EWC long-read-pick: “Copyright as the Canary in the Coalmine” by Hugh Stephens


Posted on April 19, 2020, 12:00 pm
5 mins

COVID is Not an Excuse to Throw the Accepted Rules Out the Window: Copyright as the Canary in the Coalmine – Essay by Hugh Stephens

++update 1 June 2020 ++ The European Writers’ Council joined international organizations and federations of authors from around the world several times in joint appeals to readers and librarians from the victims of Controlled Digital Lending, explaining why it is illegal. Currently, the Internet Archive’s book scanning and e-book bootlegging has gone further by opening a so-called National Emergency Library, using and re-distributing unauthorized copies of images (and audio generated from them) of pages scanned from books. Meanwhile, the Director of WIPO, Francis Gurry, received an Open Letter with sentences like “… calling on all right holders to remove licensing restrictions that inhibit remote education, research (including for text and data mining and artificial intelligence projects) and access to culture, including across borders, both to help address the global pandemic, and in order to minimise the disruption caused by it;”.

These two movements are an attack on Authors and Authors’ Rights, during a crisis, when writers and translators all over the world have to deal with high losses of income – due to cancelled readings, fairs, lectures, workshops, but also from invisible new titles in the market and a drop of sales worldwide –, and often no chance to apply for any State first aid sheme, often there is even none. They depend more then ever on sales of e-books, for example, or remuneration through licencing shemes.

++update 1 June 2020 ++ four US publishing groups file a lawsuit against the Internet Archive and the so-called National Emergency Library.

Read more in the Bookseller: https://www.thebookseller.com/news/pa-backs-aap-publishers-file-lawsuit-against-internet-archive-1205078


Hugh Stephens summarizes these two actions against copyright and against authors, the backgrounds and effects in a wise and unagitated way. The EWC long-read-pick of the week:

“As I write we are in the depths of the COVID pandemic. Each day brings new and more frightening predictions of what is to come, what we all need to do to “bend the curve”, and how it is affecting people globally from both a health and economic perspective. (…) Thus it is all the more important that the accepted and established rules governing our behaviour be respected. ( …)  For this reason, it is extremely disappointing to see special interest groups taking advantage of the COVID crisis to push their personal pre-COVID agendas. In the case of copyright, this consists of using the crisis to attack the fundamentals of copyright protection, namely the right of creators to control distribution of their work, and thereby to earn a return on the sweat equity they put into the creation in the first place. The anti-copyright forces are not the only ones that are taking advantage of the pandemic to push their objectives.


THE AUTHOR Hugh Stephens has more than 35 years of government and business experience in the Asia-Pacific region. Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, he is currently Vice Chair of the Canadian Committee on Pacific Economic Cooperation (CANCPEC) and Senior Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. In this capacity Stephens managed Time Warner’s public policy program in Asia Pacific for Turner Broadcasting, HBO, Warner Bros, Time Inc. and AOL.


Article by Neil Turkewitz published on Medium – insightful to the Internet Archive’s aims and strategy

Article by Neil Turkewitz on the Founder of the Internet Archive

Authors Guild Comment on the so-called National Emergenvy Library and how it damages authors rights and income

Article in the New York Times