by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 15th 2011 5:12am
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Aug 1st 2011 3:16pm
from the unfair-'deals'-are-paving-the-way-for-an-explosion-of-'fair-dealing& dept
As of July 29th, the list looks like this:
1. Columbia Bible College (BC)
2. Royal Roads University (BC)
3. Quest University (BC)
4. University of Calgary (AB)
5. Lethbridge College (AB)
6. University of Alberta (AB)
7. Mount Royal University (AB)
8. Portage College (AB)
9. Athabasca University (AB)
10. NorQuest College (AB)
11. University of Manitoba (MB)
12. University of Saskatchewan (SK)
13. University of Regina (SK)
14. University of Guelph (ON)
15. Queens University (ON)
16. University of Waterloo (ON)
17. University of Windsor (ON)
18. York University (ON)
19. Carleton University (ON)
20. Holland College (PEI)
21. University of PEI (PEI)
22. University of New Brunswick (NB)
23. Memorial University (NL)
24. Mount Saint Vincent University (NS)
25. Acadia University (NS)
26. Dalhousie University (NS)
As Geist points out, this is going to hit Access Copyright hard:
The current list includes 14 of the 25 biggest Canadian universities (as measured by the number of students).
Looks like Access Copyright is going to have to swiftly familiarize itself with an economic truism, one that most politicians seem unable to comprehend: If you tax something (and that's really what this is -- an arbitrary fee that enables Access Copyright to stay solvent enough to ask for more arbitrary fees), you get less of it.
This sort of misguided thinking rarely troubles businesses that provide products and services. These businesses are (usually) at the mercy of the customers who help determine, via "vote by wallet," what they can charge for their products. However, entities like royalty collection services and governments somehow still feel that they can increase their fees in order to increase their total income, despite repeated evidence to the contrary.
Ask New York City how that huge cigarette tax is working out for them. It's increased the per-pack fee so much that smokers are becoming amateur bootleggers. How about you, Chicago? Slapped a nickel-per-bottle tax on bottled water, did you? Enjoy watching all those extra nickels roll right out to the suburbs. How's that "tax the hell out of Amazon" plan coming along, various states? Null set?
Same thing here. By asking for more (much more), Access Copyright is pricing itself right out of the market. At this point its balance sheets are going to need a complete overhaul. This short-sighted plan most likely led to irrational exuberance at the AC offices, but once everyone sobers up (and that list of universities is pretty sobering), they're going to find that a 1,300% fee increase is going to do some particularly ugly things to the bottom line.
Even worse, this tariff is supposed to benefit the many writers, artists, etc. that Access Copyright represents. So, through no fault of their own, these "represented" artists are going to see diminishing returns on their investment in copyright. Whoever came up with the "skyrocketing tariff" plan needs to be removed from their position posthaste. (Unless Access Copyright is taking suggestions from mailroom clerks or that one guy at the end of the bar, in which case no further action is necessary. Or wise.) Sooner or later, the practice of increasing fees to offset dwindling revenue catches up with businesses like these and they end up fading away, trying desperately to multiply by zero.
by Nancy Sims
Thu, Jun 9th 2011 4:29pm
from the fair-use-for-education dept
Recently, Tim Geigner had a post about the lawsuit concerning fair use at Georgia State University. Nancy Sims, the Copyright Librarian at University of Minnesota Libraries offered to write up a guest post delving into the deeper issues raised by this lawsuit.
Trial is currently under way in a copyright suit against Georgia State University brought by a number of academic publishers (and funded by an interesting additional party). We won't know the outcome of the trial for a while, and the losing party (whoever it ends up being) will almost certainly appeal the district court's decision, so the case hasn't attracted much attention outside of academic spheres. But it has the potential to set some far-reaching precedents on fair use, and anyone interesting in copyright and tech policy should be following.
The publisher-plaintiffs are suing over the way instructors (and possibly others on campus) share course readings like academic articles and excerpts from academic books. They are objecting both to readings posted on course websites (i.e., uploaded by instructors and accessible only to students registered for a course) and readings shared via "e-reserves" (i.e., shared online through university libraries, usually also with access restricted to students registered for the course). The publishers claim that sharing copies of readings with students is not usually a fair use, that faculty can't really be trusted to make their own calls about what is or is not fair use, and that permissions fees should be paid for most of these uses.
