Copyright Committee Crowdsources Policy Research

Copyright Committee Crowdsources Policy Research

Kalen Lumsden is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era is using some of the innovations of the digital era to vet drafts of research papers it commissioned. Through posting the drafts on its blog and asking for comments, the committee encourages a dialogue similar to peer reviewing. Appropriately, one of the papers studies this very topic: Online Access and the Scientific Journal Market: An Economist’s Perspective.

The committee was formed in 2010 by the Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy of the National Research Council of the United States. The blog is structured around the committee’s four tasks of the committee and actuates task 3:

Task 1 – Identify key issues and the experts best suited to address them and then commission background papers on those issues.

Task 2 – Plan and convene a multi-disciplinary workshop with 25-35 experts in the field.

Task 3 – After the workshop, find additional experts and discuss the ideas on a website.

Task 4 – Prepare a final report on the current state of the research field, identifying policy-relevant research questions that need attention, suggesting how to approach these topics, and recommending how public agencies and private institutions might support such work.

After engaging with the commenters  on the blog the papers were presented on June 9, 2011. The five papers are:

Feel free to comment on the papers at the NRC Copyright Policy Research Forum blog.

The paper topics of the Copyright Policy Committee intersect with many ongoing Canadian copyright debates, such as those surrounding music file-sharing, the economic values that underpin a copyright system and where the balance between users, creators and commercial interests are best struck to encourage innovation. These debates will be resuscitated along with the newest iteration of former Bill C-32 this Fall.

The papers on digitization of copyright-reliant industries and scientific journals are pertinent to the shifting landscape faced by the Canadian copyright licensing agency, Access Copyright. As universities move towards digital course materials, they argue that comprehensive, blanket licences are not necessary in favour of flexible, transactional licences. This move is resisted by Access Copyright.

The committee’s open approach to research, even soliciting suggestions for topics and sources, is a great way to engage the affected community and is similar to what Industry Canada did with the 2009 copyright consultations that preceded the now defunct Bill C-32 or 2010’s consultations on a Digital Economy Strategy. Both attempted to engage with the diverse interested and affected parties. The Digital Economic Strategy consultation attempted to incorporate more of the modern digital technologies, such as Twitter, that were being discussed.  At the very least, the use of internet technologies demonstrates a basic internet-literacy that should be a pre-requisite for participation in all internet-related policy discussions.