Canadian Ministers Respond to Copyright and Education Concerns

Industry Minister David Emerson and Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla have taken the unusual step of posting an op-ed on the Canadian Heritage website to respond to mounting concerns that Bill C-60 will hamper the use of the Internet for educational and research purposes.  The Ministers argue that the bill does not address Internet material, though it does enable the use of the Internet for distance education and the digital delivery of inter-library loans.  They further argue that the issue of compensation for Internet materials is complex and that other countries have not dealt with the issue (they point to the U.S., where such use may be covered by the fair use doctrine).  They seek to assure Canadians that the government "has long recognized the importance of technology to education. As a result, we have helped ensure that schools have access to the Internet and fostered the creation and dissemination of high-quality digital content."

While it is true that Bill C-60 shelved the Bulte Report proposal to levy educational institutions for Internet use of online materials, the bill can hardly be considered education-friendly.  As I recently argued, the bill's education and library provisions are embarrassingly weak, doing precious little to truly foster greater access to knowledge in our education systems and our communities.  In fact, I think it is fair to say that the Supreme Court of Canada has done far more to facilitate greater access to copyrighted work with its recent copyright jurisprudence than has the government.  Similarly, even the U.S., home to the DMCA, has enacted legislation that better facilitates Internet use in education.

If the Canadian government is serious about supporting education, it needs to move toward a broad fair use provision, to promote policies that help rather than hinder access, and to craft a copyright bill that does more than just cater to the interests of the recording industry while failing to address the needs of millions of Canadians.  

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