Legislation to Reform Copyright Act is Good for Schools
*** See December 2012 updates below ***
CSBA, as well as other national educational organizations, works cooperatively with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) on matters relating to copyright.
The Federal Government's proposed amendments to the Canadian Copyright Act include many clauses that are beneficial to schools. Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act is this government's third attempt at copyright reform, and contains more beneficial proposals than previous bills. This bodes well for educational organizations that have been advocating for balanced reform.
Specifically, Bill C-32 includes amendments dealing with the educational use of the Internet, long sought-after by CSBA and other national educational organizations. Once approved as law, these proposed amendments would provide a legal framework for students and for teachers regarding the use of freely-available Internet materials for educational purposes without fear of infringing copyright.
Bill C-32 contains additional clauses that work to balance the rights of educational users of copyright materials. Significantly, it includes "education" in the list of "fair dealing" purposes. If passed, this proposed amendment would result in a law which would mirror the exact point that Ministries of Education and school boards recently argued in front of the Federal Court of Appeal, with respect to the Access Copyright photocopying tariff.
The bill changes and updates clauses respecting specific technologies used in classrooms, ensuring that emerging technologies used to convey educational content will fall within the existing exemptions (e.g. whiteboards instead of flipcharts or overheads). Additionally, the bill changes the classroom performance exception to allow performances of audio-visual works in the classroom. This particular change mirrors U.S. copyright law, and gives Canadian schools performance rights for classroom showings of audiovisual material (movies, documentaries, etc., on DVD, VHS or Blue-Ray or any emerging technology). Further, the bill proposes a new exception that would allow educational institutions to record news programs or news commentary programs for later viewing by students without paying royalties (this currently exists, but is subject to royalty after a certain time period has lapsed).
Previous iterations of copyright reform legislation included clauses allowing educational institutions to record lessons for future use by students. This clause has been retained in Bill C-32 and further allows students to save lessons to a portable device (subject to destroying the copy within 30 days of course completion.)
Specific proposals are made which will benefit school libraries as well. For example, Bill C-32 proposes that school libraries be allowed to make digital delivery of inter-library loan materials, rather than the previously required paper copied format. Further the proposed legislation would permit libraries to make copies of material for preservation if that material is in a form at risk of becoming obsolete.
The biggest issue currently under discussion in the media is the prohibition against circumventing digital locks. This public attention does not focus on the fact that the bill does include some exemptions to the anti-circumvention rules. Further, there is a provision which would enable regulation for further exemptions to the prohibition. A possible solution to the issues raised in the media would be to include in the legislation wording to clarify "non-infringing" actions and provide accompanying permissive language allowing for circumventing digital locks in these specific cases. This would protect the larger concern without eroding exemptions that are reasonable (not unlike the fair dealing clause in the current Copyright Act.)
Bill C-32 is a complicated and technical piece of legislation, and it is inevitable that some revisions may be necessary to portions of the bill. However, it is reasonable for CSBA to support the intent of the bill and its attempt to recognize the needs and challenges of the education sector. It is vital that school boards operate under legislation that reflects the reality of today's technologies and future technologies. It is recommended that CSBA member associations, and individual school boards, write to the government, the opposition, and their local MPs in support of this proposed legislation - and particularly those amendments clearly benefitting educational use of copyright material.
The exact timing of parliamentary hearings remains uncertain but it is possible that they could occur over the summer months. Information on hearing dates is expected within the next few weeks. Certainly, the timing of the bill seems to indicate the government's commitment to moving this legislation forward.
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