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Monday, July 18, 2005

Canadian ministers defend copyright bill against critics

The Canadian Ministers of Industry and Canadian Heritage have taken the unusual step of writing an op-ed to defend the new Canadian copyright bill against criticism that it will harm education and research. (Thanks to BNA Internet Law News.) Excerpt:
Lately there have been a number of media reports and editorials about new legislation to update the Copyright Act and in particular about the issue of educational access to works on the Internet. They say that Bill C-60 will make it illegal to use Internet material for educational and research purposes. In fact, Bill C-60 will not address Internet material, although it does contain provisions to enable the use of the Internet for distance education and the digital delivery of inter-library loans. As well, the Government has taken special care to ensure that the exercise of new digital rights for creators will not hamper access to works for educational or other socially important purposes. The issue is complex and raises a number of difficult considerations. For example, what material on the Internet should be considered "publicly available" for uncompensated use? Copyright legislation provides that copyright protection arises automatically upon creation of an original work, whether or not the author of the work wishes to exploit the right. Stakeholders who have been consulted, including rights holders and educators, have nevertheless agreed to the principle that "where there is no expectation of payment, there should not be a requirement to pay." However, no agreement has been reached on a set of criteria to identify "publicly available material." In fact, no other country has specifically addressed the issue of educational use of Internet material....Rather than dealing hastily with this issue or refusing to address these educational concerns, the Government has undertaken to consult more broadly on this issue. We hope to gather new insights that will enable us to address the interests of all Canadians. Good public policy can only emerge from a full, open and constructive dialogue. Consultations on this issue are expected to begin this fall, at the same time as hearings on Bill C-60 get underway in Parliament.

Background. For a good example of the kind of criticism the ministers are trying to answer, see Michael Geist, Technology, culture, education, P2P Net, June 27, 2005 (blogged here on June 28).