ABC Copyright Conference 2019 – “Negotiating Copyright”

Kate Langrell – photo by Donna Breyfogle, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

We are keen followers of the ABC Copyright Conference in Canada and were very interested to hear about the discussions that took place at this years event which was held in Saskatoon on May 30th and 31st 2019. We are therefore extremely grateful to Kate Langrell for sharing her report of the conference which sounds like it was a real success. Kate is the Copyright Coordinator at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) in Saskatoon, Canada. She joined USask in May 2015, shortly after completing her Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto iSchool. She chaired the Steering Committee for the 2019 ABC Copyright Conference and writes… 

At the end of May 2019, over one hundred copyright specialists came together for the annual ABC Copyright Conference. The ABC Copyright group is a Canadian grassroots organization of librarians, administrators and specialists, most of whom work in the post-secondary education sector. This year’s conference took place on Treaty Six Territory, the homeland of First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Negotiating Copyright: Local, National, and Global Contexts.” Negotiation is always happening somewhere in the copyright world, and the last several years have been a fascinating time of copyright negotiation in Canada. There is an ongoing court case between a Canadian university and a copyright collective (Access Copyright vs. York University), a recent review of the Copyright Act (Canada’s copyright law), and ever-interesting discussions between institutions about the similarities and differences in our respective copyright programs.

With the “Negotiating Copyright” theme as inspiration, the Program Committee put forward the following suggested topics for conference sessions:

  • Indigenous knowledge and copyright
  • Licensing issues and contracts
  • Open Access and Open Educational Resources
  • Copyright updates (Copyright Act review, Copyright Board of Canada, court cases, international copyright developments, etc.)

Conference Opening

The conference opened with a welcome and blessing by Elder Roland Duquette, who acknowledged the land on which we met and encouraged us to find our similarities that help us to connect and work well together. Melissa Just, Dean of the University Library at the University of Saskatchewan, then provided welcoming remarks. Dean Just acknowledged the importance of copyright work in Canada, including the contributions that many conference attendees had recently made to the review of Canadian copyright law and policy by the Standing Committees on Industry, Science and Technology and Canadian Heritage.

On May 3rd, 2019, a few weeks before the conference, Dr. Greg Younging who was slated to provide the opening conference keynote sadly passed away. Dr. Younging was a rare specialist in Traditional Knowledge protections in Indigenous legal systems and western intellectual property regimes. His keynote address was to be on the need to reconcile western intellectual property systems with Indigenous legal systems, for Traditional Knowledge to be better protected, and how we might make progress on this issue. Dr. Younging’s publications in this area include the article “Traditional Knowledge Exists; Intellectual Property Is Invented or Created,” as well as his PhD thesis.

Rita Bouvier, a Métis poet and retired teacher based in Saskatoon, shared with the conference attendees a beautiful remembrance of Dr. Younging’s life and work. Rita is an emerging editor, and knew Greg through her work with him to establish an Indigenous Editor’s Circle in Saskatchewan. She highlighted Greg’s profound impact on Indigenous writing and publishing in Canada, including his book Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples (Brush Education Inc., 2018).

Dr. Meera Nair then gave a presentation entitled Towards Reconciliation, based on Dr. Younging’s work, in which she reminded us of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #39 (iv): “Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements” (page 5).

Thursday Program

The Thursday conference sessions included an afternoon keynote presentation by Dr. Jean Dryden. Dr. Dryden is a representative on the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (WIPO’s SCCR), representing the International Council on Archives. She shared with attendees’ information on copyright negotiation at the international level, strategies and objectives for the SCCR, and background on how limitations and exceptions to copyright law are discussed and formed through WIPO.

I wish I had time to summarize all the conference presentations that were given, but here at the least is a list of the other excellent conference sessions from the Thursday program:

  • CUSMA and Technical Protection Measures – Robert Tiessen
  • Open Access Policies and Traditional Publishing Agreements – Dr. Rumi Graham, Allan Bell, Mark Swartz and Dominique Lapierre
  • Crown Copyright: More Than Just an Outdated Provision – Amanda Wakaruk
  • Copyright and Social Media, Navigating Risks and Exceptions – Dr. Hayleigh Bosher
  • Language and Discourse in the Copyright Act Review – Jennifer Zerkee and Stephanie Savage
  • Negotiating Copyright in Online Creative Spaces: How Canadian Fan Writers Navigate and Learn about Law – Rebecca Katz

Descriptions for all the sessions listed above are available on the Abstracts 2019 webpage of the conference website.

Thursday was capped off with a reception and dinner at the Remai Modern Art Gallery, a must-see spot in Saskatoon that opened in October 2017.

Remai Modern Art Gallery
“Remai Modern Art Gallery”by daryl_mitchell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Friday Program

The Friday of the conference opened with a keynote by Dr. Kevin Smith, Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas and previously the Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at Duke University.  Dr. Smith discussed the Access Copyright vs. York University case in Canada in comparison with the Georgia State University (GSU) copyright case in the United States. He provided an insightful “outsider’s view” of Canadian legal pecedants in copyright and education, and highlighted parallels and differences of the American Fair Use exception and Canada’s Fair Dealing exception. Dr. Smith concluded that with the York case at an earlier stage than the GSU case, there is potential for a far greater negative impact of the York case if the initial federal decision is upheld.

Here are the conference sessions from the Friday program:

  • The Decline of Collective Copyright Licensing in Canada’s Post-Secondaries Explained Using the Theory of Fields – Donald Taylor
  • Cultural Appropriation in Fashion: Is Copyright the Answer? – Brigitte Vézina
  • Click-Thru Agreements in Journal Author Licensing: Do these Allow for the Legally Required Right to Negotiation? – Lise Brin
  • Software Preservation and Copyright: An Exploration of the Issues – Graeme Slaght and Mark Swartz
  • Indigenous Knowledge, Libraries and Cultural Institutions – Camille Callison, Ann Ludbrook and Kim Nayyer
  • The Sky is Not Falling—A Discussion about the Fair Dealing Guidelines – Heather Martin and Dr. Meera Nair
  • Engaging Students in the Creation of Open Content – Heather M. Ross

Descriptions for all the sessions listed above are available on the Abstracts 2019 webpage of the conference website.

It was a true joy to plan a conference for such an amazing, supportive community. I want to thank all of the presenters for sharing your hard work with us, the sponsors for your financial support, the planning committee members for all your time and efforts, the volunteers for keeping everything running, and all of the attendees. Whether you came from just around the corner or from an entirely different country or continent (as a few conference presenters did!), thank you for coming to ABC Copyright 2019. See you for ABC 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!

For more information, please check out the conference website and Twitter (the conference hashtag was #ABCCopyright2019). We are going to be adding as many of the conference presentation materials as possible the University of Saskatchewan institutional repository HARVEST, and are hoping to have the materials posted there by the end of July.

Thanks again to Kate for sharing her report. We will continue to watch developments in Canada with interest and hope that maybe one day we might be able to attend the ABC conference ourselves.

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