Changing copyright access

On Aug. 31, the U of S will end its agreement with Access Copyright, thereby necessitating a new approach to the use of copyrighted materials.

By Colleen MacPherson

"This will represent a cultural shift at the U of S," said Martin Phillipson, acting vice-provost, faculty relations, and executive sponsor of the Copyright Advisory Committee. "It is a big decision with a number of implications. The biggest challenge will be dealing with course materials. The law of copyright has not changed, but the method of getting permission to copy has changed significantly."

The decision to withdraw from Access Copyright was based on the recommendation of the university's Copyright Advisory Committee and endorsed by the Provost's Committee on Integrated Planning.

Tried and true methods of supplying students with material—the most obvious being photocopied course packs—are not covered by the Access Copyright license unless they are printed by Aug. 31, explained Phillipson, a professor of intellectual property law. "This means that the fall term will be the last term where course packs as we know them will be offered. The rules haven't changed, just the operating environment. We need to set up a system to educate everyone on their rights and obligations under copyright law and ensure that we have compliance with those laws."

Teaching staff will still be able to use PAWS and Blackboard to make material available for students, but all material must be copyright compliant. "As much as possible instructors are encouraged to use open access material, material in the public domain or electronic material covered by one of the many licenses that the University Library holds," he said.

"Notably, research and private study by students is covered under the ‘fair dealing' provisions of copyright law and teaching staff should also be encouraged to assist their students in finding the material themselves. One of the simplest copyright compliant ways of doing this is to provide hyperlinks for students that lead them to materials in licensed databases held by the library."

The impetus behind the decision to withdraw was a substantial fee increase proposed by Access Copyright and its request for access to more university information, he said. "More than 30 other universities across Canada have withdrawn from Access Copyright as of mid-August, so we are not out of step with the Canadian academy in voicing our concern and opting out of the existing structure."

Although this is a common decision, it will require significant adjustments across Canadian campuses. "It is a significant logistical exercise, but technology has already changed the way we access educational materials. I think that most teaching staff will be able to find copyright-friendly material to use in the classroom. The library has incredible resources that are already licensed. We must also strive to ensure that those faculty that need to obtain a license for specific material are able to obtain such permissions."

The Copyright Advisory Committee will continue its work and evaluate all licensing options, he said. "We are making a roadmap, creating policies and procedures and developing guidelines on copyright for teaching staff. We will take appropriate steps to ensure that everyone is properly educated on the rules and we have compliance throughout the campus. We are now figuring out the resources that need to be in place to do this. "The system has to ensure we provide our teachers with what they need to comply, and not to negatively impact the way teaching and learning happens on campus. If we provide information and support, we can manage this transition in a way that ensures that students continue to receive high-quality instruction."