University takes step towards signing copyright agreement
The University of Alberta has advised Access Copyright of its intention to sign a new Access Copyright licence based on a model negotiated between the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and Access Copyright and made available for consideration April 16.
The new agreement, which outlines how universities legally reproduce copyright-protected works in print and some digital formats, will see the university pay $26 per full-load equivalent student. This fee is up from the previous agreement, which required universities to pay a flat fee of $3.38 per student plus 10 cents per page for photocopied materials included in course packs; the two fees combined generated revenues for the copyright collective of $17 to $18 per full-time equivalent U of A student. The new agreement covers material in both print and digital formats within the Access Copyright repertoire, whereas the previous arrangement covered only printed material.
The settlement puts a halt on an extended copyright dispute that began Jan. 1, 2011, with the expiry of a previous arrangement with Access Copyright, a non-profit organization that compensates copyright owners in exchange for use of their content. In the interim, the Copyright Board of Canada allowed the AUCC members to work under the conditions outlined in the previous tariff until new terms were agreed upon.
In September 2011, the university signalled that it would be joining 15 other AUCC members opting to operate outside of the tariff framework with Access Copyright, after deciding the copyright licensing agency’s proposal, which included some copyright monitoring elements that were counter to the principles of academic freedom and privacy, was not consistent with the way the university deals with today’s copyright issues. It called for a dramatic increase in the fee per full-load equivalent student to $45.
“Our biggest concern was not so much the fee increase, but rather that the original Access Copyright proposal filed included some very invasive survey rights that we weren’t confident would respect the privacy of our faculty members and students,” said Carl Amrhein, U of A provost and vice-president (academic).
Amrhein explained that the rights to audit in the initial proposal would essentially give Access Copyright unrestricted access to the university’s secure networks in its bid to get a full look at how the university community uses copyrighted materials.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Amrhein says, the conditions of any copyright survey must be agreed upon by all parties, respect the principles of academic freedom (for example, by not providing access to the emails and chat rooms of faculty and students), comply with privacy legislation and policies and respect collective agreements already in place.
“To the extreme, Access Copyright could have had unobstructed access to faculty email and learning management systems,” said Amrhein. “This new licence gives us great comfort that the survey that ultimately will be arrived at will protect the privacy of our students, faculty and staff.”
Among the notable points negotiated in the deal is a multi-year certainty on price and access to a new range of digital materials that wasn’t covered in the previous tariff. As for who will bear the cost of the new agreement, Amrhein says that is still being discussed, but allocation of the increase will most likely be consistent with the current pay structure that sees the university cover a certain percentage of the fee, while the rest is recovered, as in the past, through the fees associated with copies made, such as those for individual course packs.
“We believe that the agreement negotiated between AUCC and Access Copyright provides the best possible outcome for the University of Alberta’s students, staff and faculty in its current context,” said Amrhein.
The U of A now has until June 30 to sign the five-year agreement, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011. Formalizing the agreement by the June 30 deadline entitles the U of A to an 85-per-cent discount on fees for the period from January 1, 2011, to the date of signing.