U of C says no to copyright collective

By Amy Badry

The University of Calgary will soon be ending their partnership with Access Copyright.

For the past 15 years the U of C has had a license with Access Copyright– a copyright collective that ensures universities have licenses to use and distribute copyrighted works while giving the authors and publishers fair compensation for their works.

The current agreement between the U of C and the copyright collective has been called “intrusive” by U of C’s copyright officer Wendy Stephens.

As of September 1, 2011 the U of C will start to manage their own copyright permissions.

This change will affect both students and staff at the university.

“The students might find there are fewer amounts of pdfs and actual text within their course work, either print or digital,” said Stephens.

She said students will be seeing more links to journals and other materials used in their classes.

“This means they will have to go to the place to find the material and I know that is something that isn’t on the top of students’ lists– to have to go to these other [websites] ­– but a link is not a copy,” said Stephens, “so it is always legal for us to link.”

A letter dated March 16, 2011 from Thomas Hickerson, vice-provost libraries and cultural resources at the U of C, explained Access Copyright has not offered a license to the university again and they have instead applied for a tariff “which would greatly increase fees payable to them as well as impose huge reporting requirements on materials used.”

On December 23, 2010 the Copyright Board of Canada approved Access Copyright’s application for an interim tariff effective from Jan. 1, 2011 until Dec. 31, 2011.

The high cost was a major factor in the U of C’s decision to end the agreement with Access Copyright.

In 2010, the U of C paid $27,500 to Access Copyright.

“Access Copyright has asked for our tariff to be $45 a student, which would be $1.2 million dollars every year,” said Stephens.

Because of the large increase, the U of C has decided not to work with Access Copyright. This means the U of C is responsible for ensuring all material, course packs and digital material used in classes is legally attained and cleared for copyright.

“The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has challenged the new pricing model, and very few universities have to this point agreed to it,” said provost and vice-president academic Alan Harrison in a letter on December 13, 2010. “The university stands ready to put in place alternative measures to ensure that we abide by copyright requirements. We believe this would cost us less than an additional $1 million, and would also avoid the other provisions of Access Copyright’s new model that we find so troubling.”

The new model will be put into place September 1.

Stephens said over the past few years the amount of money paid to Access Copyright has decreased.

“We are buying more and more resources, and material is more and more freely available,” she said.

“$45 is not likely the amount the students or institutions will have to pay. That is only the amount we proposed that the board consider,” said Finlay.

The university originally had two parts to the license with Access Copyright.

“Part A was $3.86 cents a student and central administration paid for that,” said Stephens. “That allowed you to do the self service copying in the library or the nickel copiers at the Students’ Union, it allowed you make handouts in class, administration copies for the offices,” said Stephens.

The second part was royalties collected for course packs that are bought at the bookstore or Bound and Copied.

The Association of Community Colleges as well as the Association of University Colleges have hired lawyers to represent them before the Copyright Board of Canada.

Finlay said without the tariff “use of material in Access Copyright’s repertoire would involve time consuming and costly steps in clearing each work in a course pack and require institutions to incur additional overhead, administrative and transaction costs.”

She said the tariff provides a faster, more cost-efficient alternative.

The university says controlling copyright is a managable task.

“It is not as onerous as it sounds,” said Stephens. “The U of C library every year buys about nine million dollars worth of electronic resources. Those are ours and licensed to use,” said Stephens.

Another option for professors is to link to material instead of reproducing the material through pdfs and handouts.

“Because links are not copies they are only to tell you to go to a different place,” said Stephens. “We also have the option of open access journals. Open access material is becoming more and more widespread.”

Stephens said if none of these options work for a professor, the university will help professors clear the work, or the professors can use their own work.

Finlay says that copyright costs are an unavoidable expense. “Costs for everything universities have to pay for go up all the time. Professors’ salaries go up. So do tuition fees. Professors and university administrators don’t work for free. They shouldn’t expect writers and publishers of the books, magazines, journals and newspapers they use to either.”

The proposed tariff by Access Copyright covers digital uses of copyright works that the previous license did not cover.

Finlay said Access Copyright believes the digital copyright works are “of significant value to the post-secondary educational institutions,” said Finlay.

Access Copyright has asked the board to consider how copyright-protected works are being used in the digital world today in conjunction with the education system.

“Just as it isn’t fair to take a writer’s work and make thousands of photocopies for use in class instead of buying the books, it isn’t fair to do the same thing by scanning pages and mass-reproducing them electronically,” said Finlay.

The SU is also currently working with lawyers to figure out where they stand in the university copyright agreement with Access Copyright.

“Our lawyers are currently involved in seeing what part of the contract the SU is involved in,” said vp operations and finance Patrick Straw. “The university is saying the SU is not part of the Access Copyright contract and Access Copyright is saying we are.”

This would affect the SU’s ability to produce course packs at Bound and Copied.

“By mid-August, we will have some more hard facts,” said Straw. “Right now we are in a fact-finding stage with the copyright.”

Stephens said the first year working without Access Copyright may be a bit rocky, but in the long run, she thinks it is worth it.

“I think we will work through the issues and have a much cheaper way for the university and for the students at the university to get the materials they need,” said Stephens.

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