Nathalie Bélanger, Chief of Law library at Université de Montréal
Le texte français suit ci-dessous.
Tell us a little about your educational background and how you entered the legal information industry?
I took a different career path than most of my colleagues. I started as a jurist working in insurance and professional liability law.
I received a Bachelor of Law and then a Master of Notarial Law from Université de Montréal before becoming a member of the Chambre des notaires du Québec. For my colleagues from the rest of Canada, note that under Quebec’s civil law tradition, we have two legal professions (lawyer and notary). Students take the same academic path at the undergraduate level (Bachelor of Law), after which future lawyers go to Bar school (École du Barreau) and then do an internship, while future notaries obtain their Master of Notarial Law and then do an internship.
As a young notary, I had the opportunity to manage an office’s mini documentation centre and organize the internal documents. I then accepted a job as knowledge manager in a law firm. This was before knowledge management was well known in Canada. I was working in close collaboration with research lawyers, paralegals, law librarians and library technicians. This inspired me to pursue a Master of Information Studies, which I did from 1999 to 2004 at McGill University while continuing to work at the law firm full time.
The path was laid to become a law librarian, especially in a law firm. I climbed the ladder in three national firms, becoming Director of Information and Library Services at Stikeman Elliot’s Montréal office, then Director of Digital Content at the Centre d’accès à l’information juridique.
Then, under the mistaken impression that there was nothing left to learn in the legal world, I spent two years as chief librarian in two of Montréal’s public libraries. I learned a great deal and enjoyed the experience, but I missed the legal field.
So, I went back. For nearly two years now, I have been chief of the Université de Montréal’s law library, a position that lets me apply my library experience as well as my legal knowledge.
In short, I started my career in law and then entered the world of law libraries. It was not the path I had expected, but it suits me very well. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing!
How has being involved in CALL helped you professionally?
My CALL membership has been very useful since early on in my career, namely the ongoing training, annual conferences and some of the webinars. Networking is also an undeniable advantage, because it helps me get to know colleagues from all across Canada. My local law library association (MALL) provides the same advantages, but in a more limited scope, within the Montréal area. CALL has a broader reach, which can be great for finding resources or sharing good practices. I recommend that all new law librarians join CALL and get actively involved.
What are the three skills/attributes you think legal information professionals need to have?
I would say they need to be 1) adaptable/flexible, 2) proactive and 3) versatile.
Adaptable, because we live in a changing world. The librarian profession is among those that have changed the most in the last 20 years and there are still many changes to come. We have to adapt to how these changes affect our tasks as well as our service and work environment. Also, since our service is often seen more as a cost centre than an income generator, we are often hit with budget cuts. We have to constantly use our creativity and imagination to adapt and remain flexible in our service offer, while making do with often limited means.
Legal information professionals have to be proactive because in our profession, much more than others, we always need to position ourselves strategically in the organizations we serve. Sadly, we are often overlooked or underutilized. We need to be proactive to promote ourselves and our skills. Because our entourage is not likely to think of us first for a project or new initiative, we should volunteer for projects our skills will benefit. IT teams are always automatically involved in new projects. That’s not the case for our profession, even though our contribution, knowledge and expertise can be significant assets. We need to learn how to position ourselves as participants and key players in new initiatives (knowledge management, business intelligence, research data management, open access publishing, project management, document management, etc.).
Finally, it is important to be versatile, especially when working in small organizations or small teams. We have to carry out all sorts of different tasks: management, research, reference work, marketing, promotion of our services, technical work, technological work, project planning and more. Librarians have to be able to diversify their skills to do well in various aspects of their work.
For those who still think our work is boring and lacking in challenges, I invite you to spend a week in our shoes!
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
There are two things people would be surprised to know about me, but they are personal, not professional:
First, I’ve always had a passion for Poland, even though I don’t have any Polish roots. This interest even led me to learn Polish.
I am also a skilled canner. Fall is my favourite season because I get to preserve the best of the harvest by canning, pickling and stewing fruits and vegetables, making sauces and more. On weekends, my kitchen looks like a canning factory!
