Questions of copyright in the age of technology

CREPUQ/TICThe educational use of technology has outpaced the legislation that applies to it -- and even the legislation we have isn't well understood. That was the impetus for a conference held at Concordia on January 28 under the auspices of CREPUQ, the association of Quebec universities, under the title Universitˇ, TIC et droit d'auteur.

Robert Thivierge, special project co-ordinator at CREPUQ and one of the organizers of the event, said that the interest expressed surpassed his expectations. There were 122 participants, and about a dozen people had to be turned away.

"Many professors who are involved in the production of multi-media material don't know the rules of the game," Thivierge said. "Some are worried, and some are not -- but they should be."

Several of the most interesting speakers were lawyers who specialize in intellectual property. Michel Racicot, from McCarthy Tˇtrault, and Stefan Martin, from Byers Casgrain, were able to provide a wealth of information to potential users and developers of educational material about their rights.

However, many questions remain to be answered. The keynote speaker was Marybeth Peters, head of the Copyright Office in the U.S. She has just written a massive report for Congress in which she made recommendations concerning multi-media material for education, but the legislators have not yet acted on them.

Nevertheless, Thivierge said that Peters was invited to speak here precisely because the U.S. is still far ahead of Canada in terms of its copyright policy, thanks to the concept of "fair use," which gives U.S. educators more latitude in their use of technology.

The workshops at the conference were designed to tackle specific questions often asked by educators exploring high-tech. How do we handle intellectual property rights when the material has been created by a large group of people? What do we need to know about integrating video clips into our software program?

"I learned a lot," admitted Thivierge happily. "Let's say, we now have a deeper understanding of our own ignorance."

The academic speakers included Bruce Pennycook, a vice-principal at McGill University who is responsible for information technology; Jean-Claude Guˇdon (Universitˇ de Montrˇal), Pierre Pedneau (commercialization of research, Universitˇ Laval), Jean-Pierre C™tˇ (library, UQAM), and Jack Lightstone (Provost and Vice-Rector, Research, Concordia).

Vice-Dean of Arts and Science Dennis Murphy was delighted with the conference. "The day went extremely well, judging by the participation and the comments from highly placed members of various Quebec universities, law firms and CREPUQ," he said. "I think CREPUQ's lead in this endeavour gives Quebec universities a head start in coming to grips with policy issues head-on."

Thivierge agreed. "Canadian copyright law is revised every five years, and a new period of review is just starting," he said. "CREPUQ will prepare a report based on this conference, with recommendations. We're also working with the AUCC [Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada] on this subject."

The proceedings of the conference will be posted on CREPUQ's Web site: - Barbara Black

Photo: Seen at the university, technology and copyright conference held at Concordia are, seated, Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights at the U.S. Library of Congress, Rector Frederick Lowy, and Mary Pendleton, U.S. consul in Montreal. Standing, left to right, are François Tavenas, president of CREPUQ; Jacques Babin, assistant deputy minister of Higher Education; UQAM professor Pierre Mackay, chair of the organizing committee; Richard Matthews, from Heritage Canada; Professor Jean-Claude Guédon, Université de Montréal; Michel Robillard, head of CREPUQ's sub-committee on technology; and Concordia's Provost and Vice-Rector, Research, Jack Lightstone.

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