If you enjoy getting your readings from OWL directly, start reading up on copyright law in Canada. Western’s copyright librarian, Tom Adam, is warning that this November changes may be coming to copyright law that could impact how learning material can be used in class.

The Canadian Copyright Act (CCA) is up for statutory review this year, and its contents are being re-evaluated. According to Adam’s reports, nothing is off the table — not even the educational fair dealing provisions introduced in 2013. He stresses, however, that while these changes are possible and likely to be discussed, amendments to the educational laws seem unlikely.

“Typically, as long as a dealing is fair for an educational purpose, we don’t have to seek explicit copyright clearance in order to do things like reproduce a chapter from a book,” Adam says. “Or we aren’t required right now to get explicit clearance to use an article from a journal as supplementary reading and upload it into [OWL].”

However, if educational fair dealing protection measures to be struck down, this may no longer be the case.

If the government chooses to rescind such fair use measures — as many copyright holders, says Adam, are pressuring the government to do — then professors may not be able to use copyrighted works for teaching purposes without paying copyright holders. This means less readings available on OWL, and less textbook excerpts available for classes.

“Everything is up for grabs, essentially,” Adam explained. “There is the potential that [the sections of the act pertaining to education] could be reopened in November.”

Because OWL is locked to students only, anything uploaded there is effectively protected for education, Adam said. However, if these changes to the CCA pass, these protections could suddenly disappear.

The measures date to 2004, where the Canadian Supreme Court determined the bounds of fair dealing in educational use. In the case of CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada, the court determined that using and reproducing copyrighted works for research purposes was protected use under copyright law. Since then, the protections have only expanded, enshrined in the CCA. 

However, as Adam reminds us, these protections were hard won and there are many who would seek to end them. Students and faculty alike should keep an eye towards the trend of the statutory review as November approaches.

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