We'll tell you what you can copy and teach!
Canada's Copyright Modernization Bill C-32 sank to its death with the good ship Parliament today, and with it went the ill-conceived and poorly defined expanded fair dealing provision that resulted in so much controversy in front of the committee.
Luckily for educators, the Copyright Board approved an interim tariff request by Access Copyright, Canada's Copyright Licensing Agency -- I say luckily despite the fact that many in the educational community strongly objected to the interim tariff request. Those objections were summarily and somewhat embarrassingly dismissed by the Board, and, again luckily, now Canada's educators can continue to copy widely from the AC repertoire without fear of infringing the rights of Canada's professional creators -- and for the bargain price of exactly what they had always been paying, plus they get digital use thrown in as well.
You'd think that result would make Canada's universities sigh with relief. I thought so, and had a quick look at some university websites to see what they might be saying about the handy, ridiculously affordable new tariff.
To my surprise, the very first site I searched, Toronto's own York University, treated the interim tariff not as a helpful stepping stone to further negotiation with creators, but as an exit strategy into what they call their "transition to a copying regime outside of Access Copyright." What regime might that be? Well, it appears to have a whole lot to do with... you guessed it... fair dealing.
York's academic staff are advised the university will opt out of the interim tariff beginning Fall/Winter 2011-2012, but that the tariff provides them with covering protection to continue copying the AC repertoire until that time.
In the meantime, and presumably after opt-out, staff are required to follow the university's new fair dealing guidelines, which include the following two paragraphs:
9. University staff shall use reasonable efforts to guard against systematic, cumulative copying from the same work which in total exceeds the portion of the work that may be copied pursuant to these guidelines and to ensure that the number of copies made complies with this policy. If university staff suspects that a student, other staff member or faculty member is engaged in systematic, cumulative copying, the matter must be referred to the university staff member responsible for administering this policy or his or her delegate for review, and any further requests from that student, staff member or faculty member for a copy may be refused.
10. Requests for the making of copies which fall outside these copying guidelines and requests for making of copies of unpublished works may be referred to the university staff member responsible for administering this policy or to his or her delegate for evaluation. A determination will be made as to whether the proposed copies are permissible in all the circumstances relating to the requests and may ultimately be refused.
This is, well, astonishing.
As I read these two sections together with the intention of opting out of Access Copyright licensing, York University's administration is stating flat out they require academic staff to police their fellows and students to make sure they copy no more than is allowed under fair dealing. As well, they advise that requests to copy more may be refused.
It seems indisputable at this point the move away from collective licensing -- encouraged by prominent free culture theorists like Michael Geist -- has as a primary motive the saving of copyright licensing fees (otherwise, why so strongly advise that only free copying be done?). This motive is so strong, in fact, that the administration appears willing to interfere with and/or restrict the academic freedom of its professors to use what they consider to be the best materials for teaching their students.
These policies, publicly available on the York University website, contradict directly the testimony of educational representatives at yesterday's final Bill C-32 committee hearing. Those representatives claimed over and over again, under questioning from concerned MPs, that their desire for an expanded fair dealing exception for education had nothing to do with not paying Access Copyright licences, and would in no way restrict the material being used by teachers and professors.
Is it any wonder professional creators like Margaret Atwood and Nino Ricci worry about the appropriation of creator's rights under expanded fair dealing? Now, apparently, we have to start worrying about the rights of professors and students to even use our work in the face of unconscionably restrictive administration policies.
Free culture, indeed. Free, as in you may freely use only what we tell you to freely use.