A photocopy store popular with students at the University of Toronto was shut down by a copyright enforcement and licensing agency for “illegal photocopying” this month.
Boxes of course packs and textbooks were carted out of Quality Control Copy Centre in downtown Toronto on Oct. 15. The store’s photocopiers and binding equipment soon followed.
“We received tips over the past few years that Quality Control Copy Centre was reproducing full textbooks and course packs without permission. Those are illegal activities under the Copyright Act,”says Savitha Thampi, associate legal counsel with Access Copyright.
But before seizing all the store’s assets, Access Copyright issued several warnings and alternative options for settling the $132,000 judgement that had been levelled against them.
“We did enter into negotiations with Quality Control Copy Centre, and tried different ways to settle through instruction, and through offering licenses,” Thampi says. “In this case, we did need to go to the federal court and we did get the order against (the shop). They were found to be infringing copyright, and even after the order they continued to infringe on copyright.”
Cases like Quality Control Copy Centre are becoming more numerous across the country, says Thampi.
“It does happen, and we are very vigilant in monitoring the activities across Canada.”
Teresa Scassa, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, believes professors sometimes contribute to copyright infringement more than students, a notion that seems to go against common sense.
“You often see professors who have been involved in trying to help their students get around the high costs of materials,” says Scassa.
“The professors will put together course packs and instead of going through the license regime that they have at their own university, they’ll make the course pack available at a copy centre where they don’t have to pay the fees.”
“Cost is really the issue,” she says. “Professors feel that these materials are too expensive, the cost of materials is too high. Students need a break, and in this case the break comes at the expense of the copyright owners.”
Tanya, a B.C. student who did not want her last name used – said some of her professors advocate cutting costs by sharing and photocopying each others’ course packs.
While students try to find a break wherever they can, either by reselling their books on their own, frequenting copy shops like Quality Control Copy Centre, or sharing materials with friends. It is their education that often suffers as they circumvent the law.
“My education is definitely affected,” Tanya says. “It’s very sad and extremely unfortunate when I have to forego buying textbooks because they’re not in my budget and I simply can’t afford them. I don’t get the readings done and can’t always participate in class discussion.”
But there is a solution, if professors are willing to use it.
According to Scassa, professors and academics can take more control over their own copyright through venues such as Open Access, an international movement that encourages the unrestricted sharing of academic works.
“More and more academics are looking for Open Access journals where, as part of the publication, the work is made available to anyone who wants to read it, or copy it, or download it. It’s licensed for those kind of reproductions,” says Scassa.
“It’s not all an issue with copyright law, a large part is academics not thinking hard enough about how they want their work to be disseminated.”
Putting restrictions and conditions on their publications, like allowing it to reproduced in course packs at no extra cost, could go a long way to solving these issues, she says.