Library and Archives Canada has entered into a secret deal that would hand over exclusive rights to books and artifacts owned by Canadian taxpayers to a private firm for 10 years to be digitized.
We know something fishy is going on -- everyone involved in the deal was forced to sign non-disclosure clauses, excluding the public from understanding the deal until it is announced. Critics say the deal is wrapped in a cloak of secrecy because it amounts to selling back to Canadians what we already own. Put simply, Canadians may be asked to pay a monthly fee to access to our own books. This amounts to the privatization of our public records. It amounts to Library and Archives Canada handing over fat contracts to private firms like Canadiana.org to provide a service that the public does not need.
The secret deal was supposed to be signed already, but after the Ottawa Citizen revealed it to the public, those involved in the secret negotiations at Library and Archives Canada and Canadiana.org put it on hold. We have seen this tactic before -- they are hoping that the public will forget about the story so they can go ahead with their plan. Now it's up to us to show them that we won't let the privatization of our stories and archives blow over. Speak out now against secret deals to commodify our national treasures.
Many groups are outraged with Library and Archives Canada about its secret deal. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) believes the deal amounts to the privatization of public record, and is demanding the deal be cancelled. The archivist community is wondering why it wasn’t consulted when the deal was being negotiated and says the secret nature of the deal makes it impossible to know whether it’s good for Canadians. NDP heritage critics challenged the Conservative Heritage Minister saying Canadians shouldn’t pay to access our own archives.
A consultant warned Library and Archives Canada earlier this year that it is much harder and more expensive to digitize a national archive than those undertaking the task usually realize. The former head of the Library and Archives Canada says digitalization is a waste of time and the LAC does a good job archiving already. This deal clearly isn't about serving the public interest, it's about lining the pockets of well-connected contractors.
Across Canada, our public treasures are being commodfied and sold off to the highest bidder for a quick profit or political favours. Whether its our health system or our books, corporations know that if they can get their hands on them, they can make a buck (or a million). It’s up to us to stand up against the rising tide of corporate control in Canada -- and we’re drawing the line at privatizing our national books. Let’s demand for the parties in this deal release more information, so we can understand the details of this shadowy agreement. Let's also speak out now, before the deal is finalized, to tell Canadiana.org and Library and Archives Canada that we are against the privatization of books and records.
Anger greets secret private Library and Archives Canada deal, Ottawa Citizen, Jun. 15th, 2013.