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Canadian organisation queries use of copyright on educational material

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Canada's writers and publishers are taking a stand against what they describe as damaging interpretations of fair dealing by the education sector.

Access Copyright, a non]profit, membership]based organisation that offers licences that allow institutions and schools to copy from millions of copyright]protected materials, is taking legal action on three fronts.

The actions focus on York University, ministries of education, school boards and post]secondary institutions, which Access Copyright say are copying – and promoting the copying – of copyright]protected materials without a licence.

The organisation says it works by passing proceeds to the copyright holders – more than 10,000 writers, artist, and publishers across Canada, and says this process helps to ensure high-quality content in classrooms.

'[These] legal actions signal to institutions that we continue to strongly disagree with their interpretation of the law. Their copyright policies are arbitrary and unsupported,' said Roanie Levy, executive director of Access Copyright.

The three legal fronts are as follows:

A lawsuit has been launched against York University, alleging that York's purported fair dealing guidelines authorise and encourage copying that is not supported by the law, and that there is no justification for the University to operate outside the interim tariff;

An interim elementary and secondary school education tariff application has been filed with the Copyright Board of Canada. This application seeks an effective enforcement mechanism against the ministries of education and Ontario school boards for their stated intention to stop paying the royalties set by the Copyright Board; and

A proposed post]secondary tariff has been filed with the Copyright Board of Canada for the period of 2014 to 2017. With this application, Access Copyright ensures the continuation of an existing process at the Copyright Board to establish the royalties to be paid for the use of copyright]protected content in post]secondary educational institutions.

Access Copyright points out that these legal actions are 'a last resort', adding that it 'believes in a strong and vibrant culture of writing, publishing, reading, teaching and learning in Canada and is exploring new ways to meet the needs of teachers and students in this new digital learning environment'.

It added: 'For those institutions that have walked away from our shared interests of reading, writing and learning, there are ramifications. It's harmful to arbitrarily take materials for free, without permission, without respect or regard for the sustainability of content essential for students and teachers alike. On behalf of writers and publishers, as well as those who need the materials they produce, Access Copyright is taking a stand.'