Saturday, September 04, 2010

What does "educational" mean?

Many are rather nervous about the implications of including the word "education" in the proposed revision of the fair dealing provisions of Canada's Copyright Act. The big question, of course, is what does "education" mean?

The Federal Court has just rendered an intriguing decision that holds that a thesaurus is indeed an "educational text book" for purposes of Corrections Canada regulations. The fact that Roget's Thesaurus is not "required reading" for an inmate's National Sex Offender Maintenance Program or that it is available in the prison library does not take it out of the realm of being an "educational text book."

Corrections Canada had denied the inmate the right to buy the book because it ruled that the book would have put his allowable personal property limit over $1,500 - and was not considered to be exempt as an "educational text book."

Justice Sean Harrington's decision is delightful to read - quoting both Humpty Dumpty and Justice Scalia. And it is actually important to read this decision because it could be the the harbinger of what is to come in terms of debate about the "educational exception" and litigation should it be enacted without further clarification.

Interestingly, the Copyright Board ruled earlier in this year that providing copies of material that is prescribed or required reading cannot not be considered as fair dealing in the context of Access Copyright’s K-12 tariff. This was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal. We will know by the end of the month whether CMEC will seek leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In my opinion, it is essential that leave be sought in this instance and that there is a good chance that leave would be granted in this case, as I have said earlier. (I acted for the intervener CAUT in this case the judicial review).

BTW, congratulations to inmate Ken Mackay who represented himself and prevailed against two Department of Justice Lawyers. He was even awarded $200 in costs - which should help him to build up his library as he serves his life sentence.


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