Canada: education copyright abuse 'threatens industry'

Canada: education copyright abuse 'threatens industry'

Education institutions in Canada have interpreted changes to the nation’s copyright laws with impunity, threatening the sustainability of the publishing and creating industry, publishing and author representatives have said.

Universities, colleges and schools are taking the inclusion of “short excerpts” in 2012 amendments to the Canada Copyright Act as allowing 10% of published material to be copied without licence, noted Carolyn Wood, executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers.

It was a “remarkably uniform” interpretation, and has substantial revenue implications for publishers and authors, Wood told The Bookseller.

“Ten per cent could represent an entire work if contained in an anthology and in educational publications could have enormous consequences,” she said.

The Canadian Copyright Institute has agreed there is a problem, with the reforms resulting in “an unfortunate expansion in educational copying in Canada - on an industrial scale and without payment,” it said in a statement.

“Those amendments did not eliminate the need for collective licensing in educational institutions,” the CCI argued. “Nor do they justify copying practices that will have a devastating impact on the market for published materials.”

Last year the CCI sent a paper called "A Fair and Better Way Forward" to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges in hopes of opening a dialogue. However the CCI says it has been rebuffed across the board.

Access Copyright (the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency), the organization representing virtually all publishers and creators in Canada, estimates approximately Canadian dollars CAD18 million (USD16.1 million) in royalties have been lost in the past 18 months to the primary and secondary school sector alone, by institutions not signing royalty agreements to reproduce works.

“There is a loss of revenues that flowed through Access Copyright back to creators and publishers that’s obviously having a negative impact on the sustainability of writing and publishing,” said executive director Roanie Levy in an interview. “But even more concerning is the fact that these policies are also having an impact on primary sales.” Levy said both educators and publishers need to reach an agreement on what is a sustainable fair dealings policy to ensure a sustainable writing and publishing sector in Canada.

Michael Geist, Canada research chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, argues that the amendment works, balancing creator rights with user rights. He sees a trend toward fewer agreements with rights holders as the entire repertoire of materials likely to be copied - materials published within the last 20 years - are all published in the digital/internet era with many available through alternative means such as open access or site licences.