My Comment to CNIE on the Canadian Copyright Consultation process

You may have heard that the Canadian federal government is currently consulting with Canadians about planned changes to our existing copyright laws. In addition to getting my own submission together and working on something on behalf of BCcampus, I was extremely pleased to hear, via Rick Schwier’s blog, that one of the few groups in Canada with a truly national reach in education, CNIE (formerly CADE), were also planning a submission. Rick’s post encouraged comments and concerns be sent to their leadership, and here is the comment I submitted. There is MUCH more to be concerned about the previously badly crafted Bill C-61 (start with these few issues, to begin with), but the move to resign online educational fair dealing to ‘privately protected spaces’ is one I feel we must specifically resist, as not only does it corrupt the notion of education and fair dealing, but it does so in such a way that may enshrine incredibly impoverished models in our already beleagured institutions for decades to come.

Have you had your say yet?

I was very pleased to hear that CNIE will be submitting a brief to the Federal Copyright consultation. It is great that you are staking out a position for distance/online education and recognition that ‘virtual classrooms’ should be afforeded fair dealing rights too. However, I would urge you not to compund the currently stiffled innovation in online education by arguing that content need to be behind password protected “learning management system” sites or the like in order to qualify for fair dealing rights. While this at first seems like a palatable compromise with the copyright barons, it will only lead to a further entrenching of a fundamentally broken technology, the LMS, whose replication of the physical classroom in the virtual world looses almost ALL of the benefits the network has to offer learners.

Instead, I would urge you to stake out a position that the position and intent of the user/usage is of much more importance in ascertaining fair dealing, and that course and content delivered ‘out in the open’ should also be able to exert their fair dealing rights. I believe this is a truly important distinction to make, not only for distance education but indeed for higher education institutions in general, as their future will increasingly hinge on being able to integrate and interoperate with the larger community of informal learners who make up the entire Internet, and enshrining in law the requirement that any fair dealing be exercised solely behind closed doors will only continue our march into the margins.