Home » Teaching » E-Reserves » Oh, Canada! Controversial Copyright Decision Up North

Oh, Canada! Controversial Copyright Decision Up North

In the United States, persons seeking permission from copyright holders to use works in a manner not covered by exemptions in the Copyright Act (e.g. Fair Use) frequently utilize the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) to facilitate the request. The CCC collects a fee, including the royalties charged by the copyright holder, and in turn permission for use is granted. Universities frequently use the services of the CCC, who coincidentally is helping fund the litigation against Georgia State, not only to secure permissions for the posting of materials on reserve but also to collect royalties on behalf of university presses. In Canada, the organization AccessCopyright functions in much the same way as the CCC.

On March 30, 2010, AccessCopyright (AC) filed a proposed tariff with the Copyright Board of Canada to cover the reproduction of published works by Canada’s colleges and universities. Previously, AC offered licenses under which two fees were collected.  Institutions paid a flat fee determined by FTE to cover day-to-day photocopying, and students paid a per-page copyright royalty when purchasing a course pack.  Under the proposed tariff, universities and colleges would pay a single flat fee per student to make all the copies they need, up to 20% of any given publication. The justification offered by AC: creators are entitled to compensation when their work is used. Under the terms of the proposed tariff, faculty and students would be permitted to photocopy, scan and upload to secure networks, and email portions of copyright-protected published works.

The proposed tariff drew harsh criticism from students, university administrators, and others. In response to criticism, AC compared its proposal to the services offered by the CCC, stating: “The Copyright Clearance Centre in the United States licenses the reproduction of copyright-protected materials to post-secondary institutions in a very similar manner to the proposed tariff.” (See Response to article on proposed Access Copyright Post-Secondary Educational Institution Tariff, 2011-2013.) Despite the criticisms launched against the proposed tariff and the decision by several Canadian institutions to discontinue photocopying and reserves services altogether in the event the tariff passed, the Copyright Board indicated on November 26, 2010 that it intended to approve an interim tariff proposed by AC,  while it investigates and considers the claims of over 100 objectors. This decision by the Board demonstrates a failure to acknowledge the high cost that will be imposed upon students in restraining their access to materials and upon educational institutions who do not have the budgetary means to pay the tariff. It is also a failure to acknowledge that the authors of the copyrighted works do not view the paltry royalties received as “compensation” as argued by AC. Rather it is AC, just as it is the CCC in the United States, that stands to profit from imposition of the tariff.

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