June 25, 2010
By Mark Ferguson
The U of S could soon be paying a lot more money for copyright fees after receiving a $550,000 per year tariff from Access Copyright, the company in charge of distributing copyright royalties on the university’s behalf. Now administration and the university community as a whole must decide whether to continue to do business with an intermediary, or go it alone.
“We’re weighing our options now,” said Judy Yungwirth, director of Corporate Administration and member of the Copyright Advisory Committee. “This is a discussion we need to have – should we or should we not, as a university, pay this fee?”
Yungwirth said she doesn’t know why the increase was so big, but thinks that pending federal bills to update the copyright act and the dramatic increase in online and open-source material could have something to do with it.
She explained that the U of S, and 94 other universities in Canada, rely on the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to negotiate terms with Access Copyright. In return, Access Copyright provides royalties to publishing companies and authors on the university’s behalf. With the current three-year agreement almost up, Access Copyright filed its tariff of $45 per student. With that increase, the U of S would spend about $732,500 per year, or an additional $550,000.
“All of the members of the Copyright Advisory Committee think this increase is unacceptable … one even said this was extortion,” said Yungwirth. “The AUCC feels the same.”
In their last negotiations with Access Copyright, the AUCC agreed to a three-year deal of $3.38 per student per year, as well as 10 cents per page for the re-printing of copyrighted materials, said Yungwirth.
The U of S currently pays $190,000 per year, of which $55,000 comes directly from the central budget to cover the 16,000 students on campus. The remaining $135,000 is paid by students through course-pack fees.
Access Copyright also proposed an interim measure that would extend the current agreement four more months until the end of December, said Yungwirth, one that the AUCC has already endorsed. The tariff, however, was not endorsed, and on June 16, the AUCC Board of Directors issued a statement that they would challenge Access Copyright’s proposed tariff for post-secondary copying, stating in its letter that it was a “significant step backwards for learning” and asked their 95 institutions not to sign any agreements by Access Copyright for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2011.
Now the U of S has two options, said Yungwirth. Option one – comply with the advice of the AUCC after their negotiations with Access Copyright. The other – cut out the intermediary altogether and look at the U of S’s own copyright management and work directly with publishers and utilize more online journals, open source materials, and use the subscriptions that the libraries and colleges already pay for (see story Page 6). That would require more resources, but could save a lot of money for the institution and could be a step forward in a changing environment, said Yungwirth.
“This is a good time to have conversations about what the future might look like for copyrighted materials on campus.”
Comments on the university’s copyright policy can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the copyright website.