Libraries & Librarians

Notes on Dr. Geist’s Plenary Talk on the 2017-8 Copyright Act Review

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By Ken Fox

I guess we all breathed a sigh of relief in 2012. The Supreme Court of Canada issued a pentalogy of judgments supporting user rights, and the federal government passed a copyright amendment that, despite some serious flaws, strengthened fair dealing and added a few needed user exceptions.

So, having gone through all that, fair dealing and balanced copyright should be a done deal – from here’s it’s just a matter of ironing out the details, right?

Nope.

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.

The copyright debate is not going away. Ever.

And it is getting bigger. The online world has enabled and expanded the creation of copyrightable works, and greatly accelerated the means to reproduce and distribute them. The fair dealing provisions won through the SCC’s decision in CCH v. LSUC are obscured in the increasingly complex of web 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 battle has been one-sided. Slide after slide after slide of Dr. Geist’s presentation revealed the efforts of a powerful rights holders’ lobby, determined to roll back the balance achieved in 2012.

Fair dealing has been characterized as a “free for all” policy in what Geist describes as a fake panic. Notably, lobbyists on behalf of the academic textbook industry blame fair dealing for declining sales, despite the changing 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 positive 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 American Copyright 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 circumventions that are otherwise legal under copyright law.

The law needs to be clarified on the relationship between contract law and copyright law. Do license provisions trump user rights? This question becomes increasingly important as more and more of our content is accessed 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 weaknesses 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 another 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 of 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.

 

Providing Legal Resources to Lawyers in Smaller Communities – Law Society Library & Access to Justice

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

Providing publicly accessible legal resources and information increases the public’s understanding of legal matters and ability to handle these matters. In addition to the numerous public resources created and provided by the Library and research assistance, the Library is also involved in several access to justice initiatives. Please see a recent article in our Benchers’ Digest (page 6) “Putting the Public First – Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project” for more information on this initiatives.

However, it is important to recognize that the definition of access to justice is broader than just assisting self-represented litigants. Access to justice also includes ensuring members of the public have access to competent and affordable legal services. The resources and services provided by the Law Society Library enable lawyers, particularly in smaller centres, to adequately service their communities. Our Members’ Section ensures our members have access to the resources they need no matter their location. It is already difficult to attract new lawyers to smaller communities. A lack of resources could potentially make these locations even less attractive and leave communities without legal services.

If you are a lawyer practicing in a smaller community in Saskatchewan, please share your voice and review the following notice regarding funding to maintain legal resources, such as WestlawNext, and the other resources available through the Members’ Section and the Law Society Library. Once you have reviewed the notice, please complete the survey contained within. The deadline to complete the survey is April 7th. We appreciate your time and feedback.

 

 

Law Society of Saskatchewan Members – Share Your Voice!

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

The Law Society Library provides the legal research tools for the lawyers of Saskatchewan. Did you know that over 80% of members accessed the Members’ Section resources last year? Or that requests for research assistance increased over 50% in the last two years? For a detailed description of what we offer, please see my recent blog post or visit our website.

Law Society members, please review the following notice regarding funding to maintain legal resources, such as WestlawNext, and the other resources available through the Members’ Section and the Law Society Library. Once you have reviewed the notice, please complete the survey contained within. The deadline to complete the survey is April 7th. We appreciate your time and feedback.

Law Society Library – A Service not a Space

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

This post is a bit wordier than usual, but it is difficult to sum up the amazing resources and services provided by the Library in just a few lines. In the four years since I became the Director of Legal Resources at the Law Society, the Library has undergone significant changes – mostly in the delivery of resources. One of my first duties was to evaluate the Library and develop a strategic plan to make it more relevant to our users.  In late 2012, I gave a presentation to the Benchers entitled “Future of Libraries: A Service, Not a Space” and asked for approval of a new direction for the Library emphasizing services and the provision of digital resources rather than the traditional brick and mortar space. Here are a few important points from the presentation:

  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the expense and space of print collections.
  • Libraries have an image problem and are viewed as increasingly irrelevant.
  • Libraries face extinction if they don’t evolve with new technology and the needs of its users.

