Opponents of Access Copyright were dealt what have been a final blow last month, when the Association of University and Colleges of Canada signed an agreement with the licensing agency, effectively putting an end to nearly two years of negotiations.
The agreement will see universities pay a flat fee of $26 per full-time student in exchange for the use of copyrighted materials, replacing the old fee structure of $3.38 per student plus 10 cents per page for course packs.
“We believe that this negotiated agreement provides the best possible outcome for universities, their students and faculty,” Paul Davidson, president of the AUCC, said. “It […] respects the principles of academic freedom and privacy that are important to universities, and ensures that the administrative burden on institutions is minimized.”
However, the agreement was met with backlash from groups who believed universities looking to use copyrighted materials should not have to go through Access Copyright, such as the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
“[The agreement] expands the definition of copying beyond what is supported by law [and] is vastly over-priced for the limited and restricted reproduction rights it provides,” Paul Jones, policy and education officer of CAUT, explained. “ [This agreement] generally represents a broad setback for the progressive use of copyrighted materials in the education and research context.”
Samuel Trosow, a law professor at Western who has been critical of Access Copyright in recent years, called the agreement “a very bad deal for students and faculty alike.”
“I strongly believe that Access Copyright is an antiquated business model and there are better ways of making course materials available to students in a copyright compliant manner.”
Trosow laid part of the blame for the agreement at the feet of Western and University of Toronto for striking deals of their own with Access Copyright in January.
“By entering into separate licensing agreements with Access Copyright back in January, Western and U of T undermined the ongoing efforts of all of the other Canadian universities to oppose the very unreasonable tariff that Access Copyright had pending,” Trosow said. “Unfortunately, Western and U of T have led a race to the bottom, and AUCC followed.”
Jones also blamed Western and U of T for weakening the united front presented by universities against Access Copyright.
“[The front] has now collapsed almost completely with the creation of the model license,” Jones said. “Institutions that try to maintain the fight have been dealt a setback by the actions of AUCC and will face greater challenges in continuing to confront Access Copyright.”
From Western’s perspective, it remains to be seen how the AUCC’s model licensing agreement will affect the one Western struck in January, which charged $27.50 per student, $2.50 of which was paid for by the university. The University Students’ Council opposed the agreement and had previously asked the university to opt out of Access Copyright in November.
“The USC’s opposition to the Western AC fee was because we believed they had improperly increased the fee without our consent,” Patrick Searle, outgoing vice-president university affairs for the USC, stated in an April press release. “Unfortunately, after what feels like a year of fighting, our case has now fallen flat.”
Searle said the USC will now be committed to making sure Western brings the fee down to $23.50 per student, with the University paying $2.50 of the model $26 rate