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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 1997

Copyright Battleground Moves to Senate

Cynthia Westaway
While spring may have come to the rest of the Canada, educators and librarians continue to face wintery resistance on the copyright front.

In December of 1996 the process of phase II was derailed by the Heritage Committee when 70 amendments were rammed through the committee without any consultation with the stakeholders.

The result unfairly favoured the interests of publishing and creator groups and read as though drafted by one of the licensing agents.

Late in the day on Mar. 20, despite the lobbying efforts of education and library groups, Bill C-32 passed third reading just prior to the parliamentary Easter break.

Widespread opposition to Bill C-32 in the university community and elsewhere continues to mount. As well, the strongest proponent of the creator group, the Writer’s Union has also spoken out in opposition. This leaves a group of mainly publishing interests in the camp which supports the amended bill.

The battleground has shifted to the Senate where the bill has been tabled for consideration. In the interim, CAUT has continued its lobbying efforts on several fronts.

In a press conference on Mar. 25, CAUT joined 12 other organizations representing educators, students, librarians, booksellers and broadcasters to urge the Senate hear their concerns and to amend the Copyright Bill. The coalition was united on the need for reasonable exceptions.

"The government has given with one hand and taken away with the other," said Sally Brown, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

The coalition emphasized that the restrictions which were put in place by the December amendments ignore the rights to access by forcing such user groups as students and educators to pay a collective to copy parts of a text for which the institution has already paid.

"We have accepted the compromises and now we feel betrayed," said Jules Larivière of l’Association pour l’avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation.

The message was clear that the coalition has never opposed the use of collectives and that it supports the right to remuneration for creators.

"Indeed the Canadian libraries and educational institutions pay millions of dollars each year to collectives as well to purchase materials from both Canadian and international publishers," stated Karen Adams, executive director of the Canadian Libraries Association.

"The Broadcasters currently pay $50 million a years to SOCAN alone and none of that would change with the implementation of the type of ephemeral exceptions which currently exist in 28 other countries," stated Michael McCabe, president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

CAUT Executive Director Dr. Donald Savage, responding to questions from the press stated "Our members support the diffusion of their ideas. While Canada produces about five per cent of the world’s scientific work, a figure to be proud of given our small population, this means that 95 per cent of these works come from the worldwide community. In particular, those in the science, engineering and communications mediums rely on American books and materials. Canadian academics should not be burdened with restrictions that are not placed on foreign scholars. Nor should we create a system that for the most part rewards our foreign competitors."

The Canadian Alliance of Students Associations spoke strongly on the issue of parallel importation, specifically, the prohibition on the importation of used textbooks. President Mathew Hough railed, "This is a tax on learning and literacy" and "again it is students, who have already been hardest hit by multiple government cuts, who will suffer the most."

The Canadian Library Association and the Canadian Booksellers Association added that parallel importation is a trade and importation issue which should not be dealt with in the copyright forum.

The coalition has called upon the Senate to provide "sober second thoughts" and to make the necessary amendments to restore balance and to protect the public interest.

In addition to the press conference, CAUT and its coalition members are lobbying those senators who will be dealing with the bill in the Committee on Transport and Communications. CAUT has also lobbied Senator Bonnell who was responsible for the recent Senate inquiry into post-secondary education.

CAUT urges the senators to remember that this legislation was originally designed to protect educators and libraries. It is their duty to allow those who were shut out by the procedures of the Commons to have a fair hearing.

The message is clear — it is crucial to the education and library community that certain issues be considered by this committee.

More specifically, CAUT asks the Senate committee to address the need for the following amendments:

  • removal of unreasonable restrictions which have the effect of limiting many of the exceptions that still remain to those who have signed a contract with Cancopy — an exception is not an exception if you have to buy it;
  • removal of the restrictions on the importation of used textbooks — the Heritage Committee amended the Bill at the last moment to restrict the importation of used textbooks of a scientific, technical and scholarly nature, but not other used books;
  • amendment of the section of the legislation which allows for the imposition of criminal sanctions for any violation of the legislation, however trivial — CAUT has suggested that any cases involving a value of less than $5,000 and where there was no intent to violate the law should be tried in civil courts;
  • restoration of "assignments" to the section of the legislation which originally provided for an exception for examinations and for assignments — the Heritage Committee removed "assignments" in the December amendments;
  • allowance for libraries to copy single pages or books which are out of print, damaged or lost — the amended legislation now prohibits all of the foregoing if a licence is available from a collective (it should be noted that damaged or lost books have already been paid for by the library); and
  • allowance for professors to make a slide for the purposes of showing material on an overhead projector.

While this is merely an abbreviated list of the concerns CAUT hopes to present before the Senate, the cry has been heard. Educational and library groups demand that the balance be restored to the Copyright Bill. Without a fair hearing and implementation of the suggested amendments, CAUT and its allies are prepared to see the bill die on the order paper. Until then, the search continues for a harbinger of spring.