It's frustrating that Canada’s education sector prefers to impoverish Canada and its culture while bloating its own payrolls, writes Richard C. Owens in the Financial Post. Below is an excerpt from the article, which can be read in full here

By Richard C. Owens, April 16, 2021

Strong intellectual property rights underpin innovative economies. Canada’s failure to accept this truth underpins its terrible innovation performance. Innovation is essential to productivity growth, which in Canada is anemic.

Copyright protects works like texts, film and music. Copyright law is essential to Canadian culture and yet it is increasingly undermined here. Even universities and the educational sector exploit a putative loophole in copyright law to pursue narrow economic self-interest by appropriating copyright-protected works without payment. In doing so, they mistake their best interest: universities and educators, both as knowledge producers themselves and for being entrusted to inculcate students with values like respect for property, ought to be most sympathetic to creators and the needs of the knowledge economy. That even they will unjustly appropriate intellectual property when given the chance demonstrates the critical importance of strong, clear laws.

In spite of two courts having ruled decisively in the York University case that universities’ ongoing, massive, uncompensated copying of authors’ works is unfair and entitles authors to damages, universities continue to copy away and leave their debts unpaid. (York is the named defendant, but it represents university policies across the country). The Supreme Court is to hear an appeal of the York case on May 21. Both sides are appealing a Federal Court of Appeal judgment that, on the one hand, confirmed the university’s copying was unfair and wrongful but, on the other, also deprived Access Copyright, the collective representing creators, of its legislated right to collect the debts owing.

The Copyright Act allows copying without permission for certain limited purposes if it is done in a limited, “fair” manner, as determined in accordance with court-established criteria. “Education” is a permitted purpose in the fair dealing section of the Act, and universities also claim that the fair dealing guidelines they have established make their copying fair. The courts, however, have said the guidelines aren’t fair and York hasn’t followed them anyway.


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