Copyright Proposal Threatens Future Internet Use in Classrooms


Update copyright laws to allow use of Internet materials in education


Ottawa, September 22, 2004 -- Changes to copyright law recommended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage would seriously hinder the use of the Internet for teaching and learning purposes, warn six national education groups representing the K-12 and postsecondary sectors. The Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC), the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF), the Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA), and the Copyright Consortium of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), have come together to fight the changes proposed by the Heritage Committee in May.

Canada's copyright laws are currently being reviewed and new digital copyright legislation is expected as early as this fall. The Canadian Heritage Committee has recommended to the federal government that a digital licensing regime be established that would force students and teachers to pay a fee to use, for educational purposes, material on the Internet that is currently freely available to the public.

“The Internet provides a wealth of free material that enriches classroom instruction and learning. Limiting access to the Internet will inhibit the learning potential of students and will result in a chilling effect on developing literacy skills, at a time when the acquisition of knowledge is universally recognized as the key to social and economic prosperity,” says Harvey Weiner, Policy Advisor, Government and External Relations to the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

“Education organizations are seeking an education amendment to allow fair and reasonable use of ‘publicly available' Internet materials. This type of amendment will strike the proper balance needed within the Copyright Act – to meet the needs of the users while recognizing the rights of the creators,” says New Brunswick Education Minister Madeleine Dubé, chair of the Copyright Consortium of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).

The six national education organizations urge the federal government to reject the Heritage Committee's recommendation and instead pursue a balanced approach to copyright law reforms that meets the needs of teachers and students while recognizing the rights of copyright owners. As one essential part of a balanced approach to copyright reform, the education organizations recommend that the government introduce an “educational amendment” into Canadian copyright law that would make it legal for students and teachers to engage in routine on-line uses of publicly available Internet materials in a program of learning.

At a press conference held in a classroom at Viscount Alexander Public School in Ottawa, representatives of the education groups demonstrated the problems with existing laws, as students copied and shared freely available Internet materials to complete a class project. Current copyright law makes it illegal for a student to engage in these routine learning activities or for a teacher to place an Internet article or image on a course Web site accessible only by students. The proposed “educational amendment” would rectify this situation while ensuring that Canada's copyright law remains compatible with the government's goals of promoting online learning and developing a knowledge-based economy.

Further information, see attached Statements by National Education Organizations, and/or call:

Lorna Malcolmson, ACCC
(613) 746-2222, x3123

Steve Wills, AUCC
(613) 563-3961, x234

Paul Jones, CAUT
(613) 820-2270, x327

Cynthia Andrew, CSBA

Harvey Weiner, CTF
1-866-283-1505, x157

Boyd Pelley, CMEC
(416) 962-8100, x241