As Colleges and Universities across Canada are preparing for the start of a new academic year, it’s a good time to assess (or reassess) the state of copyright policies in our educational institutions. It’s been over a year now since the Supreme Court’s pentalogy and the enactment of Bill C-11 adding “education” to the list of fair dealing categories. One would expect that by now our institutions of higher learning would have had time to digest these new developments, adjust their institutional policies accordingly, and offer useful guidance to students and academic staff in the form of published copyright guidelines.
And for the most part this has been done, at least as an initial matter. While they are generally lacking in some important details which will have to be filled in, most Canadian colleges and universities have taken the prudent position of formulating and distributing some form of fair dealing guidelines.
A very useful and timely research study has been published by Lisa Di Valentino, a Library & Information Science doctoral student at UWO. Her paper, entitled Review of Canadian University Fair Dealing Policies (posted here and here) carefully reviews, compares and evaluates publicly accessible fair dealing policies:
The past three years have seen a number of changes in the area of copyright law, particularly in the area of education. As a result, Canadian universities have had to make policy decisions to account for these changes and the resulting expansion of fair dealing rights. The content and consistency of the resulting policies may have a significant effect on the future interpretation of fair dealing rights. In this paper I analyze the current state of fair dealing policies and supporting information found on university web sites. I conclude that an ideal fair dealing policy is open ended and flexible, and incorporates mention of the significant elements of copyright legislation, court decisions, and other areas of law, in a way that is accessible to its intended audience of faculty and instructors.
Providing a good snapshot of the state of affairs as of May 2013, this study will need to be updated as it is likely that major revisions and refinements of these policies are in the works as the new school year starts. These continuing developments are signaled in Michael Geist’s article in the August 30th Toronto Star in which he says:
As students and faculty prepare to head back to campus this week, many will be greeted by new copyright guidelines that clarify how materials may be used without the need for further permission or licensing fees. Just over a year after the Supreme Court of Canada released five landmark copyright decisions in a single day and the Canadian government passed copyright reform legislation over a decade in the making, the education community has begun to fully integrate the new copyright landscape into campus policies.
Geist also points to some newer guidelines “completed earlier this month” (the Star article does not provide a link to these so I am unable to offer further comment at this time).
Unfortunately, not every educational institution has published even an initial set of fair dealing guidelines. Indeed the most prominent laggard is my own home institution, the University of Western Ontario. Unlike all of the larger research-intensive universities (and virtually all of the smaller ones) UWO’s publicly accessible web pages does not provide this information. The page entitled Copying and Copyright: A Guide for Students, Professors and Staff at Western University makes little mention of fair dealing, instead focusing on the details of what you can copy under the Access Copyright license. While UWO admin has announced it has given notice to Access Copyright to terminate the agreement at the end of December 2013, the web page does not reflect this development and does not go into further detail about fair dealing. The page ends by referring readers to the Access Copyright license and gives their email address for further questions:
“To learn more, please consult Western’s licensing agreement with Access Copyright or email Access Copyright at email@example.com.”
( this page was last visited today, August 31st)
So heading back into the school year I along with my colleagues and students don’t know where our school’s fair dealing guidelines are. Hopefully they will be coming soon!