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Copyright battle creates extra work for teachers

January 14, 2020 Jen Janzen, ATA News Staff

For the last few months, some Alberta teachers and school officials have been spending hours scanning documents because of a legal battle over copyright.

As part of a lawsuit between Access Copyright — the agency that represents thousands of Canadian writers, artists and publishers — and education departments within all provinces and territories except B.C. and Quebec, a court order was sent to 300 schools across Canada requesting that they scan seven years worth of lesson plans into a national database.

“It very much had an impact on our teachers, and on our central learning services,” said Sean Haggarty, superintendent of Elk Island Catholic Schools. “We had to pause a number of things to focus on this.”

Haggarty found out in September that eight of the 18 schools in his division were selected for the process and that the documentation had to be submitted by mid-January. He said the unplanned project created a staggering amount of work that involved about 70 per cent of the district’s teachers, including central office staff.

That work has basically been finished, he said, thanks to the division’s technical experts, who wrote scripts that could pull data off of the networks and programmed school scanners to deposit files directly into the litigation file for upload to the national database.

“Our tech department literally saved thousands of hours that would have made it even more onerous for the teachers out there,” Haggarty said. ❚



What is Access Copyright?

Access Copyright is a Toronto-based non-profit organization that licenses the copying of content and distributes the money it gathers to copyright holders.

How did the lawsuit originate? 

The lawsuit dates back to February 2018, when education ministries across Canada—save B.C. and Quebec—sued Access Copyright for $25 million, claiming that they were paying too much to copy published materials.

Access Copyright responded with a $50 million countersuit, with the argument that Canadian schools make more photocopies of copyrighted material than they pay for.

Fair dealing guidelines for photocopying in schools

Canada’s Copyright Act contains fair dealing guidelines for photocopying in schools. The following guidelines are taken from Copyright Matters, an explanatory publication created by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the Council of Ministers of Education and the Canadian School Boards Association.

  1. Teachers, instructors, professors, and staff members in non-profit educational institutions may communicate and reproduce, in paper or electronic form, short excerpts from a copyright-protected work for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire, and parody.
  2. Copying or communicating short excerpts from a copyright-protected work under these Fair Dealing Guidelines for the purpose of news reporting, criticism, or review should mention the source and, if given in the source, the name of the author or creator of the work.
  3. A single copy of a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work may be provided or communicated to each student enrolled in a class or course
  4. as a class handout;
  5. as a posting to a learning or course-management system that is password protected or otherwise restricted to students of a school or postsecondary educational institution;
  6. as part of a course pack.
  7. A short excerpt means:
  8. up to 10 per cent of a copyright-protected work (including a literary work, musical score, sound recording, and an audiovisual work);
  9. one chapter from a book;
  10. a single article from a periodical;
  11. an entire artistic work (including a painting, print, photograph, diagram, drawing, map, chart, and plan) from a copyright-protected work containing other artistic works;
  12. an entire newspaper article or page;
  13. an entire single poem or musical score from a copyright-protected work containing other poems or musical scores;
  14. an entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary, or similar reference work.
  15. Copying or communicating multiple short excerpts from the same copyright-protected work with the intention of copying or communicating substantially the entire work is prohibited.
  16. Copying or communicating that exceeds the limits in these Fair Dealing Guidelines may be referred to a supervisor or other person designated by the educational institution for evaluation. An evaluation of whether the proposed copying or communication is permitted under fair dealing will be made based on all relevant circumstances.
  17. Any fee charged by the educational institution for communicating or copying a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work must be intended to cover only the costs of the institution, including overhead costs.

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