Paying up front

File Photo by Elli Garlin

For some students in Ontario, it looks like they’re going to be paying more for copyright fees this upcoming academic year.

At the Wilfrid Laurier University board of governors meeting on June 21, the university approved a motion to move forward in signing onto the new licensing agreement that the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) made with Access Copyright. The new agreement revoked the original $3.38 full-time equivalent (FTE) fee and the $0.10 a page fee for copyrighted materials such as course packs and moved towards charging a $26 FTE fee that is paid up front, effective July 1.

The original model, on average, had students paying $15-18 in copyright fees.

“The new license agreement is just a straight fulltime equivalent fee, there is no longer any $0.10 cent per page copying fee,” explained Shereen Rowe, the university secretary and general counsel. “The bookstore has estimated that there will be an immediate 30 per cent or more drop in the cost of course pack for students, because there will no longer be that copyright fee added to course packs.”

However, if a student doesn’t purchase a single course pack they would still be responsible for that FTE fee. The university, as discussed at the board of governors meeting last week, has agreed to a cost-sharing model in which they will pay 20 percent of the $26 FTE fee. That figure comes to around $5.20, with the rest being covered by students.

“We are pleased with the cost sharing mechanism but ultimately we do not agree with that Access Copyright licensing model that the university has signed off on,” explained Chris Walker, the vice-president of university affairs at the Wilfrid Laurier University Student’s Union.

“We’re seeing an increase in cost for a marginal increase in value.”

Walker also added that students and faculty who purchase printed materials at Kinko’s – which doesn’t fall under Access Copyright – believing it to be cheaper will actually be paying more since the FTE fee is applied to everyone regardless of whether or not they purchases course packages.

The agreement between AUCC and Access Copyright has received criticism from various universities and students. Currently, some universities have opted out of the agreement and have not signed it.

Some of those universities include the University of British Columbia, University of Winnipeg, York University and, more recently, the University of Waterloo.

When asked why Laurier will not opt of the current agreement – which they must sign before June 30 or they face the chance of higher fees – Deb MacLatchy, the vice-president: academic and provost at WLU, said that there isn’t enough resources at the current moment to go alone in copyright or to look for a new publisher.

“I think that with Laurier right now, the decision was made forward to go with this agreement primarily because we don’t have the internal capacity to go it alone right now,” she explained, adding that most universities in Canada will sign the agreement for similar reasons.

Since the agreement begins retroactively from July 1, 2011, the university has until the end of 2015 to discuss policies and further initiatives on what they would want to do with Access Copyright. They can either continue to work with them or chose to opt out like other universities.

“Laurier isn’t in a position right now to be confident that it can meet its obligations, around copyright around the license, it is the best deal for us right now,” asserted Rowe.
Shawn Hudes, a graduate student at Laurier and the graduate representative on the board of governors for the university, felt this agreement was unreasonable.

“Some of the rights that they are selling us, we already have, especially under fair use policy,” Hudes said about the new digital policies that have been outlined in the agreement. He also added that the cost was way too high.

According to Hudes, a lot of the digital materials that are already included in the agreement are available to students for free through the library databases or elsewhere. But with Bill C-11 and new copyright legislation waiting to be passed through senate, a lot of things are unknown.

“A lot of thing are unknown, and my argument is we should wait until they’re clearer. The pressure applied by Access Copyright the kind of high pressure sales tactic that you would get from buying a car,” continued Hudes.

For now, since the agreement is most likely set in stone, the university will have time address the agreement and what Laurier would like to do in the future.

“I think that the next couple of years will give us a better understanding on how to deal with copyright internally,” concluded Rowe. “No deal is ever going to be perfect.”

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