Wednesday, December 11, 2013

U of T and Western back out of paying royalties to writers and publishers for copying

Two of Canada's leading universities -- University of Toronto and Western -- are walking away from a 20-year relationship with Access Copyright, the copyright licensing agency. And the Professional Writers Association of Canada is livid about it. As is The Writers' Union of Canada. Essentially, the decision means that the two schools will no longer pay a collective royalty fee to creators through an Access license; in fact it may mean they will pay nothing. 

The two schools had settled with AC in January 2012 and signed a licensing agreement, which was thought to provide a model for other schools to follow. Apparently minds have changed.   
“They seem to have been persuaded by the most fanatical ideologues in their midst that the recent reform of copyright law in Canada gives them free rein to copy at will without any regard for the realities of the marketplace”, said PWAC president Michelle Greysen. “Unfortunately this devaluation of creativity will lead to the general impoverishment of Canada’s knowledge base. As frontline knowledge workers, Canadian writers cannot accept this direction. We are looking at legal options up to and including mounting a class action suit against the universities for infringing upon our economic rights.”
A PWAC press release elaborates
We realize that digital technology has changed in education. But the fact that it is easier to reproduce text and images because they have been reduced to ones and zeros does not mean that the process of creation — the sweat and inspiration and hard critical analysis that goes into professional writing — can be reduced to zero in terms of compensation for the widespread use of a given piece of writing, be it a textbook, a poem or a piece of investigative journalism. Universities don’t provide any other services without paying for them — why should content be free?
A release from Access Copyright says that instead of paying royalties to creators and publishers, the universities will rely on untested "fair dealing" guidelines.
These policies represent a self‐interested interpretation of what some in the education sector would like the law to be. Clearly fair dealing requires clarification. Renewing licences is difficult without fair dealing guidelines that work for everybody – educators, students, creators and publishers. A comprehensive licence from Access Copyright provides pre‐authorized permission, freeing faculty to systematically select and share resources without concern for copyright infringement, while ensuring appropriate rewards for the creators and publishers whose works are used.
 "We are extremely disappointed," said Roanie Levy, executive director of Access Copyright. “Access Copyright’s licence has enabled faculty to create efficient resource packages in both paper and digita lform that are tailored to both their needs and those of their students. Millions of pages are shared in this way every year. Roughly 80% of the content copied comes from books. It is unlikely that access to these titles is licensed by the universities through library or institutional subscriptions.
"Nobody wins in this scenario.That’s why Access Copyright will continue its work in pursuit of a sustainable interpretation of fair dealing that benefits all those who read, write, teach and learn. Copyright should work for everyone."
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