The University of Alberta withdrew from its agreement with Access Copyright Aug. 31, following increased costs and perceived intrusions imposed by the copyright licensing agency.
The U of A is one of 15 major Canadian universities opting out of their agreement with Access Copyright, a non-profit organization that provides compensation to copyright owners in exchange for the use of their content. The agency proposed a flat rate of $45 per full-time student as opposed to the previous licensing scheme of $3.38 per student and 10 cents per copied page for course packs.
The U of A previously decided to allow its agreement with Access Copyright to lapse at the end of 2010, but was allowed to maintain the old tariff after the Copyright Board of Canada issued an interim decision last December that put a hold on the increase.
Vice-Provost and Chief Librarian Ernie Ingles said Access Copyright’s terms and conditions are not consistent with the way Canadian post-secondary institutions are approaching copyright issues these days.
“The tariff and Access Copyright were really not serving our needs and the needs of the post-secondary community particularly well,” he said, explaining that the agreement essentially focused on using materials that the U of A already has the right to use, under fair dealing provisions.
“We were really, in a sense, paying twice for a lot of things that we already have licenses to copy digitally.”
Ingles said the U of A was especially opposed to Access Copyright’s “erroneous” tariff increase and “intrusive” monitoring elements allowing them to access secure networks.
“The language of the proposed tariff indicated that they could go into our system and poke around, see who was doing what, seeing who was printing things they shouldn’t be copying.”
Students’ Union Vice-President (Academic) Emerson Csorba believes the biggest impact that students will face is seeing more textbooks assigned in place of course packs.
“This is will not only increase the cost of academic materials for students, but, more importantly, impact the culture of the classroom,” he said. “Course packs provide a teaching environment that allows a professor to personalize certain materials for students. Textbooks are more of a one-size-fits-all solution that might not necessarily reflect what a course needs to provide.”
In the meantime, Ingles sent out an email to the U of A staff advising professors to have their course packs printed before Aug. 31, in order to accommodate lengthier lead times needed to seek rights directly from sources. He also said the U of A would continue to maintain the consistent application of legal copyright requirements.
One professor, Betsy Sargent, director of writing studies, said professors are finding ways to work around the issue, including posting links on their online class portals that will take students to digital content already licensed by the university.
“It actually brings up a lot of fascinating issues that are very important for students to think about. I’m trying to look at it positively as an opportunity to be teaching and learning.”
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