Without going into the details of the draconian injunction the publishers have requested if they prevail, the baseline claim of the lawsuit - that few of these uses are fair uses - is a pretty extreme one. The publisher-plaintiffs are emphasizing that online sharing of readings is equivalent to paper photocopied coursepacks, because lawsuits in the 1990s established that it's not fair use when commercial copy shops sell paper coursepacks for profit. Suddenly the copy shops (which had been providing the coursepacks for just over reproduction costs) had to clear licensing for each article or chapter included. (Fun party trick: to identify which individuals in a room full of academics were students later than 1996; simply ask them whether their coursepacks were affordable, or expensive. Additional fun: watch the expressions on the faces of pre-1996 students when you tell them how much coursepacks currently cost students - as much as $500 per pack!) Incidentally, the Copyright Clearance Center, the ostensibly non-profit organization that facilitates paying for those permissions, although not a party to the Georgia State suit, is underwriting the publisher-plaintiffs' litigation fees.
But the "coursepack cases" were all focused on copying at commercial copy shops. None of the currently-contested uses are for-profit. The only market harm is that the publishers are willing to license every use, but the academic community is not taking them up on this offer. (Much of the content shared in course websites has even already been purchased once for campus use as licensed library resources - although most of the licenses are only for access through the publisher website. E-reserve materials are less likely to be materials for which the library already has subscription access - they're more likely to be unique or one-off materials.) While the fair use statute does say that harm to "potential markets" is relevant to a fair use determination, a ruling against fair use at Georgia State would do a lot to establish that any time a copyright holder is willing to sell a license, not taking them up on it is inherently infringement.
It is also helpful for the plaintiffs to focus on coursepacks because in those cases, copy shops were held responsible for the decisions instructors made about what readings to copy for their students. In the Georgia State case, the plaintiffs are arguing not just that most course reading uses are not fair uses, but that the University should be responsible for individual instructors' decisions on fair use. Certainly, individual instructors may make bad decisions about fair use sometimes, but the publishers don't want to deal with the inefficiency and negative PR that would accompany suing individual instructors. Trying to have the institution held liable makes for a very efficient lawsuit, and if the tactic succeeds, will force the institution to develop a single policy on use of course materials - vitiating the flexibility and case-by-case determination that fair use is supposed to provide far more rapidly than suits against individuals would.
However much the plaintiffs would like it to be so, paper coursepacks are not the only relevant comparison. For example "e-reserves" are very similar to more traditional "course reserves", where a physical copy of an item is held "on reserve" at the library and individual students can check it out for short periods of time. Most students check out reserve materials just long enough to photocopy or scan the readings for their own use - and many would accept that those personal copies are legitimate fair uses. Sharing articles on course websites is very similar to an instructor handing out paper copies in class - again, a practice many would consider to be a fair use. Even the existing precedents against some uses of research articles admit that making personal copies of articles for research is often a fair use - "We do not deal with the question of copying by an individual, for personal use in research or otherwise (not for resale), recognizing that under the fair use doctrine or the de minimis doctrine, such a practice by an individual might well not constitute an infringement." (AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION v. TEXACO INC., 60 F.3d 913 (2nd Cir. 1994).)
Finally, the copyright statute explicitly includes "multiple copies for classroom use" as an example of a fair use. Certainly it is possible that some of the e-reserves and course website uses that instructors undertake trespass outside the bounds of fair use. But no institution can police use decisions on the part of all its participants at the level of responsibility this suit seeks to impose without creating policies that wipe out any contextual sensitivity or flexibility in what is supposed to be copyright's "breathing space". Additionally, because copies for classroom use are an archetypical fair use, if the publisher-plaintiffs prevail in this suit, it undermines fair use claims in all of the other areas explicitly listed in the statute (including "criticism, comment, news reporting, [...] scholarship, or research") - much less those not enumerated specifically as examples of fair uses. This obscure academic fair use lawsuit has the potential for broad impact on us all.
Update: Since this post was written, there have been some updates on the case, which you can read about here. It appears that the "nightmare scenario" has been avoided for now...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 9th 2010 9:44pm
university of glasgow
from the good-for-them dept
The other problem is that, since these tech transfer offices are focused on making money, and all they have to sell is patents, they started to overvalue the patents themselves, making them prohibitively expensive, which actually decreased the ability to get those ideas out to the commercial sector and to turn that research into big money. And, did we mention how expensive it is to set up and run some of these tech transfer offices? A study from a few years back found that the majority of tech transfer offices lost money, with only a tiny handful (somewhere around a dozen) actually making money.