Nathalie Belanger, Chef de bibliothèque Bibliothèque de droitt Université de Montréal
Parlez-nous un peu de votre formation et comment vous êtes entré dans l'industrie de l'information juridique?
Personnellement, j’ai procédé à l’inverse de la plupart de mes collègues. J’ai d’abord débuté ma carrière en tant que juriste par la pratique du droit en droit des assurances et de de la responsabilité professionnelle.
J’ai fait des études de baccalauréat en droit à l’Université de Montréal puis j’ai fait la maitrise en droit notarial à la même université pour ensuite devenir membre de la Chambre des notaires du Québec. Pour mes collègues du reste du Canada, je tiens à préciser qu’au Québec en raison de la tradition de droit civil, nous avons deux professions juridiques soit les avocats et les notaires qui partagent le même cheminement académique pour le premier cycle universitaire soit le baccalauréat en droit. Les futurs avocats font ensuite l’école du Barreau puis le stage et les futurs notaires font la maitrise en droit notarial puis un stage.
Dans le cadre de mon travail de jeune notaire, j’ai eu l’opportunité de gérer le mini centre de documentation du bureau et de procéder à l’organisation de la documentation interne puis j’ai obtenu un poste de gestionnaire du savoir dans un cabinet d’avocats. Il s’agissait en fait d’un poste de gestionnaire du savoir alors que ce terme était encore peu reconnu au Canada. À ce moment, je travaillais en étroite collaboration avec les avocats recherchistes, les para juristes et les bibliothécaires ou techniciens en documentation. Cela m’a incité à entreprendre ma maitrise en sciences de l’information. Je l’ai effectuée de 1999 à 2004 à l’Université McGill tout en continuant à travailler à temps complet au cabinet.
Ma voie était déjà toute tracée pour occuper un poste de bibliothécaire dans le milieu juridique et plus spécialement dans un cabinet d’avocats. J’ai travaillé dans 3 différents cabinets nationaux dans lesquels j’ai gravi les échelons pour finalement me retrouver directrice des services de l’information et bibliothèque au bureau de Montréal de Stikeman Elliott puis finalement au Centre d’accès à l’information juridique à titre de directrice des contenus numériques.
Puis, ayant la fausse impression que j’avais fait le tour du jardin dans le monde juridique, j’ai occupé pendant 2 ans un poste de chef de bibliothèque dans deux bibliothèques publiques de la Ville de Montréal. J’ai bien appris et aimé mon expérience, mais cela m’a permis de constater que le domaine juridique me manquait.
Donc, depuis près de deux ans, je suis revenue dans le domaine juridique en tant que chef de la Bibliothèque de droit à l’Université de Montréal. Ainsi, je suis à même de mettre à profit mon expérience dans les bibliothèques et mes connaissances en droit.
En résumé, j’ai commencé ma carrière en droit et puis j’y ai intégré le monde des bibliothèques juridiques. Il s’agit d’un parcours un peu accidentel, mais qui me convient tout à fait. Si c’était à refaire, je ferais le même parcours!
Comment est-ce que le fait d'être impliqué dans CALL vous a aidé professionnellement?
Mon membership à CALL m’a apporté beaucoup dès le début de ma carrière au niveau de la formation continue notamment par ma participation aux conférences annuelles, puis par ma participation à certains webinaires. Le réseautage constitue aussi un avantage indéniable, car cela me permet de connaitre des collègues de partout au Canada. Mon association locale de bibliothèques de droit (MALL) me permet de maintenir les mêmes avantages mais dans le cercle plus restreint de Montréal. CALL m’offre une ouverture plus large, ce qui peut être parfois fort utile pour l’obtention de ressources ou pour le partage de bonnes pratiques. Je recommanderais à tout nouveau bibliothécaire œuvrant dans le domaine juridique de devenir membre de CALL et de s’y impliquer activement.
Quelles sont les trois compétences / attributs que les professionnels de l'information juridique doivent posséder?
Je dirais 1) l’adaptabilité / flexibilité, 2) la proactivité et 3) la polyvalence.
