Access Copyright Admits That It's Holding Education Hostage Unless Universities Pay Up

from the they-should-be-ashamed-of-themselves dept

We’ve written a few times about Access Copyright, the Canadian collection society that licenses universities and has them pay a per student fee in order to “pay” authors for all the photocopies and handouts professors make for students. Of course, it doesn’t look like very much of that money ever actually makes it to the authors. In the meantime, being in a monopoly position, Access Copyright decided to jack up its fees. And they didn’t just double or triple or even quadruple them. No, Access Copyright decided to go big and attempted to increase the per student fees by a whopping 1300%… and then tried to stifle objections to the plan.

In response to this, a bunch of universities decided opt-out of using Access Copyright, meaning that they all need to deal with making sure copies and coursepacks are properly licensed. Not surprisingly — especially since this was all recently decided, just prior to the semester starting — some universities are struggling mightily to deal with this and to make sure certain uses are cleared.

But what’s really sickening is how Access Copyright appears to be watching this last minute scramble and laughing about it.

Erin Finlay, legal counsel for Access Copyright, said many of the issues that caused the breakdown in the relationship with the universities could have been resolved at the negotiating table. She said the institutions are putting students at a disadvantage.

“When an institution suggests that if you cannot clear this, if you can’t get permission before you post it (online) you’re not entitled to use it, or you have to find a substitute, or you have to find an open access substitute, I think that harms the educational experience, and I think it harms what we teach our children,” Finlay said.

“There’s a much easier way that allows access to all of the works and has allowed access to all of the works for the past 17 years, and that’s through the Access Copyright licence.”

This seems to be a flat out admission that Access Copyright is a monopoly that knows it’s a monopoly and that it can charge outrageous monopoly rents, because there’s no other game in town. And, really, it’s ridiculously cynical to claim that its the universities’ actions that are harming the educational experience. The universities wouldn’t be doing this if Access Copyright hadn’t jacked up the rates 1,300% in the first place… So, if Access Copyright claims that not providing works through it is “harming the educational experience,” it has only itself to blame for offering such a bad deal.

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Comments on “Access Copyright Admits That It's Holding Education Hostage Unless Universities Pay Up”

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30 Comments
Goyo says:

When an institution suggests that if you cannot clear this, if you can’t get permission before you post it (online) you’re not entitled to use it, or you have to find a substitute, or you have to find an open access substitute, I think that harms the educational experience, and I think it harms what we teach our children,”

Is copright law who says these things so is copyright laws who is harming the educational experience and the children.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Mirror mirror

Is copright(sic) law who says these things so is copyright laws who is harming the educational experience and the children.

Isn’t that alot like saying “It’s the gun I’m holding and pointing at you which poses a danger. I myself am largely harmless and wouldn’t even be here if not for this gun”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ASCAP

You wonder why the U.S. is failing. Things like this are the reason why. If students go into the workforce less educated because everything is locked up behind paywalls then those students will know less and hence won’t be able to innovate nearly as much when they finally become engineers and scientists. So what happens? All those jobs go overseas, in countries where they have knowledgeable employees that can do stuff. We fall behind because we don’t know how to do anything because information is too expensive.

Anonymous Coward says:

The stupid part is that Canada’s copyright laws specifically give educational usage a pass. But the universities are so used to hearing bullshit from the industry (and likely government pressure from both Liberals and Conservatives) that they don’t believe it, not to mention the hollow threat of legal action. I actually had to show my English professor the text of the Copyright Act before she made copies of a short story she wanted us to study because she thought making copies was illegal.

out_of_the_blue says:

This is one you should cheer.

“Sam Trosow, associate law professor at the University of Western Ontario, said there might be confusion on campuses for a while, but ultimately it’s a good thing that universities are taking control of their own copyright issues.

He said the institutions have been too risk-adverse when it comes to exercising their fair dealing rights.”

What happened to the usual take that the copyright mafia is doing themselves in? That telling the collection society to go jump in an icy lake is just what’s needed?

In any case, they’re not yet to hostage stage, just switching to reviewing for copyright. I’ll bet that few suits arise, so just calm down.

The Incoherent One (profile) says:

Decisions should not be made simply because something is easy, but instead because it is the right thing to do.

What Access Copyright is doing should not be allowed to occur. Trying to disseminate this type of information to students should not be this complicated, and is even more proof that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

I applaud those schools who have said they will no longer be held hostage by groups like this. I hope that they have the will to see this through and prove that companies like Access Copyright are not needed or necessary.

Zot-Sindi says:

Re: Re:

When an institution suggests that if you cannot clear this, if you can’t get permission before you post it (online) you’re not entitled to use it, or you have to find a substitute, or you have to find an open access substitute, I think that harms the educational experience, and I think it harms what we teach our children,” Finlay said.

haha, ok, sure lady

i like the intense irony of a copyright bandit talking about “harming what we teach children” when copyright is one of the most harmful things to teach children, i don’t know if i will ever stop feeling sick about this whole situation

Jimmy the Geek (profile) says:

Open source education.

Educators need to get together and write their own material. 10,000 English teachers could write a lot of open source English books. 10,000 Science teachers could write a lot of science books.

Want your works to be even mentioned in college? You better be specifically licensing your works as free for education. Or you will disappear from history until your works enter the public domain.

Arthur Author says:

What a swell idea!

All the comments here seem to take the view that those who create, and invest in the creation of intellectual property should not be compensated for its use.

Neat idea!

Everyone knows that teachers work for free. And that the power company gives schools electricity at no cost. Just like car and truck makers, oil companies and drivers all kick in no- cost transportation to the education system. What else? Heat, insurance, telephone service, lab suppliers, furniture makers, construction companies – and let’s not forget all the banks that extend zero-interest non-repayable loans to schools, colleges and universities. Wait! I forgot that all the custodial, administrative and maintenance workers willingly work for no compensation.

It’s only when you take all these well-known facts into account that the outrageousness of authors and publishers can be seen in their true light. How DARE they ask for money?!

One more thing: we should also extend out gratitude to Ricoh, Xerox and all the makers of photocopiers, toner and paper who supply the schools gratis. Good fellas all.

Judith says:

Sometimes you wonder!!

I’m sure that a large part of the 1300% increase is the fact that lots of us are now cowering whenever we hear the term “copyright”, with its legalistic and lawsuit overtones. Of course, this in large part can be attributed to recent years where copyright has really become a huge part of the new information sharing on the www.

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