From Hugh Stephens Blog:
A few weeks ago I put my foot tenderly into the minefield of feminism, arguing in a blog “What Does Feminism have to with Copyright in Canada”, that statements made by Carys Craig, a law professor at York University to the effect that robust copyright protections were anti-feminist were off base. My argument was that copyright laws, unlike law in some other areas, is gender-blind and in fact copyright has been an important factor in strengthening protection and welfare for all creators, both male and female. To ensure my message got out, I tweeted it as well as posting it on my blog.
Perhaps not surprisingly this set off a twitter-storm of comment from several prominent feminists. Dr. Craig took me to task for “explaining” (she didn’t say “mansplaining” but that is the way I read it) to her “and others on the ‘feminist policy bandwagon’ that copyright is ‘totally gender blind’, so not an area of bias and discrimination; and (that) barriers to education, tech change and creativity are not feminist issues”. Indeed I did claim (does arguing a position amount to “explaining”?) that copyright is gender blind and thus should not be a target of feminists, but I did not say that education, tech change and creativity are not feminist issues. Of course they are. It’s just that these issues should not be conflated with copyright. As for the “feminist policy bandwagon”, what I actually said was that the Trudeau government had such a bandwagon that Dr. Craig and other anti-copyright activists were attempting to climb aboard.
My post provoked some other interesting comments as well. One comment said “I like how he admits ‘there are incontrovertible areas of bias and discrimination against women’ and then asserts that copyright is not one of them. Because the patriarchy took the day off when copyright legislation was enacted?” No, the “patriarchy” was alive and well when copyright laws were drafted and the drafters most certainly had no intention of promoting a feminist agenda. That is a fact. It is also a fact that in crafting copyright laws, they made no reference to gender. Copyright laws have always given equal protection to authors, whether they be male or female. In fact, writing is one of the areas of early artistic and economic liberation for females (Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, Louisa May Alcott and so on). So whether some of today’s feminists like it or not, while there is plenty of evidence of discrimination against females, copyright was not part it.
. . . .
Pierre Lesburguères of IFFRO (the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations) pointed out that “studies have shown that copyright-based/creative industries employ more women and offer them better working conditions than other sectors. This was demonstrated…in a creative mapping project undertaken in the Gauteng province (South Africa) referenced in a UNESCO report.” Catherine Easton, Lecturer in Law at Lancaster University (UK), responded with “So, so many issues! Some summarized in the IP chapter here” (Chapter 11 of Great Debates in Gender and Law, Rosemary Auchmuty). This sounded interesting so at great pain and expense I procured a copy from Britain.
I did not expect a book with that particular title to make strong arguments that the law is an exemplar of gender equality—and I was not disappointed! The IP chapter is quite short, and focuses on both patents and copyright law. Part One on patents points out the historically low rate of female patent holders, a situation still current today despite much greater rates of female participation in the fields of science and engineering. Various hypotheses are advanced to try to explain this phenomenon, and since this is a blog on copyright issues, I won’t dwell on this. (Buy the book). One of the areas that differentiates patents from copyright is the requirement for strict registration but even with a name registration system for patents, there is no requirement to indicate the gender of the applicant. Resort is then made to name-matching analysis to identify gender, which no doubt works well when the patent holder is a William or a Robert or a Susan or a Mary. But what about those androgynous names like Ashley, Beverley, Jesse, Oakley, Sydney etc.? Needless to say, identifying male or female patent holders is an inexact science. But let’s talk about copyright.
Dr. Easton points out that while the low number of female patent holders is a statistically verifiable indication of gender disparities in IP law, copyright is more nuanced because it requires no formal registration as per the Berne Convention. If one assumes that access to registration and other barriers to entry help explain low rates of female participation in the patent system, clearly that does not apply to copyright. The series of academic conferences that culminated in the Berne Convention of 1886 focused on securing international copyright standards and ensuring ease of protection. The author advances the thesis that the individualized protection of artistic and literary works embodied in Berne harms “collective production of knowledge”, which she claims is often carried out by women. She uses the example of knitting patterns as an example, suggesting that assertions of copyright over knitting patterns hamper organic creative development. If women dominate knitting, I fail to understand how there can be any gender discrimination in this field of creativity since some women will benefit from better copyright protection for knitting patterns while others may complain that copyright laws hinder their creative efforts. That is a debate that pro and anti-copyright
On the subject of knitting, I wrote a blog on this topic a couple of years ago inspired by the story of Joanne Sieff, a Canadian writer tired of having her books on knitting and textiles ripped off and posted on the internet without authorization. She commented that, in her experience, copyright violation in knitting and crocheting is frequently disparaged as unimportant because it is a predominantly (but not exclusively) female industry. It is seen by some as a “cottage industry” with women earning “pin money” and therefore not taken seriously, yet production and licensing of knitting patterns is an important home-based industry for many women. There are designers who make a full time living off pattern design, often selling on multiple platforms. The knitting site Ravelry has an active sales category for those who earn more than $1500 a month–just in pattern downloads. What we would appear to have in the knitting world is full gender parity from the point of view of piracy and disrespect for rights-holders, in this case with both the pirates and the victims being predominantly female.
Link to the rest at Hugh Stephens Blog
PG claims no expertise in things Canadian, including, without limitation, Canadian feminism or the impact of discrimination of any sort on Canadian copyright protection.
In the United States, copyright protection is available to any person who is the creator of a wide range of works. The price for online registration of a work created by a single author is $35. Other online registrations require a fee of $55. A two-page explanation of the online registration process is found here. A Powerpoint walking through the registration process can be downloaded here. There is no provision for the designation of gender in this form. For any persons who do not wish to disclose their out of a concern of disclosing gender, the Copyright Office provides the option of registering work under a pseudonym. An author can also register under their real name and publish their work using a pseudonym.
The copyright office does recommend that an author contact an attorney for advice if the author is not going to reveal a real name in the application. Some states have fictitious business name registration requirements that may be triggered by operating a business under a pseudonym. The creation of a trust, corporation or similar entity can be used to provide further anonymity protections for an author if desired.
PG doesn’t see any way in which the US Copyright laws and regulations discriminate against women in any manner. Absent unusual circumstances, registration of a copyright is a purely mechanical process with no attention paid to the nature of the author or the protected works so long as the minimal formalities of the registration process are observed.