Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Canadian Copyright and Bill C-32

The Canadian government is looking to change copyright exceptions for education. Basically, what they want to do is make it so that schools (which comprises everything from elementary schools to universities to any kind of scholarly research, if I'm understanding this correctly) do not have to pay to use and distribute copyright material. What does this mean? Well, on the one hand it means that schools would suddenly have all kinds of free teaching material; on the other hand, it means that the writers who put in all the hard work to produce that material will see no payment for it.

Let me just say that my mum is an author, and her work is often used in schools. Is this a conflict of interest? Well, I'm also a student with an English degree, so I think perhaps those two things cancel each other out. As much as it annoyed me to spend thousands of dollars on books each year, I never begrudged the authors their measly share of that money (and trust me, unless you're a pretty major author you're probably not making a ton of money). 

As author Erna Paris says in the video posted below: "No one else is being asked to subsidize education this way. Principals get paid for their work. ... Computer companies aren't being forced to hand over free machines."And no, that isn't a crazy comparison.

What's at stake her is more than the idea of copyright and intellectual property, though. Authors' abilities to produce the wonderful literature that we celebrate is being threatened, because if their pay cheques are cut any further, they won't be able to dedicate the time to creating the kind of work we want to study in schools, or read, period. Bill C-32 not only cripples authors financially, but it tells them that their work isn't worth anything. That kind of blatant disrespect for our national literature and those who create it is outrageous. 


  1. Also, this: http://www.boingboing.net/2011/02/15/canadian-copyright-c-5.html

  2. To be clear, I am not against teachers using copyright material to teach with - I can't imagine Canadian education without it. And I'm not saying there aren't problems with the way copyright law exists in Canada. What I am saying is that giving a wholesale exception to educators is too much. There needs to be a balance, and that balance needs to keep the livelihood of the copyright holders into consideration.

  3. The point is that c32 in no way grants a wholesale exception to education. Teachers won't be allowed to photocopy entire books and disseminate them to their classes. Teachers are just being added to the list of those people who can legally quote materials, provided those quotes don't comprise a "significant" portion of the work.

    This "wholesale exception" nonsense has been cooked up by the folks at Access Copyright and a select few publishers who have made it their mission to oppose any extension of fair use. They explicitly oppose the balance that you say we need.

    And to hit closer to home, it worth's noting that the attacks being levied against teachers and school administrators could just as easily be levied against journalists, who are free to copy from works for the purpose of criticism or reporting, so long as they do not copy a "significant" portion of the work. The only difference is that journalists' rights to do so are already codified in law.

    So, until arts reporters agree to work for free, I don't think it's fair for them to "steal" from hard working authors.


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