The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology starts its year-long review of copyright today with the first of several hearings focused on copyright, education and fair dealing. The hearings begin with evidence from education groups to be followed by publishers and other rights holder representatives (sources indicate that Access Copyright declined an invitation but will presumably return at a later date). The Association of Canadian Publishers, the leading national publisher lobby, has been one of the most vocal groups on copyright and will likely appear to tell MPs that fair dealing should be narrowed.
While the ACP has not hesitated to speak out at industry events, it interestingly has said nothing about a study it commissioned on digital trends and initiatives in education in Canada. The ACP study, which received financial support from the Government of Canada and the Ontario Media Development Corporation, is not posted on the publicly available portion of its website. There was no press release when it was released last June and I can find no public reference to it anywhere on the site. Jean Dryden pointed out to me that the study is available through the OMDC.
The ACP’s effort to bury its own study is unsurprising once you read it. The ACP commissioned it “to better understand the digital trends and initiatives in education and how these trends and initiatives are impacting the acquisition and use of Canadian content in the K–12 and post-secondary sectors.” After months of interviews, roundtables, and consultations with teachers, institutions, and publishers, the 70 page report identified many trends and issues, but copyright is not among them. In fact, despite the ACP’s insistence in lobbying efforts that copyright is at the heart of publisher concerns, copyright and fair dealing are limited to a single reference with no discussion or analysis. Instead, the ACP’s study confirms much of what the education community has been saying, namely that the combination of open educational resources and paid access is driving the educational shift to digital, not fair dealing.
The ACP study examines the availability of open educational resources, describing it as an emerging cornerstone of the educational system:
The OER movement continues to grow and is becoming a cornerstone of the Canadian K–12 educational system. The proliferation of OER content is evident across the country and there are numerous initiatives that support the development, access, and distribution of content.
The study notes that OERs form part of the key sources of materials for education:
While the use of digital content is increasing, print-based resources continue to be widely used in Canadian classrooms to support and enhance learning. The shift from print to digital resource use varies from province-to-province, district-to-district, school-to-school, and classroom-to-classroom. Some jurisdictions and schools continue to purchase print-based supplementary resources and some are acquiring core curriculum resources that include digital components. Others are shifting from print-based textbooks to eTextbooks. Some are purchasing very few resources, making do with what they have until funding for new resources is available and/or the technology and technical infrastructure is in place. Meanwhile, teachers and students have access to more free and open content than ever before given the ubiquity of content via the Internet, as well as the proliferation of content repositories, databases, portals, and applications.
In a review of sources of materials, there is no reference to fair dealing or copyright. However, there are numerous references commonly licensed or free digital content collections or databases, none of which implicate Access Copyright or its licence.
The ACP study acknowledges the huge investment by education groups in digital products offered by publishers:
Digital supplements as well as eBooks available from the major educational publishers have pushed digital sales to more than 50% of their educational revenue. Pearson reports that digital products now account for more than 50% of their revenue and McGraw-Hill announced that digital unit sales overtook print unit sales in its U.S. Higher Education Group in 2015. Although eBooks are the cornerstone of publishers’ digital offerings, digital courseware such as assessment and testing software and homework or study guides are becoming more popular with instructors and students.
The report emphasizes the importance of Canadian content by highlighting the many sources of content with no reference or concern with copyright law given the paid and openly licensed sources:
It was abundantly clear from everyone we interviewed throughout our research that Canadian content is considered to be a critically important component in the delivery of education across all levels from K–12 to post-secondary. However, reduced spending on educational resources, the transition from print to digital resources, the ubiquitous nature of content available from the Internet, and a lack of clear policy on the use of Canadian content (particularly in K–12) has shown a diminished use of Canadian resources licensed or purchased from Canadian publishers for use in schools.
The report provides several recommendations, none of which involve copyright reform. The study is a good one, based on dozens of interviews and a thorough canvassing of the sources of materials in Canadian schools. While the ACP regularly cites copyright as a key issue, its own study – that it has not even posted on its publicly available portion of its site – is far more consistent with the views of the education community, which is spending record amounts on digital materials and making increasing use of the wide range of openly licensed works.