Sunday, June 29, 2008

Copyright Act Remains Anti-Student

Today, Canada's campus bookstores lamented that amendments proposed to the Copyright Act will continue to financially and academically hurt Canadian university students. Legislation amending the Copyright Act, Bill C-61, was introduced in the House of Commons last week by Industry Minister Jim Prentice.

Since 1998, the Copyright Act has allowed publishers to establish Canadian import monopolies on books by authors from around the world. These exclusive distributors can in turn add an additional 10 or 15% to the price of a book. This surcharge is not to the direct financial benefit of a book's author, but is instead kept by the exclusive distributor. The Copyright Act makes it a violation for individual bookstores to purchase from foreign distributors, a process known as "parallel importation."

"Restrictions on parallel importation have meant that, over the past decade, millions of dollars have been taken from the wallets of Canadians, particularly students," said Queen's University Bookstore Manager Chris Tabor. "Rather than see the cost of textbooks reduced by as much as 15% overnight, this act will ensure that Canadian students will, with little accountability as to where this money goes, continue to overpay millions of dollars more in the coming decade."

C-61 will also serve to increase the current chill in Canadian libraries with regards to a number of legitimate research activities. Proposed amendments would limit individual users' ability to make single copies of portions of works for academic uses such as research and private study, better known as fair dealing. The Bill would make it a copyright violation for academic users to make such personal copies if content creators opt to put copy restrictions on their work, be it with a warning or by using so-called "digital locks." Even when such copying restrictions are not in place, electronic copies must "self-destruct" after five days.

"For true academic success, Canadian students and the libraries that serve them need to be confident that they will not commit copyright violations as part of the ordinary course of research," said Tabor. "Instead of clarifying the legality of fair dealing, this legislation obfuscates the situation even more."

Canada's Campus bookstores believe that copyright must ensure that authors and other creators are able to benefit from their work, but it is equally important to ensure that users, such as students, are not unduly hindered by creator's protections. "Unfortunately," says Tabor, "the Copyright Act, even with the changes proposed by the government, does not strike this balance. It remains anti-student."

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