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Cory Doctorow at Toronto’s National Reading Summit

Internet phenom Cory Doctorow is in Toronto this week on a promotional blitz. Last night, the author, activist, and journalist drew a packed crowd to the Toronto Public Library’s venerable Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, where he read from his latest sci-fi novel, Makers (Tor Books), and generally basked in the adulation of the many fanboys (and girls) in attendance. Earlier today, Doctorow addressed a different sort of crowd at the inaugural TD National Reading Summit, where he delivered the keynote address about “ what else? “ the uses and abuses of copyright in the digital age.

Doctorow’s message “ that overzealous copyright restrictions are effectively killing the culture of the book “ went over surprisingly well with the crowd, which comprised librarians, educators, and a handful of publishers. (See Q&Q‘s coverage of the summit here.)

Some highlights from the talk:

  • Doctorow drew a distinction between copyright, which he said is used to “safeguard ownership,” and the complex licensing agreements that usually adorn digital products, such as downloadable audiobooks and e-books. The regulations governing e-books, he said, go much further than standard copyright law in imposing restrictions on fair use
  • He spoke about the importance of copying and of mimicry in his own creative development, and argued that overzealous copyright restrictions can strangle creativity and democratic expression
  • He also criticized the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international agreement involving Canada that would impose draconian restrictions on fair use
  • Ultimately, Doctorow called on publishers to cut out “abusive licensing terms” (including DRM) from their policies governing e-books and called on librarians to demand more transparency on ACTA