Bill C-61 locks us into a closed education model

Nifty post from Laura J. Murray (via Michael Geist) on the implications of Bill C-61 for Canadian online educators:

It says kindly that an electronically transmitted lesson will indeed count as a lesson in the eyes of the law. But it wants this lesson to behave just like a classroom lesson: when it’s over, it’s gone. The educational institution has to destroy it 30 days after marks go out (30.01(5)(a)), and must “take measures that can reasonably be expected to limit the communication by telecommunication of the lesson” to enrolled students. It must also do what it can “to prevent the students from fixing or reproducing the lesson.” Read that last one again: the Bill wants to make it impossible for distance-education students to keep course materials. Yes, that’s what it says.

I just can’t wait for the user-friendly DRM encoding some helpful vendor will provide to help us ensure that students can’t fix (?) or reproduce a lesson.

It gets better:

Now I suppose if you used no copyright material in your class you could ignore this clause, and go ahead, podcast, post notes online to the world, etc. But if like me you teach literature, and have a nasty habit of actually quoting it along the way, this provision of the Bill says you have to lock up your lectures. People will have to go to MIT to learn about American Literature — and they can even take that course in Chinese.

I was in a meeting just last week with a dynamic professor who had videotaped recordings of his lectures. They had been a hit with his students, he was interested in widening the scope and was amenable to public sharing with an open license. The video was playing as a room of various stakeholders talked through the logistics of publishing, when the screen flashed some momentary glimpses of third-party media that the prof had shown during his lecture. This media may well be copyrighted, we didn’t know… “Well, if we keep exposure to the video within the CMS we should be OK.” Locking down and closing access was the defense strategy. So much for open education. (Actually, I think this particular story will have a happier ending than that, but you get the point…)

And of course that exchange illustrates a dirty secret of the learning happening behind password-protected walls. Educators are taking materials (for instance, diagrams off of Google Image Search) from the public web all the time – and if it helps their students learn, then good for them. In any reasonable legal system, this would be considered fair dealing. But in the back of their minds, the practice leads them to fear exposure of their own work. Beneficial educational materials languish because authors don’t want to risk being branded as plagiarists or copyright thieves — simply because teachers do not have the time, resources or expertise to navigate the already arduous copyright regime. I would suggest that protection of copyright violation is a primary motivation for closed content models. A rationale that dare not speak its name.

If we are really interested in the sustainability of education in the coming decades, we need to get the word out on the vast quantity of freely licensed open educational materials that are already available. And of course, we need to add to the pool. David Wiley recently likened open reuse to an EduCarbon Footprint – and really, perpetuating this insane, unsustainable approach as it stands is a bit like driving a Hummer.

I’ve already quoted lots from Murray’s post, but can’t top how she closes:

…it traps us in a very limited vision of education, at just the time that technologies permit vast new possibilities.

I was raised on the ideas of the Antigonish Movement of adult education and group action, and I can’t help asking: Why not harness digital technologies to enable educators to reach out across distances within Canada and beyond? Why not demand a copyright law that will support this more open approach? A combination of fair dealing and collective licensing could work, if there were goodwill, imagination, and a level playing field for negotiations. I don’t want tiny frosted windows of exceptions: I want clean picture windows of clear principles for conduct.

By all means, let’s pressure our leaders for such clear principles. But to whatever extent we can act without depending on politicians… well, let’s get on with it.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
This entry was posted in Open Content. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Bill C-61 locks us into a closed education model

  1. Scott Leslie says:

    Hey, so HUGE non-fan of Bill-61, but I think big educational institutions (hint hint) need to get their legal councils to weigh in on this, and if indeed all of the scenarios that have been variously described are in fact true, then *firecely* lobby against this.

    The reason I think we need to do this is not only common sense, but because of poorly argued pieces like that faircopyright one; why spend the first two paragraphs talking about OCW when this law doesn’t effect content published under that license. Unless I’m wrong (and IANAL) it applies to the use of copyrighted materials for which no permission has been given (as is explicitly done in a CC/OCW model). If I am wrong, then absolutely, let’s not just get the lawyers involved, let’s man the barricades. But let’s get some clear opinions, please. It would be a huge public service, especially around the educational use provisions.

  2. Jared Stein says:

    Funny that he says “People will have to go to MIT to learn about American Literature” with a hyperlink to MIT’s American Lit OCW–almost as if it were, in contrast, a model of open-ness. Like most of MIT’s OCW the American Lit OCW is skeletal–and we’re talking ectomorphic!

  3. Brian says:

    I concede these points – though Scott, I think the broader argument is that the internet represents an opportunity for a new model of educational publishing, and this Bill will hamper that.

    And more importantly (and my motivation for this post)… I don’t see the likelihood of educational institutions doing anything unless there is evidence that the community — especially faculty members — are pissed off and concerned. So rather than nitpick, I’d like to stoke the fires a bit (while underlining your point that embracing open licenses might well be the most pragmatic approach).

    I was encouraged to see an association of film scholars weigh in: http://www.filmstudies.ca/FSAC_copyright.htm

  4. Laura Murray says:

    Hi–Thanks for linking to my site. I may as well take this chance to ask a stupid question: OCW stands for what? The specificity of MIT’s licenses aside (tho I’d be grateful if somebody wld explain them), my objection to C-61 is that it doesn’t allow quotation/sampling without permission in distance ed unless there is limited access for a limited time. So it allows you to practice fair dealing to a closed set of students, but not to the public. Journalists can quote without permission–why not teachers? I’m not talking whole-hog copying here, but reasonable bits for purposes of criticism & analysis.

