Volume 90, Issue 96

Wednesday, March 26, 1997

red, white and blue


Book bill scrutinized

By Karena Walter
Gazette Staff

The controversial bill proposed by the federal government to amend the copyright act came under fire yesterday by 12 organizations.

Associations for educators, students and librarians spoke in Ottawa about concerns they have with Bill C-32 and possible restrictions on the importation of books and copyright fines.

Matthew Hough, director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said all 12 groups had one thing in common – they were frustrated with the process and want a better balance between creative and consumer rights.

One item of concern is the bill restricts the import of used books to those of a scientific, technical and scholarly nature. "Students want to pay less for their texts and there doesn't seem to be any sympathy on this," Hough said.

Meanwhile, Western has sent its own letter to Minister of Industry John Manley and Minister of Canadian Heritage Sheila Copps to express concern over how the present form of Bill C-32 will affect the academic community.

"I believe there are big issues here for Western," president Paul Davenport said, adding the bill imposes unreasonable restrictions on scholarships and unreasonable restrictions on costs for students.

The letter was signed by Davenport, VP-academic Greg Moran, University Students' Council President Dave Tompkins and Doug Baer, president of the Western's faculty association.

Baer said the tilt in the direction of a Canadian copyright monopoly jeopardizes the way scholars go about doing their work. "It doesn't provide protection for the university community and in fact makes things worse."

Most faculty are authors and therefore copyright owners, but they still oppose the bill, Baer said. "Students sit on the side of the fence that's going to get hurt."

The bill has passed through the House of Commons and is now before the Senate. It has received first reading and must go through two more.

Many concerns with the bill are due to amendments added to the original draft. John Tooth, chair of the Canadian Library Association's copyright committee, said one of the problems deals with photocopiers. Because library photocopiers cannot be monitored, the bill would make libraries join a copyright collective and pay for the right of limited liability.

Another problem deals with the ability of libraries to make a single copy of a book if damaged to ensure information is not lost. Under the bill, libraries must buy a license from Can Copy, Tooth said.

The executive director of the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency said he is pleased the standing committee accepted a number of suggestions to the original bill. "Writers are not happy about exceptions that allow for free photocopying," Andrew Martin said. The agency wants exceptions to the copyright rules made clear, but the version of the bill going to Senate is as good as it is going to get, he said.

"The bill will not add anything to the cost of students or universities or libraries," Martin said.

Tooth said 97 per cent of the rights belong to creators and nothing is being given to libraries. "The original Bill C-32, while not perfect, was a balance," he said. The association would prefer to have the amendments withdrawn than see the entire bill erased or they will be left without anything again, Tooth said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997