L’adaptabilité, car le monde est changeant. La profession de bibliothécaire est certainement une des professions qui a le plus évolué depuis les 20 dernières années et les changements à venir seront encore nombreux. Il faut savoir nous adapter à ces changements de nos tâches mais aussi du milieu que nous desservons et dans lequel nous évoluons. Par ailleurs, notre service étant bien souvent perçu davantage comme un centre de couts que comme une unité génératrice de revenus, nous sommes souvent les victimes de coupures et nous avons constamment à faire preuve de créativité ou d’imagination pour nous adapter et être flexible dans notre offre de services et ce, tout en tenant compte de nos moyens souvent limités.
La proactivité, car notre profession a, plus que bien d’autres, le besoin constant de bien se positionner au sein des organisations dans lesquelles nous évoluons. Nous sommes malheureusement bien souvent méconnus ou sous-utilisés. Il faut donc développer une proactivité nous menant à faire notre autopromotion. Il ne faut pas hésiter à lever notre main pour nous impliquer dans un projet pour lequel notre apport peut être plus que bénéfique. Notre entourage pensera bien peu souvent à nous d’emblée pour une implication dans un projet ou nouvelle initiative. Je peux juste vous parler en comparaison de l’équipe des TI qui est d’emblée partie prenante de tout projet. Tel n’est pas le cas pour notre profession, alors que notre apport, nos connaissances et notre expertise peuvent être riches à plusieurs égards dans un projet. Il faut donc apprendre à savoir se positionner comme partie prenante et joueur clé dans les nouvelles initiatives (gestion du savoir, intelligence d’affaires, gestion des données de recherche, publication en libre accès, gestion de projet, gestion documentaire, etc.)
La polyvalence parce que bien souvent, surtout lorsque nous travaillons au sein de petites organisations ou de petites équipes, nous avons à effectuer des tâches de diverses natures : de la gestion, de la recherche et du travail de référence, du marketing et autopromotion de nos services, du travail technique, du travail à saveur technologique, de la planification de projets, etc. Ainsi, le bibliothécaire doit être en mesure de diversifier ses habiletés afin de pouvoir bien performer dans divers aspects de sa tâche. Pour ceux qui pensent encore que notre travail est ennuyant et dépourvu de défis, il faudrait venir passer une semaine dans nos souliers!
Qu'est-ce que les gens seraient surpris de savoir de vous?
Il y a véritablement deux choses assez surprenantes à mon sujet, mais il s’agit d’aspects personnels et non professionnels :
D’abord, depuis toujours, j’ai une passion pour la Pologne et ce, sans avoir de racines familiales polonaises. Je pousse même la passion jusqu’à tenter d’apprendre à parler le polonais.
Aussi, je suis une adepte de la mise en conserve. Pour moi, l’automne est ma saison favorite, car je peux profiter des récoltes et faire de la mise en conserve de légumes, fruits, marinades, compotes, sauces, etc. Les fins de semaine, ma cuisine ressemble à une usine de mise en conserve.
The winners of the 2017 Canadian Law Blog Awards (known as the Clawbies) were announced just before New Year's Day.
The Best Law Library Blog award went to Legal Sourcery maintained by the Law Society of Saskatchewan. Three (3) CALL members regularly contribute post to the site: Ken Fox, Melanie Hodges Neufeld, and Alan Kilpatrick. Congratulations!
The prize for Best Canadian Law Blog went to Cowling Legal, which the organizers describe as a blog that "combines sharp insights into the Canadian litigation landscape and timely commentary on vital social issues with terrific writing and a unique personal style".
There were awards in many other categories.
The Clawbies are organized by Stem Legal, a B.C.-based strategy firm.
Anne C. Matthewman, Chief Law Librarian & Assoc. University Librarian | Sir James Dunn Law Library, University of Dalhousie
Tell us a little about your educational background and how you entered the legal information industry
I attended the University of Windsor, (Hons B.A. in English and History), and the University of Western Ontario, (MLS). As I was finishing my undergraduate degree I was not sure what to do next but I did know I did not want to go to teachers’ college which my parents had suggested. A friend mentioned library school and that seemed like an feasible idea. When I graduated I got a part-time job at the Essex law Association in Windsor. They had never had a librarian before and I talked myself into a fulltime job. While I was there, I did an M.A. in English at the University of Windsor. I had a brief stint in the public library system and then returned to law libraries with the Toronto Lawyers Association and then the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.
