Sunday, 11 November 2012

Copyright improvements for education take effect

The use of copyrighted materials for education expanded substantially in November when the new Canadian law came into effect.

Some of the gains for education, as identified by Michael Geist, the public intellectual most on top of copyright issues:
*The addition of education as a category for "fair dealing" purposes.

*No penalty for infringement on copyright for non-commercial activity under $5000, reducing potential liability of educational institutions for infringement.
*The inclusion of an exception for publicly available materials on the Internet for education. This covers the content found on millions of websites that can now be communicated and reproduced by educational institutions without the need for permission or compensation.

*The adoption of a technology-neutral approach for the reproduction of materials for display purposes. The current law is limited to manual reproduction or on an overhead projector. The provision may be applicable in the online learning context and open the door to digitization activities.

*The implementation of a distance learning provision, though use of the exception features significant restrictions that require the destruction of lessons at the conclusion of the course.
These open up many areas for use of materials in classrooms and online, without having to get permissions or paying a fee.  The tens of millions currently paid by ministries of education to Cancopy can now be used for other purposes, such as buying more materials for libraries.

The one strange provision in the law is the one that requires the destruction of online lessons at the end of an online course.  However, since many courses are given on a continuing basis, with students signing up at any time during the year, the provision may not have much impact.

As Geist points out, the major gains in the legislation are that user rights have been acknowledged and balanced with creator rights.  Previous legislation primarily enshrined only the rights of the owners of copyright.


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