Oh, and on top of all that, this focus on putting up locks for the sake of charging has actually made basic research much harder as well, since much of it is based on freely sharing ideas -- which is made more difficult when you want to hoard the idea in order to get a patent.
At some point, you would think universities would recognize this. They're losing money, harming their own research and going against their basic principles as institutions for disseminating knowledge. Thankfully, some are finally starting to get the message. James Boyle points us to the news that the University of Glasgow has announced that it will be offering up most of its research under a free license. It is still reserving a few "key" bits of research for fee-based licensing, but it appears the default will now be free, which seems like it should be a good thing in terms of actually commercializing the research out of the university.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 9th 2010 4:02am
MPAA Reminding Universities They Need To Crack Down On File Sharing -- Leaves Out How It Lied To Get The Law Passed
from the omissions dept
So, the entire law was passed under totally false pretenses. If Congress had any sense of what's right, it would repeal the law. But, instead, the law went into effect recently, and now the MPAA is sending out letters reminding universities that they need to start acting like copyright cops. Of course, they leave out the fact that they got the law put in place by lying to Congress. Funny how they would omit that. So, kids, the lesson of the day is: it's okay to lie to Congress to force colleges to spend money to protect your obsolete business model, but sharing a movie you really liked with a friend is evil. Makes sense.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 24th 2010 2:13am
from the logo-wars dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 12th 2010 11:57am
valdosta state university
from the this-is-what-we-teach-people? dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 4th 2010 3:24pm
from the bye-bye-used-book-market dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 3rd 2010 12:58am
from the locking-up-research-is-a-failure dept
But, because of this, tons of universities thought they were going to be rich and set up "tech transfer" offices to help license this new found wealth of patents. Reality hasn't been kind. With a small number of exceptions (the big famous universities like Stanford and MIT), nearly every one of these tech transfer offices have lost money for the universities that set them up. In part, this is often because tech transfer offices like to overvalue the patent, and completely undervalue the actual execution necessary. But, more importantly, the research that comes out in this manner often just doesn't have that much commercial potential -- and a big reason for that may actually be the patents themselves.
By locking up the technology with patents, it's decreased incentives for sharing ideas, which is where real growth and real innovation comes from. The end result is -- entirely contrary to the predictions of Bayh-Dole supporters -- that the law has decreased the output of researchers and decreased the value of that output. In other words, it's done the exact opposite of what it's promised -- and yet we still don't hear any talk of repealing such a dangerous law.
There's now some new research on trying to patent and commercialize university research, this time coming out of Canada, and it, too, has found that there's very little evidence of benefit from patenting and trying to license university research. Effectively, it found that the costs and benefits almost even out.
The latest report is based on survey data from 2008 which finds that the total IP income (primarily from licencing) at reporting Canadian universities was $53.2 million. The cost of generating this income? The reporting institutions employed 321 full-time employees in IP management for a cost of $51.1 million. In other words, after these direct costs, the total surplus for all Canadian universities was $2.1 million. The average income per university from IP was only $425,000. Patent applications and patents issued were actually down in the reporting institutions and there were less than two-dozen spin-off companies reported by the universities.So, it's another bit of research suggesting this effort to patent university research has not done what it promised to do. So why do politicians still support such laws, when the empirical evidence has long shown that it does not do what those very same politicians promised?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 16th 2010 9:53am
Gov't Reminds Colleges They Need To Start Taking Money From Students And Sending It To The Entertainment Industry
from the nice-of-them dept
34 CFR 668.14(b)(30) also requires that an institution, in consultation with the chief technology officer or other designated officer of the institution, to the extent practicable, offer legal alternatives to illegal downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, as determined by the institution. An institution must periodically review the legal alternatives for downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted material, and make the results of the review available to its students through a Web site or other means.It was a clear case of the government creating subsidies for the entertainment industry, by taking money away from students and education. It's difficult to see how anyone can defend such a law. Universities that fail to do this face the possibility of losing financial aid for students. Seriously.
We hadn't heard much about this in a while, but Michael Scott points us to the news that the Department of Education has started sending out letters reminding universities and colleges that this part of the law goes into effect in July. The letter itself reminds universities of the various requirements to stay on the entertainment industry's good side. Higher Education Opportunity Act or Subsidize the Entertainment Industry Again Act?