Content owners and content users have been battling over whose rights take precedence almost since the first stone tablet was carved. The latest tussle, according to Publishers Weekly, is in Canada, where publishers are growing concerned about the amount of content used by educational institutions without permission or payment.
In 2012, Canadian legislators updated the copyright law, extending the uses allowed under “fair dealing” (known as fair use in the U.S.) to include education as well as satire and parody. Already permitted were news reporting, research, personal study, and criticism. Although the law in Canada, as in the U.S., doesn’t provide a specific limit, in general it has been acknowledged that “fair” means permitted users can copy no more than 10% of a work.
Some schools may be stretching that 10% interpretation. In comments to Publishers Weekly, the executive director of the nonprofit Access Copyright licensing organization said educational institutions seem to “believe it is fair to copy a chapter, put it on a course management website, and share it with a class of 10 students or a class of 150 students…. It would be fair to take chapters from multiple publications, journal articles, and 10% of a book, compile it all into a coursepack, and use that as the readings for a given class, without paying any of the rightsholders.”
Publishers have seen a drop in textbook sales since the copyright law was amended and Access Copyright reported fewer universities are renewing their collective licensing agreements. Other educational organizations claimed those declines are due to other factors.
The revised law is up for legislative review in 2017 and a court case involving fair-dealing guidelines is set to be heard in May 2016.