Friday, May 17, 2013

Two tough questions for Access Copyright

As posted today to the IPC and other lists:

Access Copyright has applied to the Canadian Copyright Board for a tariff to force a $35 / student payment on the post-secondary sector:

This is a tenfold increase from the previous rate.

There are many problems with this proposed tariff: in this post, I'll highlight two, and ask some questions about potential actions that libraries and universities might consider with respect to our licenses:

First, there is the sheer absurdity of paying MORE for copying when so much of what we purchase is bought not in the old single-copy paper model (where paying to make extra copies did make some sense), but rather as electronic resources for which we are already paying a lot more for sitewide access.

Second, it appears to me that this is a system significantly lacking in transparency. Because libraries are already paying quite a bit for usage of many of the resources, perhaps we should be looking carefully to make sure that some of the publishers we are paying are not double-dipping by collecting for sitewide usage with broad-based rights, then collecting again through copyright collectives.

For example, using the Access Copyright lookup tool I see that if I have a copy in digital format only of Elsevier's Accident and Emergency Nursing, then "You may make a copy of this publication under your Access Copyright licence or tariff.*" What's wrong with this picture? Canada's university libraries that subscribe to Science Direct are paying quite a bit for university usage which would include the uses Access Copyright is seeking under the tariff.

This isn't a national issue anymore. There is nothing in the Access Copyright application to the Copyright Board that says that they are collecting money to send to publishers based in other countries, on the Access Copyright website is a link to the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO):

Two questions:

1.    If indeed publishers are collecting via copyright collectives in addition to the revenue that they get from us via licenses that cover the same uses, wouldn't this be a breach of our "This Agreement...shall comprise the complete terms and conditions of use"? If so, this would not be a new breach, but rather one that extends back quite a bit in time, right? If this is the case, it strikes me that this might give our universities potential avenues of legal push-back worth exploring with the campus lawyers.

2.    Should we start asking for full disclosure of participation in copyright collectives in our negotiations? Access Copyright is suing York University. Given that Elsevier content is obviously in Access Copyright's repertoire, then indirectly this is Elsevier suing York University, isn't it?


Dr. Heather G. Morrison
Freedom for scholarship in the internet age