How has being involved in CALL helped you professionally (e.g. scholarships & grants, continuing education, networking)?
I think it was mostly the continuing education opportunities which led to networking which then led to being asked to serve on committees and the Executive Board. I learned a lot about the profession and being a professional from the examples of others. The Annual Conferences and workshops (both for CALL/ACBD and AALL) increased my knowledge level considerably. As the profession has evolved, being involved with Associations helped me move along with all the new developments and changes. I would never have accomplished these things on my own.
What was your first job or your first library-related job?
It was both my first job and my first library-related job. I worked as a page at the John Richardson Children’s Library in Windsor, Ontario during high school. Another page at the same library was Gail Brown, a fellow CALL/ACBD member. We also lived across the street from one another but went to different schools. What I remember most about that job was the endless mending of children’s books.
What are three skills/attributes you think legal information professionals need to have?
An ability and desire for continuous learning - often on the fly - as we are frequently asked research questions about things we know very little about. Fortunately, we know how to find out! When I first started out in a one-person library I learned a lot about the law from loose-leaf filing.
Diplomacy – We deal with people in all aspects of legal education and practice. Many of them are in a stressful situation and you have to judge how best to approach the interaction with them.
Organizational and prioritization skills – There are often several projects going on at once and we are continually interacting with people (see above). We must be able to triage reference and research questions along with administrative work and other obligations. Sometimes you need to drop everything to help someone find an answer and other times you can judge that the question is not so urgent and deal with it later.
I am a terrible cook and left to my own devices I just throw something together so I do not starve. Fortunately, I am surrounded by family and friends who know their way around a kitchen. Whenever my husband goes away he leaves the freezer full of things I can defrost and reheat.
Danielle Brosseau, Library Manager| Harper Grey LLP, Vancouver BC
Tell us a little about your educational background and how you entered the legal information industry.
I completed a Bachelor of Arts in French and History at McMaster University in Hamilton, then travelled to France for a year to study French at CILEC (Centre International de Langue et Civilisation), and participate in the au-pair program. When it was time to get a job after my European adventure I quickly realized I needed to go back to school, and so made my way to the Burlington Public Library to do some research! While sitting next to the Reference collection, wondering how all the materials got there, and thinking how interesting it would be to collect and organize all this stuff, I realized I was a librarian-to-be! I applied to the Faculty of Information Studies (FIS) at the University of Toronto and haven’t looked back since.
At FIS, it wasn’t long before I was introduced to a vast network of peers and mentors from diverse areas of expertise, interest, and practice. Many generous volunteers came forward, helping me navigate a route to career success while introducing me to the value of networking. Being involved in a professional association like CALL is like being part of a huge support network where there’s always someone to talk to from Vancouver to Halifax, and all the places in-between, not to mention all the fun to be had with an amazingly talented group of professionals!
What’s one blog, website, or Twitter account that you can’t go one day without checking?
Our neighbours to the south also benefit from a vibrant, sharing community, and I have also enjoyed and benefited from my membership in the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) throughout my career. These days, I love getting my daily dose of KnowItAALL!, an eNewsletter, delivered straight to my inbox every weekday morning highlighting legal information, industry trends, law, technology, library, and career development topics. It’s now available to non-members, sign up now!
Where do you see our industry and/or profession in 10 years?
It’s difficult to look 10 years into the future when change and innovation is happening so fast every day, but I think a lot about the future of libraries in the digital age. Especially in law where people so often identify libraries with physical books, the proliferation of digital information and communication technologies has many speculating whether libraries are obsolete. What is our role and responsibility as we continue to expand our online services and adopt new legal technology to add value to our collections and services? Information access has always been a core value of the library profession, and will continue to force libraries to both take on new roles and perform traditional roles in new ways.
