The Supreme Court of Canada held the second day of copyright hearings yesterday with Canadian education groups and Access Copyright squaring off over fair dealing from the perspective of copying materials in schools for classroom use. Much like the first day
that involved some discussion that will be rendered largely moot by reforms found in Bill C-11, some of the debate in this case may also change once the bill becomes law. There was considerable focus on the extent to which the fair dealing categories of research and private study can include some element of classroom instruction. That discussion referenced the exclusion of a general education exception, which is not found in the current law but is included in Bill C-11.
As for this particular hearing, the education institutions offered a confused and confusing argument. The problems started from the opening question, with Justice Rothstein opening the door to considering whether short excerpts might be treated insubstantial copying without the need for fair dealing and the schools simply dismissing the possibility. It went downhill from there as the arguments veered between confusing numbers and a failure to address the basic question of why the school’s copying met the six-factor fair dealing test. Access Copyright faced some challenges on the question of whose purpose is relevant when considering fair dealing (it wanted the focus on the teacher, the schools on the student), but the court seems very unlikely to overturn this decision.
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The copyright views of Canadian universities are typically represented by the AUCC, but several universities have made their own views known. For example, Queen’s University provided its own submission
to the 2009 national copyright consultation. It said the following about digital locks: Protection of digital locks must not impede users’ rights. Quoting from a book or a newspaper is established fair dealing, and it ought to follow that quoting from a digital file would constitute fair dealing too. If such fair dealing is prevented by digital locks, and those are given an extra level of legal protection, scholars and students will only be able to engage with an increasingly limited portion of the world around us. Courses will become removed from the cultural context of the times; critique and creativity will be stymied. Teachers, students, and researchers need to be permitted to show and recontextualize clips from digital media, or sequences of software code, just as they were in the analog age permitted to copy “fairly” for purposes of criticism, review, research, or private study. The Supreme Court stated in CCH v. LSUC (2004) that “the fair dealing exception isâ€¦ an integral part of the Copyright Actâ€¦ Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not be an infringement of copyright. The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user’s right.” The prevention of fair dealing with digital locks would thus be not only a major threat to innovation and teaching, but a a major distortion of the Copyright Act as understood by our highest Court.
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