The campaign follows on from the ” Canadian Stories ” by a coalition consisting of over 20 publishing and writers associations. This coalition calls for the federal government “to restore fair compensation to creators, publishers, and writers for the use their works in the education sector.”
Shifting licensing relationships
Before 2012, the majority of post-secondary schools paid Access Copyright to distribute and copy articles and chapters. Access Copyright collects fees from schools, governments, and other institutions for copying on behalf of the authors.
It is true that in the beginning of the 2010s, many post-secondary schools decided not to renew their annual licenses with Access Copyright. Many post-secondary institutions indeed decided not to renew their yearly licences with Access Copyright during the early part of the 2010s.
Many institutions, such as the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University of Alberta, and Dalhousie University, decided to move away from Access Copyright before any changes were made to the Copyright Act. The decision was based on the declining value of the license and technological changes in the publishing industry.
The Access Copyright license served the university community for a long period. In a world of digital disruptions and new acquisition models, it has become less valuable. Libraries constantly make decisions about the purchase and licensing of materials based on the market value of different products and services.
In 2011, the Access Copyright license that only covered photocopies of up to 20% of work was no longer valid, given the increasing impact of digital disruption. In many industries, a shift was occurring from print materials to digital ones.
Publishers are increasingly charging university libraries for online materials. In these license agreements, universities have unlimited access to digital versions of many articles and publications they had previously paid Access Copyright to use. This reduced the need for copies of teaching and learning materials to be made.
The shift from paper to digital readings has affected how university instructors assign them. (Shutterstock)
The shift from physical to digital access and purchasing has also affected how instructors assign readings. Instructors could instead share a digital curriculum with links to library-licensed readings.
The student would need only to enter their library password to access the assigned readings.
What libraries purchase
The shift to digital access has also impacted libraries. This has changed how they purchase materials.
These digital licenses are the primary way that universities now obtain access to and copying rights. This reduces the amount of money needed to cover additional costs for copying, such as Access Copyright license fees.
Universities also pay directly to publishers for specific materials not included in licenses. Educators use more and more freely available online resources, such as YouTube videos.
In spite of the wide variety of educational resources available today, universities still spend large sums on library materials.
Creative writers affected
Access Copyright and the authors discussed in these opinion pieces are mostly creative writers.
Less than two percent of all post-secondary libraries hold Canadian literature that is covered by an Access Copyright license.
Most university courses don’t assign creative writing. The majority of universities purchase and use non-creative research materials and other materials created by students and scholars who do not receive financial compensation for their work.
Universities Canada’s submission to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology to review Canada’s Copyright Act acknowledged changes within the copyright and publishing industry. The funding models for universities are also changing.
In the submission to the Standing Committee, two solutions were proposed for compensating writers who have lost royalties. These included increased funding of the Canada Book Fund as well as including Canadian literature from university libraries in the Canada Public Lending Right Program. This program pays authors annually based on the number of times their books are lent out in Canadian public libraries.
The value of fair dealing to society
All Canadians are entitled to fair dealing, which empowers them to gain access, criticize institutions, educate themselves and create new cultural products.
Education includes any type of instruction — formal or informal. The impact of removing fair dealing from education would extend far beyond universities. In a training session, for example, a local organization could share an article on a critical issue with their staff and volunteers.
Fair dealing is a part of the Copyright Act that is essential to the protection of copyright. It has been upheld by Canadian courts at the highest levels.