Copyright fee increase postponed

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Copyright Board of Canada puts new $45-regulations on hold

Jamie Ross
CUP Atlantic Bureau Chief

 

FREDERICTON (CUP) – New rules that would change how much universities and students are charged for photocopies and course packs won’t come into play for at least another few years.


The Copyright Board of Canada issued an interim decision Dec. 23 that puts a hold on a proposed tariff put forth by the licensing agency Access Copyright.


The collective is asking to raise the fee that allows schools and students to access and copy copyrighted material from $3.38 plus 10 cents per copied page for course packs to a blanket fee of $45 per full-time equivalent student.


Under the interim tariff, all parties concerned can go about their business as usual, says Erin Finlay, legal counsel and manager of legal services for Access Copyright.


“The great news about the interim tariff is that actually nothing has to change. The institutions, the professors and the students, everyone can operate as they have been for the last 15 years,” said Finlay, adding the proposed tariff will take the board a “few years” to process.


The old agreement, which the interim tariff has extended, expired Dec. 31.


The board issued the interim measure without reasons stated because it considered the decision “urgent.”


Critics of the proposed tariff say the fee increase is too substantial.


Greg Fergus, director of public affairs with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, says raising the rate to $45 per full-time student doesn't make sense because in post-secondary education today, learning is being done more and more in the digital realm.


“What Access Copyright is proposing is paying more for something we’re using less of,” he said, noting that some schools already pay double fees, for both digital and Access Copyright licences.


“What it means is we should be paying somewhere close to $8-10 [per full-time student] … it doesn’t seem right to me that we’d be paying anywhere between 2.5 or even five times as much for a service we're using less and less of.”


A number of universities, including the University of Alberta and Ryerson University, across the country had decided before the Dec. 31 deadline to deny the proposed increase and let their contracts expire.


In an email circulated to faculty and staff at the University of New Brunswick in mid-December, Anthony Secco, vice-president academic at the Fredericton campus, and Robert MacKinnon, vice-president of the Saint John campus, wrote that there was no option to continue the current agreement, and that the university had rejected the alternative fee plan.


They also encouraged faculty to use electronic materials licensed by the library because its terms of agreement allow for course reserve and classroom use.


No one at UNB could be reached for an interview.


Finlay said there have been a lot of misconceptions about the proposed tariff and fee increases, which she says have been grossly exaggerated.


She said you can’t take the old rate of $3.38 per student and apply it directly to the new price of $45 without considering the 10 cents per page that’s paid by the student each time he or she buys a course pack.


“You can’t take the former rate and compare it to the proposed new rate and say, ‘That’s the difference.’ You have to take into account all of the payments that were made by students for course packs. In addition, there are a number of additional uses that weren’t covered in the previous access copy licenses.”


She said the old licence only covered photocopying, and that the tariffs would cover different types of digital uses like scanning and posting to websites.


“There has to be a value captured for those types of uses,” she said.


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