What is the result of the new direction?

  • First, we’ve dramatically shifted our resource budget from print to digital resources. The digital resources available to our members in the Members’ Section is one of the most comprehensive collection in Canada and includes:
    • Ebooks:
      • Emond Publications: More than 30 titles in the Working with the Law series and 22 titles in the Casebook Collection.
      • Irwin Law e-Library: More than 100 online textbooks, including the entire Essentials of Canadian Law series.
    • Subscriptions:
      • WestlawNext Canada
        • LawSource – Comprehensive coverage of Canadian case law, federal and provincial legislation, Canadian law reviews and journals, KeyCite Canada case citatory, the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (CED), and the Canadian Abridgment.
        • CriminalSource, FamilySource, and LabourSource – Each contain case law, commentary, annotations, and other tools specific to these practice areas.
      • O’Brien’s Internet: The online version of the popular O’Brien’s Encyclopedia of Forms, a comprehensive online source of Canadian legal forms and precedents.
      • Rangefindr: A tool to help lawyers find criminal sentencing ranges.
    • Journals:
      • HeinOnline: Full text of over 700 legal periodicals from the United States, Canada and the Commonwealth.
      • Lawyers Weekly: Published 48 times a year, it provides lawyers with information essential to maintaining and building a successful practice in today’s competitive business environment.
      • Saskatchewan Law Review: Complete issues in full text from 2013. Prior issues available on HeinOnline.
  • Second, Library staff have transformed into legal information navigators for our members. They provide research assistance, training through webinars and personalized Lunch & Learn sessions, and create valuable resources (such as this fantastic blog) as outlined below:
    • Online Databases
      • Saskatchewan Cases Database: A fully searchable database that provides access to Saskatchewan court cases from 1980s to the present. Summary digests are provided with each decision, as well as considered legislation and case law.
      • Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Sentencing Digests: Often containing the only record of a sentence appeal, this unique database contains searchable digests of sentencing appeals heard by the Court of Appeal from 1982 to the present.
      • Saskatchewan Bills: The Saskatchewan Bills database makes it easier to keep track of a bill’s proclamation date as well as the history of a bill from the first reading to the coming-into-force date. The database is useful for anyone looking for Saskatchewan Acts and their amendments.
      • Saskatchewan Regulations: Updated weekly, the Saskatchewan Regulations database is a searchable resource that indexes all regulations published in the Saskatchewan Gazette. It includes coming-into-force dates for new regulations, amendments to existing regulations since 2000, and links to the original regulations in the
    • Queen’s Bench Forms: As a courtesy to our members and the public, the Law Society Library converts the PDF forms into Word documents for easy use. These forms can be found on the Law Society website.
    • Case Mail: Our semi-monthly online newsletter of recently digested Saskatchewan cases.
    • Online Tutorials: A series of free video tutorials created by the Law Society Library to aid in searching CanLII’s updated website and our Saskatchewan Cases Database. Over the next several months, staff will be increasing topics available.
    • Essential Legal Research Guide: Developed by the Law Society Library, this step-by-step guide provides clear instructions for researching Saskatchewan case law and legislation.
    • The Limitations Manual: Manual containing all Saskatchewan statutes with limitation periods with relevant case law annotations.
    • Subject Resource Lists: Lists of standard texts, key journals, practice guides and forms, legal encyclopedias and sources of case law and legislation for a particular area of practice.
    • Legal Research Guides: Step-by-step guides leading you through specific tasks in legal research.

And our members seem to appreciate the changes. In 2015, our Members’ Section received over 63,000 visits – up 22% from 2014. In 2016, the number of visits nearly doubled to over 120,000 visits by about 82% of our members.

Requests for assistance from staff also increased dramatically in 2015 with an increase of approximately 40%.  If you would like assistance, please contact us via email or phone at (306) 569-8020 (Regina), (306) 933-5141 (Saskatoon). If you are in the Saskatoon or Regina Court House, visit us in person!

Now we are seeking input from our members about the future of the library and the resources we offer. Please review the following notice regarding funding to maintain legal resources available to Law Society members, such as WestlawNext, and the other resources available through the Members’ Section and the Law Society Library. Once you have reviewed the notice, please complete the survey contained within. The deadline to complete the survey is April 7th.

