Copyright changes not all about CDs

By Sarelle Azuelos

A proposed bill that would change the Canadian copyright law will affect students, professors and researchers if passed. Minister of Industry Jim Prentice introduced the controversial Bill C-61 in June.

With the House of Commons summer recess starting two weeks after its introduction, the bill has met little political debate. Other circles, however, have plenty to criticize. The bill focuses on digital music and films, but educational exemptions that were made in previous bills have an Achilles heel this time around.

SU vice-president external Alastair MacKinnon has mixed feelings on the bill.

“We’re pleased to see that there is discussion around copyright legislation because it does need to be updated,” he said, noting that the lack of public consultation was disconcerting. “Bill C-61 is unnecessarily and excessively restrictive and punitive, particularly for learners and educators. It’s really going to stifle knowledge and innovation sharing in Canada.”

Industry Canada senior media relations advisor Annie Trepanier explained it has been 10 years since the last reforms were made. She said the proposed changes will allow students to make personal backup copies of books they bought also known as format shifting, while lowering the infringement damages from $20,000 to $500.

“Libraries will no longer be required to deliver interlibrary loan material in paper form; electronic desktop delivery of materials such as scholarly or scientific journal articles would be permitted,” she said.

Students or researchers using these loans would only be able to keep the electronic copies for five days. Libraries would be responsible for ensuring that students only print one paper copy for their own use and delete the electronic copy.

U of C Bookstore director Brent Beatty was frustrated with the new clause that requires the bookstore to destroy any leftover course packages 30 days after the end of the semester.

“If a faculty member creates a course pack and uses it for a course, they’re only able to use it for that course and they have to destroy it at the end of the course,” said Beatty.

Course package costs won’t increase due to tightly controlled inventory. Typically very few packages are leftover, but because many professors use the same materials each semester, they are still useful. Trepanier said this was necessary to ensure a balance between the needs of students and right holders.

“What is it doing for the environment?” Beatty asked. “If a faculty member has the same course pack they’ve used one semester after another, why throw it out?”

MacKinnon is concerned about new provisions regarding digital locks and suspension of rights notices. Breaking through a digital lock to transfer information to your personal computer, even if you have paid for the locked material, will be illegal.

“The educational exemptions don’t protect you because these anti-circumvention measures allow the owners of copyright to use digital locks and suspension of rights notices to limit the use of any copyrighted material, even for private research or educational purposes,” he said.

Trepanier recognized that there is a need for future changes, but said Industry Canada is confident with its current framework.

“The government recognizes that there may be a number of issues of concern to Canadians that are not addressed in the bill, but at one point, action is needed,” she said. “Given the complexity of copyright law in an ever-changing digital environment, review and reform must be an ongoing process.”

MacKinnon explained any student who took word-for-word notes in class would have to destroy them at the end of the semester.

“Basically this becomes a book burning provision, anything you accumulate or create through your course needs to be destroyed at the end,” he said. “Our online exam bank, which we’ve invested $92,000 in, will become illegal.”

The online exam bank would have collected exams from professors and offered them as a study aid to students, but now sharing the exams will infringe on copyright law. MacKinnon isn’t sure how the SU will solve this problem or lobby the government. They are in the process of reading the bill and coming up with a list of recommendations.

Beatty hoped the amendments would address a current law that allows publishers to charge up to 10 per cent more on American textbooks and 15 per cent on European ones. Bill C-61 doesn’t address this issue.

“Why should students in Canada pay 10 per cent more than students in the U.S.?” asked Beatty. “It’s interesting because Jim Prentice represents Calgary. It seems like there’s been no cry from the population of Calgary to do with copyright. The people in Ontario, especially the students and faculty members, have been just really up in arms against the changes to copyright.”

He told students to visit University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist’s website,, to learn more.

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