Proposals for copyright law and education during the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:copyright, fair dealing, public interest, open access, online learning, universities, education, COVID-19
This article asks whether the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic justifies new limitations or interventions in copyright law so that UK educational institutions can continue to serve the needs of their students. It describes the existing copyright landscape and suggests ways in which institutions can rely on exceptions in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), including fair dealing and the exemption for lending by educational establishments. It then considers the viability of other solutions. It argues that issues caused by the pandemic would not enliven a public interest defence to copyright infringement (to the extent this still exists in UK law) but may be relevant to remedies. It also argues that compulsory licensing, while permissible under international copyright law, would not be a desirable intervention, but that legislative expansion to the existing exceptions, in order to encourage voluntary collective licensing, has a number of attractions. It concludes by observing that the pandemic highlights issues with the prevailing model for academic publishing and asks whether COVID may encourage universities to embrace in-house and open access publishing more swiftly and for an even greater body of material.