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As an academic librarian in Canada with previous experience in the UK and the USA, I find my efforts to support the mission of post secondary education are sometimes impeded by current Canadian copyright legislation. The following points represent a personal point of view, though I draw freely on statements by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, the Canadian Library Association, and other library colleagues. My key concerns for future amendments to the Copyright Act are as follows:
Ensure that user rights are inscribed in a broad definition of "fair dealing" that includes educational purposes e.g. the right, as in the USA, to broadcast movies in classrooms. Research libraries depend upon the concept of fair dealing and other exceptions in the Copyright Act in order to serve the students and researchers who require access to copyrighted materials for the learning, discovery, and innovation that benefit Canadian society at large. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the unanimous "CCH decision," identified the fair dealing exception as a user right that "must not be interpreted restrictively." In any new copyright legislation, the ability of users of copyrighted materials to exercise unrestrictive fair dealing rights for educational purposes must not be compromised.
Explicitly allow libraries to deliver content in digital formats, not printouts. Canadian libraries should be allowed explicitly to deliver an electronic copy to the desktop of a requester of an interlibrary loan; this is an advantage that researchers and students benefit from in the USA and elsewhere. Any amendment to the current exception explicitly allowing the delivery to the end-user of a digital copy should apply to born-digital documents as well as to documents originally in paper format. As well, inasmuch as today's researchers increasingly prefer to retain materials in digital format for their research and private study, they should not have to print out a received document at all.
Do not prohibit or criminalize the circumvention of technologies by library staff or other higher education personnel engaged in legitimate purposes (e.g. fair dealing; collection management; collection preservation). Digital locks can prevent users from interacting with copyrighted materials in ways that are perfectly legal in themselves. For example, digital locks on digital objects in libraries can prevent libraries from maintaining long-term accessibility to digital materials. Libraries should be able to migrate to a new format those copyrighted materials in formats that are approaching obsolescence: they should not have to wait until the original format is fully obsolete such that it is difficult to find equipment to read or convert the materials. In order to satisfy WIPO treaty obligations, I am told it is sufficient that Canadian copyright law afford protection to digital locks only by penalizing the breaking of digital locks when done for the purposes of infringement.
Persons (including university faculty, teachers, and library staff) who honestly and not unreasonably believe that they are using a work within the bounds of fair dealing or a particular exception should not be liable for statutory damages.
Recognize, as the USA does, that public government documents and data belong to all. With most government information now exclusively distributed by the Internet, there is a pressing need for clarity that making copies of this information for preservation and education purposes does not violate copyright. The government should introduce legislation that clearly states that copyright does not apply to Crown publications and that all such publications are in the public domain.
Accommodate the needs of persons with perceptual disabilities. In order to assist persons with print disabilities to benefit from a copyrighted work, it should be permissible for a library or educational institution to convert the work into any format that is usable for the disabled person. It should be permissible to circumvent digital locks to do this. For students, time is of the essence: it is not always feasible for a library to seek permissions or alternate formats for purchase.
Gerald Beasley 16.viii.09/r