How Can Canadian Government Help Open up Digital Media?

I came open a blog on the OpenMedia webpage that questioned why the government does not have more involvement in creating open access to digital media in Canada.  Michel Geist, Law Professor at the University of Ottawa, proposed that although Canadians are making progress in collaborating our digital media; i.e. the National Film Board of Canada who launched the NFB screening room in January 2009, starting with 500 available films has nearly tripled since then too almost 1’500 films freely available, and although, the NFB project has been very promising, success stories are few and far between.  The internet is incredibly lucrative for creators and consumers and producers, but the question remains, what the government can do to help make Canadian digital media more readily accessible?

Until recently, internet communications were only accessible to a privileged class, and while more and more Canadians now have access to digital media, Canadians are still not provided with universal assess to Canadian new media.  Geist suggested several points necessary to make open media possible, whereby the internet should have certain rules of the road, including net neutrality and traffic management guidelines so that all content can be afforded and have equal opportunity, not falling victim to limited access. Furthermore, a key issue in opening up new media is digitization, it was noted that Canadian Policy makers have made no attempt in keeping a comprehensive Canadian digital library.  Government does not appear to see the necessary importance in preserving national content for future generations or making the content more readably accessible. Geist compared Canadian open media to Europe, who in 2005, launched i2010 action plan.  Europe provides direct access to more than 4.6 million digitalized books, newspapers, film clips, maps, photographs, and documents from across Europe, whereas, Canada is still stuck at the starting gate.

Geist suggested that Canadian policy to open media should include opening government data, as well as removal of crown copyright and the adoption of open licensing.  We should be figuring out how to open data.  Geist pointed out that Canadian  cultural policy has longed focused on the creation of culture and finally the government is making a shift to the creation of new media and digital platforms.  With open digital access, Canadians will have an abundance of knowledge and culture at their fingertips.

Opening the many closed doors of the digital world is problematic due to copyright policy.  Creators must not only receive proper compensation for their work but also have the opportunity and flexibility to create.  Therefore, Geist suggested that Canada implement WIPO treaties, implementing treaties ensuring that we link circumvention to copyright infringement.  He also recognized the need for fair dealing, building flexibility without lose fairness.  Open media should be fair dealing, not free dealing.

The digital world opens new doors to the challenges of the past, offering new opportunity for creators, consumers and Canadian business.  Canadian citizens are stepping up to make this important transition occur.  Organizations, such as OpenMedia have been established to help build a new media ecology.  In an email received from the group they emphasized that they work to empower, educate and engage Canadians to advance their communication interests, values and rights.  They want people to be connected to social change organizations, and online news outlets.  OpenMedia has a general interest in public education and change.  Participants within OpenMedia include civil society organizations, labour groups, academics and activists all across Canada, all with a common interest to provide free online sources for Canadian citizens, and with government backing Canada will soon transition into completely different media environment.


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