My series on how the copyright review has been misled on fair dealing continues with one of Access Copyright’s most attention-getting claims: that each year “600 million pages of copyright-protected content is being copied for free each year by the education sector” (Part 1 on inconsistent claims on effect of 2012 reforms). The 600 million page figure has attracted widespread coverage, regularly cited by Access Copyright supporters (Association of Canadian Publishers, Writers’ Union of Canada) and noted by Members of Parliament. However, a closer examination reveals that the number is the result of outdated guesswork using decades-old data and deeply suspect assumptions.
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Misleading on Fair Dealing, Part 2: Why Access Copyright’s Claim of 600 Million Uncompensated Copies Doesn’t Add Up
Misleading on Fair Dealing, Part 1: Access Copyright’s Inconsistent Claims on the Legal Effect of the 2012 Fair Dealing Reforms
Fair dealing has unsurprisingly emerged as one of the dominant topics of the ongoing Canadian copyright review. While educational institutions maintain that spending on content has increased since the 2012 reforms that added education to the list of fair dealing purposes, Access Copyright and the publishing community argue that licensing revenues have declined. Starting today, I’ll be posting a series on fair dealing that unpack many of the issues and demonstrate why House of Commons committees studying the issue may have been misled by exaggerated and inaccurate claims.
The series starts with the foundational argument from Access Copyright and its supporters, namely that current educational practices are the result of the 2012 copyright reforms that led to a significant expansion of fair dealing. The implication is that the government broke their compensation system in 2012 and should “fix it” by curtailing educational use of fair dealing. Future posts will explain why licensing has actually increased since 2012, but this post is limited to the oft-heard claim that the 2012 reforms are to “blame” for current educational practices.
Earlier this year, I wrote about lobbying pressure to “harmonize” statutory damages for copyright collectives. Access Copyright, which supported the measure, argued that the massive escalation in potential damage awards were needed for three reasons: deterrence, promotion of settlement negotiations, and efficient use of court resources. Yet as I argued in this post, none of the arguments rang true.
After months of internal wrangling, the government unveiled its proposed reforms to the Copyright Board yesterday as part of Bill C-86, its Budget Implementation Act. The bill contains many changes requested by copyright stakeholders. With respect to the statutory damages provisions, however, it has rightly left the statutory damages distinction between certain collectives in place, meaning that Access Copyright will not be able to rely on statutory damages for non-payment of tariffs, relying instead on actual damages (if any).
Copyright reform has long been viewed as one of the more contentious policy issues on the Canadian agenda, pitting creators, education groups, innovative companies, and a growing number of individuals against one another in processes that run for years and leave no one fully satisfied. Indeed, my Hill Times op-ed notes the copyright review currently underway before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology promises to run for months with MPs hearing from a broad range of stakeholders presenting perspectives that will be difficult to reconcile.
My series on Canadian copyright, fair dealing, and education has explored spending and revenue data at universities and publishers, explained the diminishing value of the Access Copyright licence, and conducted a detailed analysis of site licensing on Canadian campuses which demonstrates the foundation for accessing works are the site licences that offer greater flexibility and value than the Access Copyright licence. The series has also shown how some of the publishers who have been most critical of fair dealing are also the ones that have benefited the most from licensing their e-books to educational institutions.