No renewal for current Access Copyright deal

By Jason Winders
June 10, 2013

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Western officials have given notice to Access Copyright that the university will not be extending its current agreement with the not-for-profit organization representing copyright owners, after the deal expires on Dec. 31.

“We won’t be renewing the current agreement,” said Alan Weedon, vice-provost (academic planning, policy and faculty).

Western did leave the door open – slightly – for a new agreement with Access Copyright. However, a “critical issue” in those negotiations would be a reduction in the royalty rate, Janice Deakin, provost and vice-president (academic), wrote in the letter dated June 7.

“We will be talking with them about if a new agreement is possible,” Weedon said.

The University of Toronto also notified Access Copyright of its intention not to continue with the current agreement after Dec. 31. Like Western, the institution is open to a new contract under renegotiated terms, but the “university’s position in such negotiations would be to seek a substantially reduced royalty rate,” Cheryl Misak, vice-president and provost, wrote in a letter dated June 6.

Prior to this current agreement, reached in February 2012, Western’s previous five-year agreement with Access Copyright expired on Dec. 31, 2010. That deal saw the company collect roughly $10 in fees from full-time students, in addition to transactional fees for course packs and other photocopy rights.

Upon its expiration, Access Copyright did not negotiate a new agreement. The organization applied to the Copyright Board of Canada to set a new tariff, one that would encompass digital copying and cover the terms under which universities can use copyrighted works, all for a $45 fee for every full-time student.

In the current joint agreement, Western and the University of Toronto negotiated a rate of $27.50 for each full-time student. The fee encompassed what was previously a separate 10-cent royalty for each page of a photocopy course pack.

The rationale behind Access Copyright’s rejection of renewed previous agreements with Canadian universities was the issue of them covering only printed works. The $45 tariff was necessary in order to cover rights associated with reproducing digital materials, according to Access Copyright.

But the copyright landscape has changed drastically since the deal was first struck 16 months ago.

Supreme Court of Canada handed down a series of copyright- and technology-related rulings in June 2012, including, most interestingly for educational institutions, one that erased the distinction between student and instructor copying of copyrighted work. Previously, only student copying was considered fair dealing.

Also, the Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11), passed on June 29, 2012, expanded the definition of ‘fair dealing’ to include education alongside research, private study, criticism and review. That means educational entities are not tied to the strict royalty landscape for use of materials for educational purposes.


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