The IIPA (No I’ve never heard of them either)

Michael Geist posted more information this week about international organisations that are critical of Canada’s efforts in the areas of copyright reform and intellectual property protection.

In this case he highlighted the International Intellectual Property Alliance’s 2007 Special 301 Report for Canada. In addition to a number of issues that lead to them recommending that Canada be, “elevated to the Special 301 Priority Watch List in 2007”, they made special mention of the most recent copyright reform bill’s (Bill C-60) educational and library exceptions. They state:

“Bill C-60 also included flawed proposals in the area of educational and library exceptions, such as an ill-defined new exception for use of a work in a “lesson, test or examination” in educational settings, and a provision authorizing interlibrary distribution of digital copies that would have had a significant detrimental impact on publishers of scientific, technical, and medical materials in particular. These should be carefully re-examined. The Canadian government should ensure that any legislative proposals it makes on educational and library exceptions to copyright can pass muster with its existing and anticipated international obligations, and that they provide ample room for market solutions.”

Regarding the first point about a new exception for the use of a work for lessons, tests, etc., my experience analyzing the fair-use provisions ingrained in U.S. law suggested to me that this provision would simply provide Canadian educators with the same flexibility enjoyed by their American counterparts.

Michael elaborates on this issue at the end of his article when he points out that it appears that many of the international organisations like the IIPA (and the corporate interest they represent) want to make sure that it is only the United States that enjoys the relative freedom of strong fair-use provisions.

Many teacher’s inquire about whether they can post certain journal articles (one’s that are not in our subscription databases) scans of pages from books, etc. in their course-management systems. We explain to them that this requires a formal permission from the publisher or author. I must admit that while this process can be time-consuming, I feel it is the morally correct approach when you are talking about using complete articles, entire chapters from books, etc. I do feel that the new copyright legislation should provide clear provisions for the educational/library use of portions of works. These proportions of use should be similar to the claims Google makes when it says they are within fair-use laws for their book scanning project.

I still feel that those of us in Canada have to jump through a lot more hoops to provide quick and easy access to materials. I often come across American college and university web sites and I find scans of articles from journals like the Harvard Business Review just sitting on their sites (not behind password protection). I’m pretty sure they didn’t ask for permission to do this, they simply have a tradition of making use of their fair-use laws.

And regarding the IIPA’s concern about the proposal for interlibrary distribution of digital copies of publications, I think they are sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring the inevitable trend of medical, scientific and technical journals moving to predominately electronic formats. As long as this proposal covers the distribution between interlibrary staff (not staff sending materials directly to students) publishers should not be a concerned that they would be losing any revenue. A fair compromise would be to allow for the interlibrary transfer of digital copies and a guarantee that the person requesting the material be given a paper version of the material.

I believe there is a way to ensure that libraries are given the flexibility to fully exploit the digital tools available and at the same time respect the intellectual property of authors and publishers.

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