“Free” materials for educational purposes are sometimes derided as sub-standard works based on the premise that you get what you pay for. Inherent in the argument is that value is associated with cost and that turning to materials without cost means relying on materials without value. Yet the reality is that free materials are free as in “freely available” with the costs of production or business models that support those works rivalling conventional publication approaches. Free or openly available materials are not outliers. For example, the University of Guelph told the Industry committee that 24 per cent of materials in their course management systems consisted of open or free online content.
The series on misleading on fair dealing continues with an examination of freely available materials, including four sources: public domain works, open educational resources, open access publishing, and hyperlinking to third party content (prior posts in the series include the legal effect of the 2012 reforms, the wildly exaggerated suggestion of 600 million uncompensated copies each year, the decline of books in coursepacks, the gradual abandonment of print coursepacks, the huge growth of e-book licensing, why site licences offer better value than the Access Copyright licence, my opening remarks to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and transactional licensing).
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The government launched its copyright review earlier this week with a Parliamentary motion to send the review to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I wrote a preview of some of the likely issues, noting the efforts of lobby groups to restrict fair dealing, extend the term of copyright, and target intermediary liability. Yet the letter from Ministers Navdeep Bains and Melanie Joly to committee chair Dan Ruimy, which should be posted online shortly, confirms that the government appreciates the competing perspectives on copyright and the limits of what the law can (or should) do.
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The Ontario Book Publishers Organization recently published a study funded by the OMDC on the use of Canadian books in English classes in Ontario Public and Catholic schools from Grades 7 to 12. The study surveyed teachers and school boards on which books (including novels, short story collections, creative non-fiction, poetry and plays but not textbooks) are taught in English classes. The goal was to see whether Canadian books were included in class lists. The survey generated hundreds of responses (27 from school board participants and 280 from the Ontario Teachers Federation) resulting references to 695 books by 539 authors.
The OBPO argued that the takeaway from the study is that Canadian books are not well represented in Canadian classrooms since less than a quarter of the mentions referred to a Canadian work and none of the top 10 works were Canadian. While that suggests that there is considerable room to increase the presence of Canadian works in the classroom, the data in the study can be used for other purposes. Working with Sydney Elliott, one of my research assistants, we reviewed the OBPO data to identify the presence of public domain works in Ontario classrooms (ie. the use of works for which the term of copyright has expired).
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The Competition Tribunal has granted leave to Stargrove Entertainment, the Canadian music label that has published public domain recordings from the artists such as the Beatles, to pursue a Competition Tribunal complaint against some of the giants of the music industry. The complaint targets the Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA), Universal Music, Sony Music, and several music publishers. I wrote earlier about Stargrove’s complaint and noted the backroom lobbying campaign that succeeded in obtaining a copyright term extension in Canada for sound recordings.
Despite strong opposition from the music industry, the Tribunal granted leave to pursue a complaint of price maintenance in violation of the Competition Act. The Tribunal concluded:
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The New Zealand government posted the official Trans Pacific Partnership text today after years secret negotiations and occasional leaks of the text. It is an enormous deal with dozens of side letters between countries – Canada alone has eight side letters on intellectual property with seven TPP countries – that will require considerable study.
From a copyright perspective, the TPP IP chapter leaked soon after the deal was concluded and the chapter looks largely consistent with that document. There is a notable change involving the Internet provider and host takedown rules, however. I earlier blogged that the chapter included a takedown provision not found in Canadian law that would have required blocking content based on being made aware of a court order finding infringement. I noted that the provision would have allowed decisions from other countries to effectively overrule Canadian law. The released text has been amended to limit the provision to domestic court rulings ensuring that only Canadian court rulings would apply. This is a positive change that better reflects current law. It does point to the danger of negotiating in secret, where potential concerns go unaddressed without the opportunity for expert review. Given the size of the deal, it seems likely that there will be many more instances of poorly drafted provisions that raise unintended consequences.
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