Dalhousie

The cost of course readers

The cost of course readers
Ian Colford, copyright officer at Dal. Photo by Calum Agnew
written by Calum Agnew
January 27, 2012 1:00 pm

Ian Colford, copyright officer at Dal. Photo by Calum Agnew

Universities across Canada are in uncharted waters. Dalhousie is one of about 45 institutions who have not renewed deals with Access Copyright, the Canadian clearinghouse for copyright-protected texts, says Ian Colford, copyright officer at Dal.

Universities across the country have dropped out of the licensing regime because of a proposal to change the fee structure of the service.

Acting as a middleman between the university and publishers, the agreement with Access Copyright allowed the university to reproduce copyright-protected texts, and to sell course readers containing such texts to students through the Dal Print Centre.

Without an agreement, instructors assigning course readers must use off-campus print shops, which have independent agreements with Access Copyright, or get permission to reproduce the works from the individual copyright holders. The library is training staff to help instructors abide by the regulations and is hiring an intellectual property officer to deal with publishers.

Dal is also more diligent in the way copyright-protected materials are made available to students. Access Copyright enforces publishers’ copyright. The agreement provided the university with protection from individual copyright violations. However, Access Copyright asked “invasive questions” regarding the university’s activities, which resulted in unnecessary “administrative burden,” says Colford.

The library doesn’t like “taking business away from the Print Centre,” says Colford. But there are numerous reasons for Dal not renewing its agreement.

Under the old license, Dal paid a flat fee of $3.38 per student, in addition to a $0.10 fee per page of copyright material, generally passed on to the student upon purchasing their course packs.

Access Copyright’s proposal, submitted to the Copyright Board of Canada and currently under review, would require universities to pay a flat fee of $45 per student while Dal’s licensing fees would increase from $55,000 to over $600,000, says Colford.

The general shift towards digital resources had also resulted in Dal licensing many texts twice—once through the umbrella agreement with Access Copyright, and once through subscriptions to digital databases such as JSTOR.

The university was also “uncomfortable with definitions in the [proposed] contract,” says Colford. For example, it would define links to electronic resources as “copies.”

The status of copyright in Canada is in a period of flux. Bill C-11, The Copyright Modernization Act currently working its way through parliament, may make any deal with Access Copyright redundant. In its present form, this bill says that making copies for the “purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire” is the definition of “fair dealing,” potentially allowing universities and students to reproduce a text without paying fees to Access Copyright, or obtaining permission from the copyright holder.

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