Writers and publishers are worried that a broad interpretation of “education” could lead to rampant copying of textbooks, instructional manuals and even novels. Would a school board be allowed to buy just one copy of a new textbook and copy it for all its students? Would universities be allowed to copy bits and pieces of 20 different books to compile reading material on a certain subject for their students? Indeed, would a monthly book club be considered an “educational” activity and be allowed to copy novels on its reading list?
Both government and opposition should rethink and take a hard look at the fair dealing section when Parliament resumes sitting in the fall and Bill C-32 goes to committee. Legislation intended to defend copyright ought not to be used to justify rampant copying.
I wrote a letter to the editor on August 16, 2010 which hasn't yet been published. Nor have I seen any other letters about this editorial, though it's hard to imagine that there were none worthy of publication. Hopefully, The Star will get around to them. In the meantime, and in any event, my letter read as follows:
Dear Sirs:Your editorial about copyright on August 14, 2010 is inaccurate, inflammatory and seriously misleading.Nothing in Bill C-32 would allow a school board “to buy just one copy of a new textbook and copy it for all its students”. To suggest that a monthly book club “would be considered an “educational” activity and be allowed to copy novels on its reading list” is simply absurd. As for universities being “allowed to copy bits and pieces of 20 different books to compile reading material on a certain subject for their students”, the fact is that “coursepacks” are perfectly legitimate and have been used for decades. Universities are paying estimated license costs well in excess of $10 million a year for making them. Moreover, there are often unnecessary payments because rights have already been paid for, because the material was in the public domain or the Creative Commons, the excerpt was insubstantial, or the use was clearly fair dealing. Access Copyright, the English Canadian collective that has done so much to inhibit or charge for “access”, has been eagerly collecting this money. Indeed, it now wants to increase its charges to $45 per student per year based in large measure on rights it does not have and for repertoire in which it has no legal interest.Copyright revision is already complex and controversial enough without this kind of ill-informed and misguided opinion. Next time, please check the facts before you take sides in such an important debate.Howard KnopfBarrister and SolicitorMacera & Jarzyna LLPOttawa, Canada