v.22 #3 The Google Book Settlement: Canadian Perspectives

by Paul Whitney (City Librarian, 350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6B 6B1)

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A Canadian analysis of the Google Book Settlement (GBS) must be placed in the context of a cultural policy, which has always taken a protectionist stance largely motivated by the perceived danger of cultural incursions from south of the 49th parallel. While several years of a minority Conservative government have signalled a move to a more free market approach to the regulations governing cultural industries, sensitivities are still present and quickly manifested if threats to cultural sovereignty appear. Amazon’s announced intention to open a Canadian based warehouse to service Amazon.ca was front page news in our national newspaper in February 2010, with industry representatives denouncing the threat this would pose to Canadian booksellers. The virtual existence of Amazon.ca supplying its products (Canadian and foreign) through a subsidiary of Canada Post was approved by the government several years ago, on the basis that there were no employees in Canada and, therefore, it fell outside the regulations designed to protect Canadian distribution and retail. This counter-intuitive perception that the creation of Canadian infrastructure and employment by a foreign owned company already fully serving Canadian consumers was a threat to Canadian interests is indicative of the confusing outcomes which can arise from “brick and mortar” regulatory regimes applied to virtual enterprises. The ongoing debate over Amazon.ca indicates that Canadian cultural protectionism is alive and well. .

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