CMEC, which represents provincial ministers of education, was in Ottawa today to lobby on copyright. Jamie Muir, the Nova Scotia Minister of Education, is quoted extensively in the release on the visit (which interestingly contains several references to the recent CMCC effort to bring the views of Canadian musicians to the fore). When Muir says that "students and teachers need fair access to Internet materials – and our laws must provide the necessary framework and clarity to provide them with that access" he is right. When Muir says that "we want the new Copyright Bill to reflect the reality of Internet usage today and not support outdated and unsustainable business models that limit access to publicly available Internet materials" he is right. And when Muir says that "we believe that Canadian students and ecuators have a right to use publicly available materials without a copyright collective charging a licensing fee for access" he is right again.
Where CMEC goes wrong is with how they propose to achieve those goals. The reality is that the Supreme Court of Canada has already given Canadian teachers and students most of these rights. To the extent that certain uses in the classroom are not covered, the solution does not lie with an Internet-specific exception any more than with Access Copyright's dangerous extended licensing proposal. The middle ground on this issue is fair use, which, if built upon the current fair dealing standard, would give educators and students the access they need, the Canadian public the access it needs, and creators the appropriate compensation that they seek.