A Humble Beginning: 32 Years of Saskatchewan Case Digesting (Throwback Thursday)

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TB19Jun_2
An acoustic coupler used in the 1983 movie WarGames

The year was 1982 , and …

Time Magazine‘s Man of the Year was the computer,
Commodore 64 was the most popular home computer,
Sony Walkman was the hot new gadget,
the first movie with extensive 3D CGI Tron was released by Disney,
and mobile phone… no, there was no mobile phone yet. The first consumer mobile phone didn’t come out until the following year and weighed almost 2 lbs. and measured about 12 inches tall and 3.5 inches thick.

And what cool tools did we have in Saskatchewan for legal research in 1982?

In the early ’80s there was generally a 6 to 12 month delay for Saskatchewan cases to be picked up by printed law reporters. QL Systems (Quicklaw) was the only online service available and was already popular in courthouses. Searching QL back then was over a phone line dialing into Canada’s packet switched network Datapac using a modem or an acoustic coupler with a data transfer rate of 1000 baud (approximately 10 million times slower than the download speed of a high speed Internet connection these days). Remember WarGames? Finding caselaw and getting cases to the lawyers in a timely manner was problematic and expensive.  There was a need to provide a local digesting service and This Week’s Law, commonly known as TWL, was the resulting product.

TB19JunTRS80III
A Radio Shack TRS-80 computer
TB19Jun_1
A page from TWL, 1986

The first issue of TWL was released in 1982. One copy was produced on a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer. Copies for distribution were made on a photocopier because all office printers back then were dot matrix.  They were slow, noisy, and they printed on fanfold paper.  TWL was offered as a looseleaf subscription service with approximately nine releases a year. Over the years the contents of TWL expanded and many features were added. In 1998, the contents of TWL were imported into a new database platform that made searching on the Internet possible. This became the Saskatchewan Cases database. Data structure, search screens and reports were carefully designed to maximize the searchability of the contents and to take full advantage of the hypertext linking ability of HTML.  In order to enable fulltext searching of the judgments, a separate Fulltext database was created and linked to the Cases database.  The databases were initially available only for Law Society members for a subscription fee.  At the end of 1999 the benchers decided to make the databases available to the members for free.  A subsequent decision opened up the databases to the public. Since the databases were made available on the Internet and members have become more comfortable with computers and online searching , the demand for the printed TWL began to dwindle.  In 2002, after completing the 20th Anniversary volume, the Library decided to discontinue TWL.

Saskatchewan was the first law society in Canada to initiate an Internet-based search service for judgments. Today, Saskatchewan Cases database is one of the most popular databases produced by the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library. It is being used over 3,500 times a month. From the database we produce Case Mail, a twice monthly electronic newsletter of case digests. We also provide our case digests to CanLII Connects. All these were started from a need to provide current case law for our members, a vision, and a few people quietly doing what needed to be done behind the scene to provide a great service.

UPDATE: A recent inventory indicates that the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has contributed 18,639 case digests to CanLII Connects, making us one of the biggest contributors to the service.

University Library Consultation

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

The University of Saskatchewan Library is developing a Master Plan to help the university map out the future of library spaces on campus – whether that is for study, research, collaboration, display, etc. – and the steps needed to get there. The University Master Plan will be a set of architectural drawings that visually represents feedback from the campus community on how they see the library changing over the next 10 years and what a refreshed library might look like.

An important part of this process is extensive consultation with library users. The University is offering many opportunities to have input into the master plan. See upcoming consultation sessions and provide input through the university website.

For more information about this project, please see the Library Space Transformation section of the University Library website.

Time’s Running Out – Library Survey

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

The Law Society Library is developing a strategic plan to better serve our members. To ensure we offer the resources and services you need, we ask that you provide your opinion in the survey you received in our weekly email. The survey should take approximately 10 -15 minutes to complete and will be open until July 28.  If you did not receive the survey link or are experiencing any issues, please contact Melanie Hodges Neufeld.

We are grateful for your feedback!