Access copyright – Canadian students to pay
November 02 2010
How would you like to get a ten-fold raise this year? The collective society that charges universities and its students for copying scholarly works is making the case for just that - and it wants Canadian students to pay.
Access Copyright wants to increase the yearly fee from less than $4 to $45 per student. It's pushing for this tariff along with the digital extension, because educational institutions are increasingly using less and less print and more and more digital copies. Universities are using far more open educational resources and content that is already licensed by their libraries than ever before. Instructors are posting their lectures online or referring their students to online articles, while making less use of printed handouts. Because of this,
Access Copyright now wants to put a tariff on using the Internet. If accepted, that would leave Canadian instructors and students as the only people in the world with no right to freely visit open websites.
By an overwhelming vote of 98.5%, the Canadian universities have rejected this "deal". In response, Access Copyright has now petitioned the Copyright Board of Canada to require the universities to provide it with an "advance on payments due" through an interim agreement. Its petition is couched in terms of "extending the previous agreement" but in fact, it is making a conscious ploy to covertly extend its reach from print to digital resources and limit the fair dealing rights of university students and faculty.
With the utmost cheek, Access Copyright unapologetically demands this extension to "fund staff salaries" and to "fund the tariff proceeding". It expects universities to not only give it an advance on salaries, but also to pay the costs of its actions, which the universities are challenging. Access Copyright has been receiving $16 million annually from post secondary institutions and now they want an advance from them in order to fight them at the Copyright Board. Furthermore, it is also insisting that universities do all the record keeping, auditing and sampling for it.
Even more outlandish is the demand that universities be disbarred from objecting to the tariff. Access Copyright claims that neither universities nor student organizations, nor teacher associations are "bona fide" objectors. Even the government of Alberta should not be allowed to object according to its claim. So, it wants an "advance" from universities and other affected organizations, while petitioning for their exclusion as objectors.
Of course Access Copyright needs the money. The latest annual report shows that a full 29% of its revenue goes to salaries and for other administrative purposes, not to authors or publishers, as is its mandate. The norm for non-profit organization is less than 10% for salaries and administration. It also refuses to publish those salaries. In addition, it makes constant reference to a "repertoire" of licensed works that it will not reveal. Universities have, in the past, discovered that they have been charged by Access Copyright for content not in this "hidden repertoire".
The public may not be aware of Access Copyright's stringent licensing practices. For example, did you know that its license prohibits stenciling or drawing in the classroom? It prohibits scanning documents and transmitting them, unless they are immediately printed out and the electronic copy is destroyed. Interestingly, it insists on getting electronic copies of reports from universities, while expecting universities to live in the pre-digital age. Universities must store content in filing cabinets, while Access Copyright uses a database.
Canadian taxpayers are supporting Access Copyright through onerous tariffs on our students and educational institutions. Do we now have to give them an advance so that they can impose a tariff and pay for their lawyers to challenge the right of universities to object?