Educational fair use: a provocation

1 04 2009

Some years ago, I was in a meeting with a high IP official of a certain political administration (neither of which will be named here), discussing exceptions to copyright law and trying to make the point that these were critical to the mission of secondary and higher education, which were (even then) cash-strapped. The unnamed official had a simple response to this argument, which ran (in effect) like this:

These days, education is big business, and a big market for copyrighted material. If copyright licenses cost to much, the right answer isn’t to impose costs on copyright owners but to go back to education funders and ask for additional appropriations to cover rights clearances.

Somehow, this line didn’t seem right then, and it doesn’t seem right now. But the argument may be a bit more difficult to counter than some educators believe (or hope). It is, however, important that we prepare to do so, as we gird for a struggle over the future of educational fair use.

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