  5. Brian says:

    Laura – OCW is a common abbreviation for OpenCourseWare, applied to both the MIT initiative, as well as other open education projects that have been inspired by it. I believe the MIT OCW is licensed by the BY-NC-SA – which is the American CC license that corresponds to the one on your blog.

    One irony – as I recall, one of the biggest hurdles for the MIT project was culling out problematic third-party materials so they could have the CC license applied. Which may in part explain why the course in question is so “ectomorphic”…

    Your point about fair dealing is self-evident as far as I’m concerned. Though don’t be surprised to see journalistic rights impaired by copyright ownership as well: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010341.html

    This stuff makes me dizzy, but I would hate to think that just because I am not a trained legal scholar that I cannot weigh in. I hope that when I am corrected, it is gently — especially by people who are on my side. I’ve seen too much resistance and reform energy dissipated by in-fighting. Keep hammering!

  6. Sandra says:

    Hear, hear… I find such legislation especially painful as it really can only(?) or at least supremely be enforced in such important environments as public universities.
    But on a slight tangent, dare I ask how the wikipedia project is faring? ;)

  7. Laura says:

    Hi–Thanks for linking to my site. I may as well take this chance to ask a stupid question: OCW stands for what? The specificity of MIT’s licenses aside (tho I’d be grateful if somebody wld explain them), my objection to C-61 is that it doesn’t allow quotation/sampling without permission in distance ed unless there is limited access for a limited time. So it allows you to practice fair dealing to a closed set of students, but not to the public. Journalists can quote without permission–why not teachers? I’m not talking whole-hog copying here, but reasonable bits for purposes of criticism & analysis. So let me know what you think. And on legal counsel–I’m consulting with lawyers on all this: what specific questions do you want me to ask?

  8. David Truss says:

    The following is an e-mail I received from Kris at http://wanderingink.net She is 16:

    Fair Copyright Montreal (a branch of the same group I participate in) posted a full analysis of Bill C-61, the proposed Canadian DMCA. But don’t click on the link yet, I want to highlight something first. Read the link afterwards and shake your head at how much these people are stuck in the 20th century.

    The bill has a special section for “Lessons”, new copyright laws that apply to the classroom. Are they exemptions? Special permissions? NO. I personally read the text of the bill that applies (section 30) and decided that Fair Copy Montreal had the best summary, which I’ve posted below.

    Here they are, the new copyright laws for education in Canada. Read all of it. Emphasis is mine. Note: when they mention students, it’s impossible to claim “everyone is a student” as a loophole. In fact, they supplied their own greviously outdated definition in the text of the bill: “a student who is enrolled in a course of which the lesson forms a part is deemed to be a person on the premises of the educational institution when the student participates in or receives the lesson by means of communication by telecommunication.”

    Read the following new laws with that exclusive definition of “student” in your mind:

    What educational institutions are allowed to do:
    Broadcast lessons if the broadcast recipients are exclusively students (Clause 18, section 30.01, subsection 3)
    What educational institutions are not allowed to do:
    Print more than one copy of any digital reproduction communicated in a lesson (Clause 18, section 30.02, subsection 2)
    Use a work from the Internet if the website or the work has any form of technical restriction (Clause 18, section 30.04, subsection 3)
    What educational institutions must do:
    Destroy lessons 30 days after the final course evaluations have been given out (Clause 18, section 30.01, subsection 5, paragraph a)
    Take measures to ensure that students exclusively may receive lessons (Clause 18, section 30.01, subsection 5, paragraph b)
    Take measures to ensure that students may not copy lessons (Clause 18, section 30.01, subsection 5, paragraph c)
    Take measures to ensure that any digital reproduction cannot be communicated to anyone else outside the institution (Clause 18, section 30.02, subsection 3, paragraph b)
    Take measures to ensure that any digital reproduction cannot be printed more than once per person that has received the lesson (Clause 18, section 30.02, subsection 3, paragraph c)
    Take any measure prescribed by regulations for any copied digital reproduction (Clause 18, section 30.02, subsection 3, paragraph d)

    *

    Can you see what a huge STEP BACKWARDS this is for 21st century education in Canada? It makes everything that you do illegal. Confining “copyrighted” learning to people who are on the physical premises… what a 20th century idea! I don’t think they’ll be able to get away with this unless they at least make an exception for distance education, but even then, this bill is so counter-productive!

    Think about those universities like MIT and Berkeley that broadcast their lessons for free over iTunes or their own websites to whoever just wants to learn. That is exactly what is going to become illegal, at least in Canada. How are Canadian universities going to be able to compete for students in a global market if they can’t let anyone on the outside take a look in? Canada is going to lag behind if our government can’t adapt its laws for the 21st century.

    They’re going to be voting on the bill THIS September when Parliament is back in session. The NDP is on our side, but the Liberals are so far uncertain. The Conservatives are a lost cause – they’re all going to be voting YES on this as a party (because it’s a bill introduced by the Government). The Bloc Quebecois will probably be voting with the Conservatives. The bill could go either way depending on how much pressure there is from the public.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share with you a portion of my concern over this new copyright bill. Read the rest of the analysis if you like and find the other reasons to be concerned, but I thought I would bring this one to your attention because it strikes so close to home.

    If you think this is appropriate reason to be concerned and if it’s not too much to ask, do you think you could forward this email to other web 2.0 educators or anyone else in Canada that would be interested? I want to raise as much awareness as possible about this new bill among the people it would effect. If you’d like more information then let me know and I can give you some more links or explain it to you myself.

Comments are closed.