Kilpatrick: Librarian association objects to copyright deal

On Jan. 30, Western, the University of Toronto and Access Copyright, Canada’s copyright licensing agency, reached a licensing agreement on the reproduction of copyrighted works on campus that increases the annual fee per full time equivalent (FTE) student to $27.50.

The agreement was made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011, which is why Western students recently received ‘rebate’ cheques that represented the difference between the $27.50 fee and the higher fee the university put in place last year.

Unjustified and burdensome, the university has passed this excessive increase onto students with no real consultation, discussion or approval from the Western student body.

Fundamentally flawed, the licensing agreement features broad definitions of key terms and gives Access Copyright rights that do not exist under Canada’s Copyright Act. The agreement expands the definition of ‘copy’ to include posting a link to a digital copy, a definition not set out or supported by the Copyright Act or court decisions interpreting the act.

An intrusive invasion of privacy, the agreement violates academic freedom and may have serious negative consequences for the students, faculty and librarians of Western. The licensing agreement mandates the creation of survey instruments to monitor the volume of copyrighted works in use. With the expanded definition of ‘copy’ and the reference to email in the definition of ‘course collection,’ the agreement could require the university to monitor students, faculty, and librarians and their email accounts and course content for use of copyrighted materials.

As the rising number of colleges and universities opting out of continued arrangements with Access Copyright understand, Access Copyright licensing agreements have become increasingly unnecessary. The rights granted are limited and do not go beyond established user rights like fair dealing. As fair dealing has been strengthened, the academic community has begun to move away from traditional licensing agreements like Access Copyright. More than 30 Canadian universities have elected to opt-out from dealing with Access Copyright and are actively exploring alternatives to the license.

Modern and innovative alternatives include making better use of the fair dealing rights under existing copyright law, expanding access to direct site-licensed material through Western Libraries, and increasing use of open access materials.

Western’s decision to sign the agreement is poorly timed. Pending amendments to the Copyright Act in Parliament and decisions from the Supreme Court may clarify and expand user rights for Canadian universities.

The Progressive Librarians Guild (London Chapter) supports the move to reject Access Copyright and this agreement. Unfortunately, Western’s decision to enter the agreement has significantly undermined the continuing efforts of colleges and universities across Canada to oppose the proposed tariff at the Copyright Board.

The Progressive Librarians Guild condemns the Access Copyright licensing agreement and urges Western to cancel the agreement.

 Alan Kilpatrick
Progressive Librarians Guild (London Chapter)