from the also:-our-jacked-up-rates-no-longer-as-lucrative-as-they-used-to-be dept
Access Copyright, the Canadian collection society that licenses publications for use in Canadian educational institutions, increased its per student rates 1,300% back in 2010. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the term “pricing yourself out of the market” could have predicted the inevitable outcome. Faced with suddenly exorbitant fees (that even covered stuff nominally outside of AC’s purview — like hyperlinks), Canadian universities dropped Access Copyright and began working to license educational materials without AC’s assistance.
Access Copyright thought being the “only game in town” would prevent a mass exodus, but it soon became clear universities would be more than happy to deal with the complexities of direct licensing rather than take the easy route and be gouged by AC. (Fun fact: rates jumped 1,300% but less than 10% of these fees make their way back to the actual authors.) 14 of Canada’s top 25 universities had dropped Access Copyright by the middle of 2011.
US publishers aren’t happy with the outcome of Access Copyright’s rate hike, which has resulted in a considerable revenue drop. Of course, they don’t blame Access Copyright. In its submission for the 2014 Special 301 report (the report that serves as the copyright industries’ naughty/nice list), IIPA (the uber trade group representing all of the other copyright maximalist trade groups) blames everyone and everything but Access Copyright.
As the Canadian education community continues to shift away from the Access Copyright licence, relying instead on a combination of site licenses for materials, open access, fair dealing, and individual transactional licences, U.S. publishers are now urging the U.S. government to pressure the Canadian government to take action.
Yep, the problem here is fair dealing (the Canadian version of fair use), open access and the universities’ willingness to swim in the convoluted waters of individual licensing rather than be extorted by Access Copyright. A few long paragraphs from the submission detail US publishers’ unhappiness with the current situation and their expectation that the US government will “do something” to restore its access to exorbitant licensing fees.
U.S. publishers serving the educational market with textbooks, journals and other materials are currently facing a comprehensive collapse of an important element of their Canadian market: licensing revenue for permission to copy works for educational uses. Well-established collective licensing mechanisms for administering such permissions are reeling under the combined impact of adverse judicial decisions and drastic legislative changes.
Interrupted here to note that US publishers do not consider a steep rate hike to be the problem. Instead they call out “judicial decisions” and “drastic legislative changes,” ignoring the economic reality that if you suddenly jack up prices, customers tend to flee.
The Copyright Modernization Act added “education” to the list of purposes (such as research and private study) that qualify for the fair dealing exception. Because “education” is not defined, the amendment creates an obvious risk of unpredictable impacts extending far beyond teaching in bona fide educational institutions (and far beyond materials created specifically for use by such institutions).
Entities heavily vested in copyright protection hate exceptions…
Even before the fair dealing amendment came into force, some of the decisions in the “pentalogy” of copyright decisions issued by Canada’s Supreme Court in July 2012 posed a direct threat to the educational licensing market. These decisions underscored, among other things, that Canadian courts are to treat fair dealing, not as an exception, but as a “user’s right,” subject to a “large and liberal interpretation”; that the purposes of the putative user, not those of a commercial or non-commercial intermediary that actually makes the copy and supplies it to the user, are of primary relevance in determining whether a dealing is fair; and, that factors such as the availability of a license to make the use, and even the overall impact of widespread unlicensed use on the actual or potential markets for the work, carry much less weight in Canadian law than they do in U.S. fair use jurisprudence.
Canada has gone considerably farther than the US, viewing fair dealing both as a right and something subject to “liberal interpretation.” The complaint here boils down to that last sentence: Canada’s law isn’t as restrictive as the US’s and, therefore, must be forced into compliance by the US government.
Although the Alberta Education v. Access Copyright case in the Supreme Court’s pentalogy directly affected only a marginal aspect of the educational copying collective licenses — reprographic copying of a few pages per student per year of short excerpts of already purchased supplemental texts by K-12 teachers for use in class instruction — its ultimate impact has been much more destructive.
Only in the fevered mind of a maximalist is expanding fair use exceptions considered “destructive.” Keep in mind that this is an industry that is actively begging its respective governments to help it make it more expensive to educate students.
Lawyers for primary and secondary school systems across Canada, giving both the precedents and the new fair dealing amendment the “large and liberal” reading that the pentalogy decisions encouraged, concluded that fair dealing now eliminates the need for them to obtain any license from a collecting society such as Access Copyright, including for uses such as copying of primary textbooks or of newspaper articles, course packs, digital copying (including digital storage and distribution through learning management systems), and copying for uses outside the classroom. Consequently, as soon as the new Act came into force, virtually all K-12 school boards across Canada cancelled their licenses with Access Copyright.
The publishers once again fail to consider the possibility that lower rates might have helped it retain more licensees. This isn’t just because of legislation and court decisions. This is also the bleeding that normally results from an enormous, self-inflicted wound.
Anticipated 2013 annual licensing revenue of at least C$12 million to right holders and authors — much of it destined for U.S. publishers, which enjoy a large market share in the educational sector – evaporated. Similar legal advice was provided to post-secondary institutions, and many of them have declined to renew their Access Copyright licenses as they expire. Access Copyright negotiations with two of Canada’s largest universities — the University of Toronto and Western University – collapsed in recent weeks over this issue. The licensing revenue stream from higher education – historically larger than the K-12 revenue – is thus in immediate jeopardy…
Just in case anyone reading the submission might be unsure of whose interests are being protected, the publishers spell it out in black and white.
After stating its case against fair dealing, the publishers move on to their demands for government intervention.
Publishers are already re-assessing their planned investments in new materials for this core market. We urge the U.S. government to engage with Canadian authorities to ameliorate this threat to the entire educational publishing market in Canada, which is already having deleterious impacts on publishing revenue, investments and jobs on both sides of the border.
In other words, punish the Canadian government for Access Copyright’s sins.
But all of this above isn’t even the best/worst aspect of this submission. This long complaint about the whirlwind Access Copyright reaped after its 1,300% fee increase makes up the bulk of a subsection in the IIPA’s submission. Guess what subheading the US publishers chose to place their attack on fair dealing under.
The Piracy and Infringement Situation in Canada – Offline
That’s right. US publishers feel fair dealing exceptions are inseparable from piracy and infringement. Legal exceptions also known as the rights of users, backed by Canadian legislation and judicial decisions, are discussed (well, complained about) in a subsection supposedly dealing with infringing activity. By the time the US publishers have finished griping about fair dealing, there’s hardly any room left to discuss actual infringement or piracy. But if you have any doubts about the mindset of US publishers when it comes to fair use exceptions, check this out. This is the last sentence of the last paragraph dealing with Access Copyright and fair dealing.
Even if some expanded uses are permitted, the appropriate balance must still be struck so that educational publishers are duly compensated for their works, thus ensuring a viable domestic marketplace for commercially-published educational materials.
This is the first sentence of the immediately following paragraph.
Serious piracy problems persist in Canada’s offline marketplace as well.
The annual Special 301 reports have always been a joke — albeit an in-joke created by lobbyists and subservient government officials. If there was ever any doubt US copyright industries are lobbying hard for the US government to remake the world’s IP laws in its own image, this long complaint about the “unfairness” of another country’s fair dealing laws completely erases it.