Letter to BC education ministers

I took the letter Wallace sent to the Atlantic Provinces' Education Ministers (with permission), made a few fairly minor changes, and sent it to the BC Education Minsters.
The $7 million was calculated by taking the $12 per FTE and multiplying by 575,642.6265 FTE students (2003 data from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/k12datareports/03tsqtext/2077.txt
I couldn't find data for the number of BC government FTE employees.

Hon. Shirley Bond

Hon. Tom Christensen

I would like to flag for you several important issues pertaining to copyright and education.

First, the proposed tariffs by Access Copyright, in respect of educational and provincial and territorial government copying of copyright materials:


These outrageous tariff proposals of $12 per Full-Time Equivalent student will cost BC's education budget $7 million a year, and all provincial and territorial governments, outside Quebec, approximately $50-60 million annually. (Literary copyright in Quebec is collectively-administered separately by COPIBEC.) The vast majority of these funds will then be paid out by the collective, Access Copyright, to copyright owners from outside BC. The Council of Ministers of Education of Canada, and especially their legal counsel, have simply not done enough to oppose this blatant cash-grab. Their stance as users of materials has been weak, and they have allowed Access Copyright to simply get away with too much. In the interests of students, this cannot be permitted to go on.

Second, under the second part of this proposed tariff, for government copying, provincial governments as a whole, including the Departments of Education -- and ALL OTHER departments and agencies -- will pay a further $15 per FTE employee, annually; again costing BC millions more, and again with negative net returns to the provinces: most of the copyright collective members are outside BC.

Third, the pre-election House of Commons Canadian Heritage Committee prostrated itself in accepting Access Copyright's even more outrageous "consensus" on educational use of materials that are accessible, FOR FREE, on the internet. This "consensus" was arrived at quite dubiously.


The Committee believes that Access Copyright should be entitled to collect royalties on the use of internet materials, even if those materials have been placed on the internet for free (in both senses of the word, libre et gratuit) distribution. Once again, the sensible proposals by the education Ministers, were rejected out of hand in this report. If Access Copyright is permitted to collect royalties on these materials, it will represent another pure cash grab; one which will benefit Access Copyright's members, not internet website owners who posted material with no expectation of profit; and which will cost the provinces and territories outside Quebec, including BC, tens of millions of dollars more annually. (I am not sure whether COPIBEC may also collect fees in respect of French-language materials used in the francophone school systems in the Atlantic Provinces; COPIBEC has, or will have, a separate but similar tariff before the Copyright Board, and will equally benefit if the ludicrous and nonsensical internet tariff is incorporated into the Copyright Act.)

Our Copyright Act has always had exemptions to benefit education through the protection of educational uses of copyrighted materials from liability for infringement. It is part of the balance inherent to copyright; it is sound cultural and economic policy to provide these exemptions as a contribution towards building a literate and cultured society, whose members will go on to consume copyrighted (and non-copyrighted) works as adults. Copyright is not, should not, and must not be unlimited and absolute. But there are forces at play that have already succeeded in tilting that balance away from education, away from your students, towards their private interests; and are looking to tilt it even further. They want to reduce, or even eliminate those exemptions, and collect more fees from what they view as free-loading fourth-graders. They want copyright to be boundless and absolutist. This has to stop. Someone has to stop them. It is time for the educational sector to fight back, not only on the principal of balance in copyright law, and in defence of well-defined fair-use exemptions to infringement, but also to fight against these outrageous cash grabs. Access Copyright's repeated pilfering of the educational sector will not even be robbing Peter to pay Paul: it means collecting fees in respect of works its members had nothing to do with creating, paying those fees out to people who didn't create the works in respect of which they were collected, and weakening the financial and other resources at our disposal to create a literate and cultured society, one that will in the long run benefit the authors of copyrighted works, in the first place.

Ministers: What programs will you have to cut in order to pay $12/student and $15/employee annually to Access Copyright?

Which schools will close? Which specialists will be laid off?

This is the road you are headed down if Access Copyright is successful.

Unfortunately, most MPs see the Copyright Act as an obscure piece of legislation that is only of interest to a few groups. They aren't hearing opposition to the changes proposed by the Heritage Committee.