Who is your favourite library professional—living or dead, real or fictional?
I don’t get out to the movies as much as I used to with young children at home, but when a bad cold hit a few weeks ago I turned to Netflix to catch up on a few movies I had missed. I stumbled upon the 2016 film based on the Marvel Comics superhero Doctor Strange, and of course loved the scene where Strange visits the library for a book, only to be warned by the librarian about what happens if he steals the book: be killed before leaving the building. I always enjoy encountering fictional libraries and librarians in movies and books. We are currently reading the Harry Potter books with the kids at bedtime, and I especially look forward to reliving moments at Hogwarts Library with Madam Irma Pince. What’s your favourite fictional library and who’s your favourite fictional librarian?
Here are just a few examples of what members and "friends" of CALL have been up to in recent weeks on social media. I describe friends as non-members of CALL who either follow us on the CALL listserv or who have attended a CALL event.
Vous trouverez ci-dessous quelques exemples de ce que font les membres et "amis" de l'ACBD depuis quelques semaines sur les réseaux sociaux. Les amis sont des non-membres qui nous suivent sur la liste de discussion CALL-L ou qui ont déjà assisté à une activité de l'association.
Megan Siu, Community Development & Education Specialist, Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA)
I am a new professional in the field of law librarianship with 3 years of professional library experience under my belt. I received a BA in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Alberta in 2013 and an MLIS from the University of Western Ontario in 2014.
I have an older brother with intellectual and developmental disabilities who is very near and dear to my heart. Almost all my life, I’ve been exposed to the policies, laws, and regulations that impact how he lives his life. When I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do career-wise, law was definitely on my mind, but I wasn’t entirely sure about how I wanted to pursue it. During the summer of my first year in university, it was pretty tough to find a job. With a bit of desperation, I pulled up a list of law firms and other law-related bodies in Edmonton and reached out to them about any opportunities they had. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up finding anything for that summer, but I received a tip about a part-time library assistant position at the courthouse during the regular school year. That fall, I started working for the Alberta Law Libraries in Edmonton and it is still one of my favourite places of employment to date. Near the end of my undergraduate degree, a mentor suggested that I apply for library school. After finding out that such a thing existed, I jumped at the opportunity and spent the following year working towards my MLIS at Western University in London, Ontario.
While I was in library school, I tried to keep my options open and diversified the courses I was taking and even found a part-time job at an academic library. However, when I graduated, my heart was still set on law libraries. Shortly after moving back to Edmonton, I started my first professional library job as the solo librarian for a mid-sized law firm in Edmonton where I worked for a year and a half. I am now employed by CPLEA, a not-for-profit organization that aims to help vulnerable communities understand their legal rights and responsibilities through public legal education and I’m loving every minute of it!
While I was exposed to CALL/ACBD through the student branch at the University of Western Ontario, I really started becoming familiar with the Association when I started my first law librarian job. Being a solo librarian is hard, especially when you’re new to the profession and don’t have anyone to show you the ropes. I was the only person in the office with a library background, so making informed decisions and proving my worth was quite challenging at times. CALL/ACBD has supplied me with many official and unofficial mentors, who I am eternally grateful for. These mentors have provided me with much support, which has continued to help me grow and test my potential. I also feel so fortunate to have received the Eunice Beeson Memorial Travel Fund to assist my attendance at the CALL/ACBD Annual Conference, where I learned from and networked with esteemed law librarians and legal information professionals from across Canada. I appreciate the diverse set of internal committees and special interest groups – I’m currently involved with the Membership Development Committee, Webinar Sub-Committee, and New Professionals SIG. I’m very excited to be spending the next 2 years co-chairing the 2019 CALL/ACBD Conference Planning Committee alongside my fellow co-chair and mentor, Josette McEachern and working with the rest of our Edmonton superstar crew!
What are three things on your bucket list?
What’s one change in the profession or industry you’ve embraced?
