Recently, Western University declared that they are cancelling their current agreement with Access Copyright by January 2013 and intend to re-negotiate a new deal starting January 2013. Citing cost as the key issue, the university hopes to renegotiate for a deal that better reflects the current Canadian copyright laws. Access Copyright is a small organization that acts as the middle man for our academic community and the authors of the works we use in course packs, lectures, and research. At a cost of $27.50 per full-time student, it is clear that the cost of the agreement has been a concern for some time. However, criticism of Access Copyright’s agreement should not lie solely with the cost.
The agreement is both out-of-date and invades the privacy of the students, staff, and faculty it is meant to serve. For example, Access Copyright requires the university to monitor and provide samples of the materials placed on course management websites to monitor compliance with Canadian Copyright laws. In addition, their definitions ‘copying’ in the context of accessing and downloading digital copies is inaccurate and is overly restrictive for users. These concerns, coupled with the organization’s less-than-transparent policies and practices, make this and any future agreements increasingly problematic.
With the advent of the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act, students, staff, and faculty are provided with fair dealing and legislative authorizations to access and use materials for the purposes of learning and education, access once provided by Access Copyright. In addition, Access Copyright’s original purpose was the monitor compliance regarding the physical act of copying and ensure that the originators of the work were paid for its use. As more materials are being placed online for academic use and copyright laws have changed, Access Copyright has attempted to modernize its practices but, as a result, has created an inaccurate and invasive set of policies that benefit neither the users nor the creators of these works.
Western University should consider not only terminating their Licensing Agreement with Access Copyright, but creating and implementing their own policy documents regarding copyright and fair dealing. By transitioning away from the middle man and creating an in-house set of policies, the university would be ensuring fair and equal use for students without an invasive and expensive middle-man. By making copyright and fair dealing an internal procedure, the university would be securing a better environment for education and research for students, staff, and faculty, It is time that we looked at the true ‘cost’ of Access Copyright and permanently cancel the agreement.
-Ali F. and Matt B.