Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Cdn Copyright Act: The future of teaching and learning in Canada

Canada's new Copyright Act passed third reading (158 to 135) in the House of Commons and first reading in the Senate yesterday, and is expected to receive final approval soon.

What does Canada's new bill mean for the future of teaching and learning in Canada?

  1. Fair dealing. The new act creates a fair dealing exception for education: "Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright."  For educational institutions, this is the most powerful provision of the new act, and has been one of the most controversial.  In the past, courts have ruled that copies made for the purposes of research were legal.  Copies made for the purposes of education, where deemed to be fair, will also now be legal.  Geist notes that in the United States, fair use includes making multiple copies for classroom use.  However, some universities may sign on to copyright agreements that restrict the new fair dealing rights of their educational communities.
  2. Digital copies. The new act clarifies that digital copies of works - scans or digital files - can be made in the same manner that one might make photocopies of a work, with royalties being paid as they were with photocopies.  However, the new act only allows a person under an educational institution to print this copy once.  Lost your copy?  Spilled your coffee?  The act requires universities to prevent a second copy from being made.
  3. Works available on the Internet.  The new act allows educational institutions to use works available on the Internet without fear of infringement, unless they should have known that the work was put up on the Internet without consent of the copyright holder.
  4.  Displaying works, news programs, and showing movies and documentaries.  The new act ensures that it's legal to display a work in the classroom, and removes some of the onerous requirements that had been placed on teachers and professors under the old act, making it easier to play a news program or news commentary program for the class.  It also ensures that it's legal to show a movie or a documentary, as long as the copy itself is legit.
  5. Distance education.  The bill ensures that it's legal to reproduce works in the context of distance education.  In this, Canada catches up to the United States, which provided similar provisions in 1976 (the same year that it encoded fair use).  In this, Canada rounds out an era of reforms begun in the '80s, addressing an issue that had been on the table for a long time and had not, until now, been addressed.  A distance learning student can now, for example, record a lesson to listen to later.  This comes with the incredible requirement that reproductions of lessons be later destroyed by both the student and the educational institution. 
  6. Digital locks.    Unfortunately, e-book texts that students may have purchased may die with the technology they were purchased for.  Moving on from your kindle?  If your text is locked to the kindle, it will not be legal to circumvent the locks to transfer the book onto your new device.  Much of the knowledge that students gain comes from their textbooks, and some good textbooks are references for life.  Unfortunately, students will lose the e-book texts they purchased, wich often cost just as much as regular print versions.  Goodbye lifetime reference and life-long learning.
With some very significant exceptions (destruction requirements, single copy restriction, digital locks provisions), the new measures, and especially the expansion of fair dealing, should help to bring Canada's educational institutions into the digital age.  The expanded fair dealing provisions should give students and teachers more confidence that fair copying and use is an acceptable and important educational right.

Some Canadian universities are, however, not yet displaying such confidence as they sign on to pay higher copyright fees to Access Copyright, seemingly paying more where less is now required. They do this despite arguments from a number of prominent lawyers that "such a license is unnecessary, because educators are already permitted to copy approximately that amount without a license under existing Canadian law, or at least they will be upon the passage of Bill C-11." 

Educational institutions should stand up not just as defenders of copyright, but also as defenders of the freedoms and rights granted to educators and students under the newly updated copyright law.

1 comment:

  1. updated to include the showing of movies/docs in the classroom. Thanks to the person who pointed that out.