The versatility of the MLIS degree! As technology advances, so does the entire field of library and information science. People with MLIS degrees aren’t all necessarily traditional librarians anymore. Nowadays, in addition to traditional librarians in the streams of public, academic, and special libraries, librarians are information managers, project managers, records managers, knowledge managers, information specialists, researchers, and more!
Here are just a few examples of what members and "friends" of CALL have been up to in recent weeks on social media.
I describe friends as non-members of CALL who either follow us on the CALL listserv or who have attended a CALL event.
Vous trouverez ci-dessous quelques exemples de ce que font les membres et "amis" de l'ACBD depuis quelques semaines sur les réseaux sociaux.
Les amis sont des non-membres qui nous suivent sur la liste de discussion CALL-L ou qui ont déjà assisté à une activité de l'association.
Ann Marie Melvie
Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan (Regina) ; President, Canadian Association of Law Libraries
Right after high school, I attended the University of Saskatchewan and obtained a Bachelor of Education degree. Soon afterwards, I got the idea that working in a library might be an interesting thing to do, so I enrolled in the Library Technician course at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Saskatoon. My first job as a library tech was at Robertson Stromberg, a large law firm in the city. I was hired as the assistant to a lawyer who also had her Masters in Library and Information Studies. I’ll always be grateful for everything she taught me about law librarianship. Two years after I started at the firm, she left to pursue employment elsewhere, and I was left in charge of the library. Thank goodness for Peta Bates, the librarian at the Law Society Library, and luckily for me, my mentor! I am grateful for her time and for all the knowledge she passed on to me. Both of these fine librarians encouraged me to join and take an active part in CALL/ACBD.
I enjoyed my job at the law firm, but after eight years, it was time to move on. I went to Brandon, Manitoba, to work in the Assiniboine Community College Library. I liked working in an educational institution, but soon found that I missed working with what I know – legal materials. There were lawyers on staff who taught courses in the Business division of the college. Whenever they needed assistance in the library, I would practically lunge at the counter to help them. The librarian at the College encouraged me to think about obtaining my Master’s degree. I’m not sure if she saw promise in me, or if she was just tired of working with me, but three years later, I moved to Edmonton, Alberta, to pursue my MLIS.
During my second year of library school, I found out that the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan was looking for a librarian. I applied for the job, was interviewed, and started the job right after graduation. That was sixteen years ago, and I’ve been at the Court ever since!
How has being involved in CALL helped you professionally (e.g. scholarships & grants, continuing education, networking)?
CALL/ACBD has been an important aspect of my continuing education as a law librarian in all of the ways you mentioned. I distinctly remember a presentation made to my library school class at the University of Alberta. I don’t recall who spoke to us, but she told us how important it is for librarians/information professionals to become involved in a professional association. I knew what she said was true, because I had had the chance to be involved in CALL/ACBD when I worked at the law firm.
Like many other professions, ours is one that is constantly evolving. There’s no better way to keep up than by attending conferences, participating in webinars, and by getting to know colleagues who work in various parts of Canada and around the world! The educational sessions at the conferences have been a tremendous help to me. The webinars are an excellent way to keep up with what is happening in our profession. And the networking has been invaluable!
During my second year of library school, I was thrilled to be chosen as the recipient of the Diana M. Priestly Memorial Scholarship, which is intended to support professional development in our field. I still remember opening the envelope that contained the cheque for $2500! It helped me so much during that year of school.
Free, open access to legal information! Be it to the wealth of legal information on CanLII, BAILII, and AustLII, to open access journals such as the Canadian Bar Review, to having free online access to such things as the Citation Guide for the Courts of Saskatchewan (a shameless plug here), free access to legal information is a powerful thing!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to break into the legal information industry?
Be open to whatever career opportunities come your way. You may have in mind that you want to work in a particular type of law library, but be open to working in other types of law libraries that you may not have considered. You may be pleasantly surprised!
When I was a child, I lived for three years in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon, Africa. One of my favourite memories is sitting in a mango tree with my friends, eating delicious mangos, with the juice dripping down my arms. Then one day, I fell out of a mango tree! Want to know what happened next? Ask me to tell you the story when I see you at the 2018 CALL/ACBD annual conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia (another shameless plug)!
