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September 23, 2004
Permission Culture v. Education
I find it extremely sad that educators are forced to "plea bargain" with copyright holders over how students can use the Internet to learn. This CBC piece on the battle in Canada over proposed changes to Canada's Copyright Act shows just how the desperate the situation has become. It lays out The Rules for what we in the US might call "fair use" for educational purposes -- rules that strike me as profoundly anti-education:
[Students and teachers could use] online material, but [there are] limits:
- It only applies to students in a program under the authority of an educational institution.
- Students and teachers would have to cite the source of the web materials used.
- It excludes online content that has limited access, such as those requiring a password.
- Institutions would still have to pay for CD-ROMS, licensed software and web courses.
That's right, kids. No unauthorized learning allowed in this precinct. You're not registered to learn at an accredited school, you ain't gonna learn. Keep it on the straight and narrow. And please, guys, document every step you take, and have your parole officer -- I mean, your authorized teacher -- sign at the bottom.
The sad thing is, these are the rules that the educators themselves proposed, in a desperate attempt to carve out some way for students to learn without having access to knowledge metered and sold
in chunks, to the highest bidder (or more accurately, wealthiest school district). [Note: it turns out the situation is even more complicated than it appears; see Michael Geist's recent column for details.)
One of the most extraordinary things about the Internet is that it helps bring more people more tools for education more cheaply than ever before. It's just astounding to me that our culture is so concerned with putting the wine back in the bottle that we would rob our own children of access to true -- that is, unfettered, self-guided -- learning.
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