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University of Toronto Libraries launches contest for World Book and Copyright Day

wbd-web-467x300-enIn honour of UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day on April 23, University of Toronto Libraries is initiating a social-media contest to encourage discourse about copyright in Canada.

From April 20 to 24, readers can vote via Twitter (@UofTSCCO) for a book they would like to see digitized and made available to the public. The contestants are Marc Bloch’s Strange Defeat, Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, E.J. Pratt’s Towards the Last Spike, and Conrad Gauthier’s Dans tous les cantons82 chansons du bon vieux temps, all of which have come into the public domain in the past two years.

“There have been reports that Canada’s public domain may be under negotiation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement talks. If Canada does sign on to TPP, this might be the last year that new works enter the Canadian public domain for a while,” says Bobby Glushko, UTL’s head of scholarly communications and copyright. “Our intent was to approach the issue in a fun and somewhat experimental fashion. U of T Libraries has digitized hundreds of thousands of works through the internet archive. We thought of the contest as a way of doing this work in a more transparent way that, we hope, might engage the public in the process.”

Though the library has launched similar social-media initiatives for other occasions, this is the first year it is formally recognizing World Book and Copyright Day. A companion event, a collaborative reading of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, will take place at Robarts Library on April 23.

“With both of our WBCD events, we want to celebrate authorship in all its forms. Any time we can foster a conversation about what we’re all about – works of authorship and scholarship, and their continued preservation and use – we are really happy,” Glushko says. “We’re also interested in showing off some great works from our collections.”

The Writers’ Union of Canada executive director John Degen, known for being outspoken about copyright, digitization, and information commons in libraries, points out the contest’s use of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger which was recently rendered public domain in Canada, but not in America or Europe – countries where the text may potentially be accessed from UTL’s database before it is legal.

“We of course will take every step to respect copyright law and the rights of authors in all jurisdictions, and are very sensitive to the international grey area surrounding the public domain,” says UTL copyright outreach librarian Graeme Slaght. “The Canadian public domain is unique, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Should Goldfinger win, we will take steps to restrict its distribution to Canada in order to protect the international rights of the author.”