Last month, York University lost a case in Federal Court of Canada in its legal dispute with the collective licensing agency Access Copyright.
Access Copyright had sued the school, alleging it had been improperly reproducing and authorizing the copying of protected works.
The university argued that any portion of protected materials copied for course packs was covered by the “fair dealing” provisions of Canadian copyright legislation as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada and thus exempt from copyright fees.
York announced this week that it would appeal the ruling.
Reaction to the decision includes:
I guess we all breathed a sigh of relief in 2012. The Supreme Court of Canada issued a pentalogy of judgments reinforcing the notion of fair dealing as a users’ right and Parliament passed a copyright amendment that elucidated fair dealing and added a few modern exceptions.
So, having gone through all that, fair dealing and the balance between the rights of the copyright holder and those of the user should be a done deal – from 2012 onward it’s just a matter of applying the law, right?
Not according to Dr. Michael Geist, Law Professor at University of Ottawa and renowned expert in copyright law. Dr. Geist gave a plenary talk at the 2017 CALL/ACBD Conference in Ottawa, and issued a wake-up call to anyone who feels complacent that copyright matters were settled in 2012.
Copyright debates are not going away. Ever.
They may only get bigger. The online world has enabled and expanded the creation of works in which copyright may subsist, and has greatly accelerated the means to reproduce and distribute these works. The fair dealing interpretation arising from the SCC’s decision in CCH v. LSUC is also obscured in the increasingly contractual arena of online licensing.
The current field of battle is section 92 of the Copyright Act, which mandates a Parliamentary review of the legislation to begin no later than November 2017. So far, the efforts have been one-sided. Slide after slide after slide of Dr. Geist’s presentation showed his review of the active and early efforts of rights holders to redirect the review away from the 2012 outcomes.
Fair dealing has been characterized as having turned into a “free for all” policy in what Geist describes as a fake panic. Notably, he pointed to lobbyists on behalf of segments of the publishing industry blaming fair dealing applications for declining sales, despite the variety of ways the education sector obtains materials, which includes consortia database licensing, open access, transactional licensing, and de minimis (copying so minimal that a fair use analysis is not warranted), as well as book purchases and fair dealing.
Geist outlined a basic laundry list of reforms. For example, prefacing the list of fair dealing exceptions in section 29 with the phrase “such as” would make the exception open-ended, like the “fair use” provision in paragraph 107 of the US Copyright Law, Title 17 of the US Code. Geist also proposes a clear exception to the anti-circumvention provisions around technological protection measures (TPMs aka “digital locks”), as the government proposed in 2012, but never delivered. TPMs make many activities that would be legal with analog technology illegal in the digital realm. The proposed exception would legalise circumventing a TPM for purposes that are otherwise legal.
The relationship between contract law and copyright law should be further explored. If fair dealing continues to be considered a user’s right, what is this right’s interaction with a license agreement? This question becomes increasingly important as we access more and more of our content by way of online licensing agreements.
For Crown Copyright, Geist would like to see more open-ended licensing for non-commercial use – or even better, abolish Crown Copyright altogether.
But for the most part, Geist advocates for a defensive position against challenges to balanced copyright. He opposes, for example, the notion that Canada is a “piracy haven,” and needs to institute a notice-&-takedown system to replace our internationally-lauded notice-&-notice system. Aside from a few uncertainties noted above, Canada’s current law seems to strike an effective balance between the rights of industry and users. Therefore, he envisions the review as a benchmarking exercise, to assess the progress of cultural industries under the current legislative regime, rather than an occasion for a major overhaul.
Geist ended his presentation with a reminder that the fight for balanced copyright is not over, and that thus far, very few have spoken out on behalf of user’s rights, or even argued for maintaining the current balance. As such, he calls for CALL/ACBD members to add their ideas, evidence and voice to the debate.
2012 was not the end, it was the beginning.
If you would like to be involved in the review process, please contact copyright committee co-chair Kim Nayyer or Ken Fox.
A version of this piece was posted June 14, 2017 on Legal Sourcery.