Of course fair dealing for education is fair

Copyright exemption won’t lead to the demise of Canadian publishers

As discussion over Bill C-32, the federal government’s controversial copyright bill, heats up in Ottawa, educators, publishers, and authors remain concerned over what consequences await them if the proposed bill becomes law.

One aspect of the legislation that has sparked a fierce debate between the publishing world and the education community is the addition of “education” as a category under the bill’s fair dealing provision. Fair dealing gives permission to use copyrighted materials without the permission of or payment to the copyright holder for specific purposes covered by the Copyright Act. Currently, only materials used for research, private study, criticism, review and news reporting are covered under fair dealing.

Those who support adding of education to this list feel that it would allow instructors to introduce new information and technologies into their classrooms without fear of breaking the law.

Those against the change, mainly publishers and authors, feel that the term “education” is too general, and will lead to widespread copying of anything and everything that could be labeled an educational material. They are concerned this will lead to massive losses in revenue for the Canadian publishing industry and that creators will not be fairly compensated if their work is being copied instead of purchased.

However, the claims that the addition of education as a fair dealing category will lead to the erosion of the Canadian publishing industry and rampant copying of materials completely free of charge are grossly exaggerated. The change will only help clarify what kind of copying is acceptable in an educational setting and allow educators to expand their lesson plans to use a myriad of technologies outside of traditional print materials.

Publishers have argued that illegal copying already costs the industry almost $75 million per year.

“The risk is that well-meaning educators could be making multiple copies of these publications, completely destroying the market for our materials,” Greg Nordal, CEO of Nelson Education, Canada’s largest education publisher, told the National Post.  He estimated that the Canadian textbook market rakes in about $500 million per year.

Law professor and Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Michael Geist, said that including education under fair dealing won’t make any and all educational copying free. Geist explained the change will only make educational copying eligible for analysis by the Supreme Court of Canada, to decide if the copying can be covered under the fair dealing provision.

“To claim that including education is going to make everything free is clearly, patently wrong,” Geist said in the National Post.

Geist further explained that the law will allow instructors to bring new information and  technologies into the classroom “without fear that as you make incidental copies in the classroom that you’re breaking the law.”

For example, under the amendment, professors could post a recorded lecture online “even if one slide included a copyright-protected image,” explained Sara Diamond, president of the Ontario College of Art and Design, in the Toronto Star, making it more accessible for students.

Covering educational materials under fair dealing won’t mean that all educational materials will be considered “fair.” While details of the new provision aren’t set in stone, attempting to substitute the payment of textbooks or novels by copying them would likely not be considered a legitimate fair dealing practice. As Geist explained, there are few in the “education community that would argue that somehow that would qualify for fair dealing.”

If the amendment is passed, it will allow educators and students to make innovative use of new materials and technologies in the classroom without fear of copyright infringement. If anything, this will lead to greater exposure for creators in an educational setting. This would be beneficial for students, educators, and creators alike.

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