and full disclosure, it simply doesn't look good: both Bloom and Chisick have established relationships with clients that have a direct financial interest in limiting the scope of fair dealing, meanwhile critics of the deals they helped the schools strike with Access Copyright say the schools didn't assert their fair dealing rights nearly as much as they could have.
It's already hard to understand why U of T and the AUCC would go along with this—but it gets even more concerning with the addition of a previously unnoticed detail. According to an email I've been provided with, and a disclosure made at a conference, U of T's advisor Casey Chisick was retained at the end of 2010 to advise Access Copyright on copyright reform legislation. It's unclear if and when this ended, and when I contacted Chisick to find out, he replied declining to comment or even to confirm or deny whether the relationship existed. But what's obvious is that Access Copyright's interest in the legislation (bill C-32 in 2010, bill C-11 now), and their submissions to Parliament, revolves around eliminating the new explicit fair dealing provisions for education that are being considered, since that would cripple their entire business model.
One big question here is, will the students accept all of this? Ultimately, they are the ones paying—directly in schools that pass the cost on to them, and indirectly in those that absorb it and have to find the money somewhere else in the budget. On one side they've got law professors inside their own schools loudly and publicly criticizing the deal, saying the universities agreed to ridiculously high rates (which should in fact have gone down from the previous deal) and unfair limitations based on rights that don't even exist; on the other they've got the U of T and the AUCC insisting it's a good deal, while working with lawyers who have histories of representing, advising and lobbying for organizations with a direct interest in stronger copyright and higher licensing fees. Now they learn that U of T's advisor also apparently advised Access Copyright themselves on a related legislative issue that bears heavily on the negotiations (he's also actively registered as a lobbyist for a music collection society, the CMRRA). How exactly are students supposed to react?
Quebec (which has its own copyright clearance system for universities and is not a part of this otherwise country-wide deal) is in its third month of widespread and intense student protests over tuition hikes, which have grown into a serious movement. It's a time of unrest for Canadian education, and not a time to ask students to swallow a bad deal negotiated under so many questionable circumstances. Appearances matter, and nothing about this looks good.