This past week, a very interesting series of events unfolded with Access Copyright, or maybe better said, what unfolded was a lesson in how not to engage in open dialogue. I will not be speaking to the text of the the resolutions mentioned below, just the events surrounding them.
Last week was the annual Ontario Library Association Super Conference. During Super Conference, each OLA Division has their Annual General Meeting. Among other things, AGMs provide opportunities for resolutions to be put forward by the membership. At this particular AGM, we had two resolutions put forward: 1) A Memorial Resolution Honouring Aaron Swartz (Thanks ALA/LITA!) and 2) OLITA Resolution on Opposition to Access Copyright License Agreements. Standard procedures were followed, the resolutions were moved and seconded, and sent out to the membership in advance.
This past Monday (2013-01-08) something happened. I received an email from Robert Gilbert, New Media and Communication Services, at Access Copyright. This is what they had to say. I will explain why I am making this letter public later.
I addressed the incorrect information in the letter in a reply to the sender, and cc’d recipients:
Dear Mr. Gilbert,
I’d like to clear up some confusion with the resolution. The posted resolution which I assume you have seen or been directed to is a proposed resolution for the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association’s (OLITA) Annual General Meeting. It was sent out in advance to membership.
The resolution has been moved and seconded, and will be put before the membership at the meeting for a vote. Prior to the vote, an opportunity will be provided to speak to the motion, ask questions, and propose amendments. If you are or your colleagues are OLITA members, you are more than welcome to participate.
A day went by, and other than I an out of office reply, I didn’t hear anything in response. I figured we were done.
On Wednesday evening (2013-01-30), I received an email from the Executive Director of Access Copyright. I will not publish the entire email, but I was asked to delay the motion, “We don’t see how this can properly take place at your AGM. Would you consider delaying the motion until we have the opportunity to meet and begin a dialogue?”
I due[sic] hope you understand the weight and merit of what you are asking. You are asking that I forgo a democratic process. This is a resolution that was put forward by a member of our association, and will be discussed as [sic] voted on at our AGM.
As I stated previously, if you or any of your colleagues are OLITA members, you are more then welcome to come and part take in this democratic process. You will be provided every opportunity to speak to the resolution on the table.
Other than that, I will in no way interfere this process as you have suggested.
I had hoped this was the end of the exchange.
The OLITA AGM was Friday evening (2013-02-01). Access Copyright was present at the conference as they had a booth in the exhibitors’ hall. During the day, a colleague of mine showed me the letter I mentioned earlier. Somewhat (well really a lot) flabbergasted, I asked where and how they got a copy, assuming the only people to see the aforementioned letter were those that sent it, and those that received it. Nope. Access Copyright decided the best way to engage in an open “dialogue” with me, our association and/or our community was to print off a stack of these letters (in a very classy paper stock!) to hand out at their exhibitor booth.
I fully appreciate, and can understand the rationale behind trying to open up a dialogue. However, Access Copyright tried to circumvent a democratic process, refused to engage in a public dialogue, and tried to misrepresent and embarrass OLITA on the exhibitors’ floor. I find these intimidation tactics unacceptable.
We played fair. We brought no mention of Access Copyright’s behaviour to the assembly floor. The resolution went forward with a single friendly amendment, and was passed unanimously. The OLITA membership has spoken. If Access Copyright would like to open a dialogue about why these resolutions were unanimously passed, now is the time to do so.