The federal government’s approach to digital copyright and its potential impact on the classroom “is a recipe for disaster,” Education Minister Jamie Muir said today, Sept. 16.
Visiting a class at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, Mr. Muir said this “made-in-Ottawa-problem” is tantamount to unplugging the Internet in schools across Canada, depriving students and teachers of access to a wealth of online information for their studies. Mr. Muir urged the prime minister to change the new copyright legislation.
The minister was responding to the federal government’s recent tabling of new copyright legislation, Bill C-60, which fails to provide the legal framework necessary for students and teachers to access and use Internet materials for educational purposes.
Mr. Muir chairs a consortium of education ministers from across the country, representing all provinces and territories except Quebec.
“Bill C-60’s failings demonstrate that Ottawa does not understand, or value, the way Internet materials are used in today’s classroom,” said Mr. Muir. “The federal government’s lack of support for Internet use in the classroom, in effect, pulls the plug on students and teachers. In failing to safeguard the educational use of the Internet, Ottawa is seriously compromising student and teacher access to a valuable learning resource.
“The new copyright legislation is very problematic for the education community. Because the Internet is an integral part of students’ learning experience, the federal government must deal with the educational use of the Internet in Bill C-60,” said Mr. Muir.
The minister said that, 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. He said education ministers have suggested a solution to this problem.
“We have proposed an education amendment for the copyright legislation that would allow access to publicly available Internet materials while respecting the rights of those creators who post online for commercial purposes,” said Mr. Muir. “In our proposal, students and teachers would be able to access online materials that are free. Materials posted online for commercial enterprise would still require payment should students and teachers wish to access and use them. The proposed education amendment would provide a conditional access that is reasonable and fair.”
The proposed education amendment has been rejected by federal officials. They say the use of Internet materials in schools should be licensed, which would incur new costs for educational authorities.
Given the differing views on the matter, the federal government has decided to undertake further consultations and has not addressed the educational use of the Internet in Bill C-60.
Ottawa’s decision to avoid making a public policy decision in support of education in the new copyright legislation has riled ministers of education.
“The result is that this copyright legislation, Bill C-60, fails students and teachers — and this could have a profoundly negative impact on Internet use in our schools, colleges, and universities,” said Mr. Muir. “Students and teachers need fair access to Internet materials, and our laws must provide the necessary framework and clarity to provide them with access.”