What the Copyright Modernization Act Means for Teachers and Students

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In recognition of the potential that technology offers education, the Copyright Modernization Act greatly expands the ability of teachers and students to make use of new digital technologies and of copyrighted materials for the purpose of education and study. Key changes include:

Fair dealing for education: The Bill enables the use of copyrighted materials for the purpose of education, provided the use is "fair" (i.e., it does not harm the market for a work).

Publicly available material on the Internet: The Bill allows teachers and students to use publicly available material that has been legitimately posted for free use on the Internet by copyright owners for the purposes of teaching and education. For example, a teacher could make handouts that include an illustration from a website that is freely accessible.

Online learning: The Bill allows schools to transmit lessons that include copyrighted sections over the Internet. For example, this would allow a student in Nunavut to access an online course offered by a university in Alberta.

Digital delivery of course materials: The Bill enables schools to share copyrighted material with their students online (i.e., digital course packs), subject to fair compensation for the copyright holders.

Digital interlibrary loans: The Bill permits libraries to email copyrighted material as part of an interlibrary loan, provided measures are taken to protect further distribution of the material.

Enhancing existing education exceptions: The Bill makes existing education exceptions flexible for use in the future by removing references to specific technologies, such as flip charts and overhead projectors, and by removing the requirement to pay copyright owners to show films or recordings of broadcasts for educational purposes. The Bill also creates a new exception allowing educational institutions to record a news program or a news commentary program for later viewing by the students.

The proposed Bill builds on the existing Copyright Act to grant a larger range of uses for copyrighted material by teachers, students and schools, as their pursuits promote the broader public good. In light of this contribution, the Copyright Act already recognizes certain uses by educational institutions that are permitted, in many cases, without payment to the copyright holder.

An important aspect of these changes is the addition of education as a purpose under Canada's fair dealing provisions. Fair dealing is not a blank cheque. It is a long standing feature of our copyright laws that permits individuals and businesses to make certain uses of copyrighted material in ways that do not unduly threaten the interests of copyright owners, but which could have significant social benefits — but only if they are fair. Extending this provision to education will reduce administrative and financial costs for users of copyrighted materials that enrich the educational environment.

The Copyright Act must adapt to new and emerging technologies. These changes will enhance the traditional classroom experience and facilitate new models for education outside of the physical classroom, reflecting an innovative Canadian approach to copyright in the digital age. The Bill reinforces and complements the Government of Canada's significant investments in Internet infrastructure, education and skills development.

As with all exceptions in the Bill, these activities are subject to clear common-sense rules to respect the interests of right holders, such as limitations on how long digital copies can be kept. These kinds of safeguards are an essential part of the balance between enabling uses and respecting the legitimate interests of copyright owners, and to maintain conformity with Canada's international obligations.

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