Copyright Act does not protect teachers using internet: CMEC

Educational use permitted under the Act does not cover all internet material


An amendment to the Copyright Act is needed to allow students and teachers to use the internet for educational purposes, says the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). In a communique issued this week, CMEC cautioned that the current laws do not cover internet material, although educational uses of some print material is protected.

The act allows “users” (not just students and teachers) to “deal fairly” with copyright material if the purpose is private study, research, criticism, review, or news reporting. However, just what “dealing fairly” means is not clearly defined.

This is what CMEC worries could lead to schools, students, and teachers infringing copyright. The ministers want an amendment specifically for educational uses. “It is precisely because it is so difficult to decide whether many educational uses are permitted under fair dealing that education organizations seek a clear statement in the law that all educational uses of publicly available Internet material are not infringements of copyright,” CMEC argues.

As an example, the communique mentions that the law is unclear about whether it is permissible to show an entire TV show to a class if the teacher has accessed it online. Also, emailing a work to students could be considered making multiple copies. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that making multiple copies of a work tends to be an unfair use.

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Copyright Act does not protect teachers using internet: CMEC

  1. Michael Geist, a UOttawa internet law prof, calls CMEC’s position on copyright “utter nonsense” on his blog. Check it out:


    “While there is no absolute certainty with fair dealing (or fair use for that matter), the state of Canadian law provides so much flexibility that it is very unlikely that a publisher or web site owner would sue an educational institution for most reasonable uses. That doesn’t mean that education gets to use works for any purpose whatsoever, but why should it? Where the use extends well beyond what is fair, there should be compensation.

    The CMEC and AUCC’s decision to create a divide among education groups by failing to target a more flexible fair dealing provision (which would address many of its concerns) not only undermines a pro-education copyright reform agenda, but surrenders the moral high ground. Canadians would unquestionably support fair access to educational materials, whether for research, private study or in the classroom. The way to accomplish that is through a flexible fair dealing provision, not through an Internet exception that argues that education alone is entitled to free use.”

    (Hat tip to Dale Kirby)

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