Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Alberta’s Post-Secondary Review

Once again the Alberta Government is conducting a review (http://www.advancededucation.gov.ab.ca/alearningalberta/) of post-secondary education. Once again, it completely misses its own learning commission’s recommendation that an independent review be conducted, and is conducting the review itself. That said, the current review is at least expanding beyond the Ministry of Advanced Education for the stakeholders that are being consulted, even if the Ministry is maintaining complete control over the review process.

On the bright side, tuition is already being recognized as a significant barrier to access, even with student financing being available. The review is also recognizing that a post-secondary education has concrete public dividends in that it tends to reduce the use of other social support programs, create increasing employment, and drive itself in a virtuous cycle. The work that went in to making post-secondary education an election issue is paying off. With the government on track to receive another five billion surplus (http://edmonton.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=ed-surplus200), there may be good news for Alberta Students yet.

However, this review will not be like the one conducted in Ontario that took place over several years. Advanced Education Minister David Hancock expects this review to be completed by the fall of this year, so that results can be put into place by the next election campaign when Premier Klein is expected to retire. The idea is to put together a comprehensive plan that will carry the province to the year 2020 in its educational strategy. It seems ambitious, and I wish them the best of luck, but for a comprehensive review to provide a framework for the next 15 years in less than 15 months has me wondering whether there might be a bit too much rush toward the election involved.

Feds Don’t Like Backups

Honourable Minister of Canadian Heritage, Liza Frulla, along with Honourable Minister of Industry David Emerson, have put forward their new bill (http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/261ce500dfcd7259852564820068dc6d/85256a5d006b9720852570260064a852!OpenDocument) to change the Copyright Act in Canada. While somewhat better than previous incarnations, this bill still means the rights of average citizens will be stripped in favour of large companies and corporations.

Specifically, Canadians have always had a right to make a copy of music for their own personal use. If you have a CD, it’s perfectly legal for you to make a tape of it to take in your car. These days you might be more likely to change it to an MP3 file so that you can listen to it on your computer. Or perhaps you do the reverse, and take your MP3s and put them onto a CD so you can listen to them elsewhere. If this bill goes through, that will no longer be allowed. While it will still be technically legal for Canadians to make copies, it will be impossible to do so without breaking the law. This is because the new bill makes it illegal to circumvent, remove, or tamper with any kind of technology used to keep people from copying music, regardless of whether the copy would be a legal one or not.

This means that if the music industry changes formats, rather than being allowed to transfer your already purchased music from one format to another, you’ll be force to either purchase it again or break the law. So if you want to copy your original CD so that you can have a copy in the car that you don’t worry about getting stolen (as someone who’s had his car broken into and CDs stolen, I highly recommend this) the new law will no longer allow you to do this. This also means that if the protection scheme for your music requires the media file to contact the vendor (some windows media files do this) and the vendor goes out of business or stops supporting that scheme, you have just lost any legal access to the music you purchased. That certainly sounds fair, doesn’t it?

As if that isn’t enough, the new bill makes it so that anyone who takes a picture owns the copyright to that picture. It seems reasonable enough at first glance, but then you think about when you hand a stranger your camera to take your picture, it’s now the stranger who actually owns that picture. If this bill passes, we’ll have to be sure to hand them a form to sign along with the camera. Good luck getting your pictures taken then.

As one who more or less makes my living on my words, I appreciate strong copyright protections, but there’s a difference between strong and asinine. If these things disturb you too, you should write your Member of Parliament (you can find their address at this site: http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/house/PostalCode.asp?lang=E&source=sm ) and let them know what you think about bill C-60. If you hurry, we may be able to stop them before it becomes law.

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