Several Major Canadian Universities Reject Access Copyright Deal, But Who Will Stick Up For Smaller Colleges?
from the not-the-aucc,-apparently dept
When the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) drafted a terrible deal with the collection society Access Copyright, and then withdrew from their fight before the Copyright Board, the onus fell on the schools themselves to stand up for their rights and reject the ridiculous fees and terms of the agreement. Though they were rushed into expressing their "intent to sign", a number of schools have since walked away and announced plans to manage their own copyright clearance, much as major American universities do, while others have capitulated to the deal. Professor Ariel Katz at the University of Toronto (one of the schools that infamously signed a bad deal with Access Copyright before the AUCC agreement, partially on the advice of a lawyer with close ties to pro-stronger-copyright groups and even Access Copyright itself) has been maintaining the Fair Dealing Hall Of F/Sh/ame to keep track of which schools are fighting and which ones are bowing down.
Several major schools have made the Hall of Fame so far: the universities of B.C., Athabasca, Windsor, Winnipeg, York and New Brunswick all turned down the deal in May. Meanwhile, the universities of Manitoba and Victoria have joined U of T and Western, who signed all the way back in January. McMaster University is also listed as signing, but apparently that remains unconfirmed.
Unfortunately, the real losers here are the smaller colleges across Canada, which don't have the resources to set up copyright clearance offices or to assert their fair dealing rights in the tariff fight at the Copyright Board. In theory, that's why we have both the AUCC and Access Copyright: to streamline the process by negotiating a good model agreement that schools can sign, with a set rate that eliminates the hard work of copyright clearance. But that only works if the AUCC does its job and stands up for the schools, making sure that the deal is fair. That didn't happen. For whatever reason, the AUCC failed to strongly assert the fair dealing rights of schools—rights that were strengthened in a series of recent Supreme Court rulings, and which are about to be even further expanded by the soon-to-pass copyright reform bill, all of which should have resulted in lower fees and looser restrictions for schools. Instead, they agreed to significant rate increases, and bizarre restrictions and fees based on rights that don't even exist under copyright law, such as linking and maintaining a personal research archive.
Hopefully, the schools that have chosen (and are able) to cut their own path continue to do so—and maybe, as they demonstrate that it's possible and work out the kinks of their copyright clearance systems, we will begin to see a shift in attitudes surrounding copyright and education that eventually benefits all of Canada's schools. But for the time being, many are going to have to face the consequences of the AUCC's lackluster performance at the negotiating table and before the Copyright Board.