Education Ministers Disappointed With Federal Copyright Legislation

Ministers of education in twelve provinces and territories are very disappointed with the actions of the federal government in failing to address the educational use of the Internet in copyright legislation introduced yesterday. The proposed legislation sidesteps the issue of striking a balance between protecting the interests of copyright owners and providing students and teachers with access to Internet materials.

“It is disheartening that the Government of Canada will not take a stand in support of education,” stated the Honourable Jamie Muir, Minister of Education for Nova Scotia and Chair of the CMEC Copyright Consortium. “While other countries have copyright laws that support education by protecting student and teacher access to learning resources, Canada has a law that makes routine classroom activities illegal.”

Ministers of education and national organizations representing students, teachers, school boards, and parents have proposed to the federal government a copyright amendment safeguarding the educational use of the Internet in routine classroom activities such as saving and sharing publicly available texts or images. What troubles educators is that a parliamentary committee has proposed that new fees be imposed on the educational use of the Internet. The legislation introduced yesterday, however, does not address either proposal and leaves unanswered the question of what parameters will be placed around the educational use of the Internet and at what cost.

Minister Muir described the proposed copyright legislation as “very problematic. The Internet is an integral part of students’ learning experience in Canada, and this new copyright bill does not reflect that reality. In failing to safeguard the educational use of the Internet, the federal government is compromising student and teacher access to a valuable learning resource.”

Across the country, educational authorities rejected the suggestion by the federal government that more consultations were needed on the issue, noting that four years of consultations had already taken place. They pointed out that the Government of Canada and provinces and territories had invested millions of dollars in bringing high-speed Internet access to Canadian classrooms, and that it was in the public interest to amend copyright laws to protect the educational use of the Internet.

CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and advanced education from the provinces and territories. Through the CMEC Copyright Consortium, ministers responsible for education in twelve provinces and territories share information on copyright and undertake joint activities.

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