Copying concerns

New copyright licence questioned

Queen’s must make a final decision about signing the Access Copyright agreement by June 30.
Queen’s must make a final decision about signing the Access Copyright agreement by June 30.
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Students could be facing $22.50 in new student fees this fall if Queen’s signs a new copyright agreement.

The agreement would change how copyrighted materials are accessed and paid for. The decision has caused a stir among student groups and other Queen’s community members.

In May, Queen’s signed a non-binding letter of intent to support the model licence. The letter of intent commits Queen’s to making a final decision by June 30.

Queen’s opted out of a previously proposed agreement with Access Copyright in 2011.

The original agreement had included a fee of $45 per full-time equivalent student (FTE) which has since been reduced to $26 after negotiations between Access Copyright and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), a group that represents universities across the country. In May, the Board of Trustees approved a charge of up to $22.50 per student, with Queen’s paying the difference. Under the previous agreement, Queen’s paid the entire fee of $3.38.

The AMS, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students, the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) and the Queen’s University Librarians and Archivists (QULA) are among those who have already spoken out against signing the licence.

“No one is happy about this agreement. Which strikes me as a reason not to sign it,” AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Mira Dineen said.

If signed, the new agreement would last until December 31, 2015. From then on, the contract would be automatically extended by consecutive one-year terms unless schools decide not to renew.

Should any university not sign, they could face a $45 tariff per FTE, which Access Copyright has proposed to the Copyright Board of Education.

The tariffs would cover the period that Queen’s operated without a licence, since January 2011.

Other schools like the University of Victoria have said they signed the agreement “reluctantly as a strategy to mitigate the risk of litigation by Access Copyright in the immediate future.”

“The concern of the AMS is that students at Queen’s will be forced to bear the cost of protecting against that legal action,” Dineen, ArtSci ’11, said. Under the previous agreement, students had to pay $0.10 per page of print for course packs to go towards royalties, but under the new agreement these fees will already be covered. Yet, the $22.50 fee that students will pay if the agreement is signed will apply to students from all faculties, regardless of whether they buy course packs or not.

AMS Vice-President of Operations Tristan Lee said 90 per cent of students who purchased course packs at the Publishing & Copy Centre last year were from the Faculty of Arts and Science. “While the AMS is happy that Access Copyright would bring down the overall cost of course packs, we are concerned about the distribution of those benefits among our members,” he told the Journal via email.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Christine Tausig Ford said the pay-per-copy model doesn’t work well for digital copying.

“Monitoring of all digital copying would be intrusive, administratively burdensome, and would not respect the principles of academic freedom and privacy,” she told the Journal via email.

The Access Copyright agreement would require Queen’s to keep a record of all copies made which Access Copyright can audit at their request.

Some of the agreement’s features include extending the definition of copying to include “posting a link or hyperlink to a digital copy” and documents sent by email. “Under the model licence, there will be no monitoring or surveying of faculty and student e-mail communications or chat rooms,” Tausig Ford clarified. The timing is another concern; Bill C-11, which passed in the House of Commons on June 18, grants educational institutions fair dealing, which means they get some exemptions to copyright law, especially in regard to digital copies.

On June 7, the University announced its invitation for community members to comment on the licence through a webpage created on the University Library website.

This came after a motion to urge the University not to sign with Access Copyright was rejected at Senate on May 22.

Mark Jones, a professor in the English department put forward the motion. He feels that it would be irresponsible to sign the agreement because of concerns over fees and possible surveillance.

“Eight other universities have decided not to [sign the agreement],” he told the Journal.

Those schools include the University of British Columbia, Athabasca University, the University of Windsor and the University of Winnipeg.

“Obviously they do not feel that the potential financial consequences were going to be ruinous to them,” Jones said.

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