No Copyright Protection in Education Means No More Innovation From Publishers


Education is an international space, and so I thought that in today’s post we’d have a look outside the U.S. and to its neighbor up north. University World News had an interesting article on Canadian publishers’ reaction to the recently passed Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11) in the country.

Well, I’d like to rave about how times are changing, and that publishers would become more creative in finding new and maybe more flexible business models with the potential to rejuvenate a whole industry (like I expressed in one of my last posts). Unfortunately, their reaction was the norm: the reform is not good, and is stripping away their incentive to provide books to the country’s universities and colleges.

University World News interviewed Carolyn Wood, executive director of the Canadian Association of Publishers — she fears that interpretations of the law will give uncompensated access to copyrighted materials, namely schools and universities who’d wildly photocopy and scan these copyrighted materials from the various publishers without paying them royalties.

The main reason for their dismay seems to be the rather vague wording in Bill C-11 which extends ‘fair dealing’ to ‘education.’ As a consequence, the CEO of renown educational publisher Nelson Education Ltd believes that, under such circumstances, publishers would almost naturally lose their motivation in “creating new, indigenous materials.” And instead, “confidence of getting viable financial returns” needed to be assured.

Furthermore, a letter sent to the Canadian government by various publisher associations points to the importance of marketplace predictability for investment and innovation from the publishers’ side. However, the letter stated that the Bill would not affect primary educational resources but only “works frequently used for educational purposes.”

On the other hand, we can easily understand why Canadian universities received the new wording very positively. Whereas publishers request a precision of the term ‘education,’ the university side thinks that Bill C-11 was “a very fair approach to competing interests” and that students, professors and researchers alike would benefit.

At the beginning, I pointed to the internationalization of education in general and online education in particular, and the new ways we use the Internet for educational purposes are undoubtedly changing the way we handle books and other learning materials. I wrote about sharing learning materials and its implications on this blog just a few weeks ago.

That said, the interpretation that fair dealing would open the gates to unlimited and unregulated use of copyrighted materials by educational institutions is doomsaying, in my opinion.

It will nevertheless be very interesting to follow the discussion going on in Canada as we eventually have to deal with the question of what this might involve for the U.S., or whether it could at least spark a discussion.

If you want to read the whole interviews with all parties involved, I recommend you the University World News article.


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