To the Carleton University Community,

Carleton University is considering the imposition of an unreasonable copyright scheme that would result in a substantial fee to be paid by students. The issue of copyright and access to scholarly communications in Canada has been a widely discussed and debated subject over the last year. In an age of technological advancements and evolving attitudes towards public access to knowledge creation, the copyright licensing organisation Access Copyright has sought to gain funds from public colleges and universities through inflated costs and bullying tactics.

Recently, the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC) dropped their objector status at the Copyright Board of Canada against Access Copyright’s proposed licensing increase from $3.38 to $45.00 per student. Following its change of heart, the AUCC signed a Model License with Access Copyright. This new model is now before Canadian colleges and universities and if adopted would implement a $26.00 per student fee, along with other dubious financial and legal obligations.

Access Copyright is a licensing agency that has rights to and administers copyright licenses for an unknown repertoire of copyrighted works. It sells licenses to post-secondary institutions as a form of ‘advance permission to reproduce’. In 2010, Access Copyright proposed a new tariff and licensing regime to the Copyright Board of Canada. This new scheme proposed to increase the per student cost from $3.38 to $45.00 for universities and $35.00 for other educational institutions. No justification for this increase has ever been provided. Given the increasing use of open access content, material publicly available over the internet, and direct licensing arrangements between universities and publishers it would seem reasonable to expect the tariff to decrease.

As of January 1, 2011 Carleton University chose to no longer be licensed with Access Copyright. The Academic Research Committee of Carleton University approved a Fair Dealing Policy in December 2010, which was subsequently amended in January 2011. This policy is modelled on guidelines developed by the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC). Carleton University demonstrated leadership by choosing not to renew with Access Copyright and, in coordination with its Library staff, has done an excellent job of maintaining student and faculty access to copyrighted works and ensuring compliance with copyright laws.

Although Access Copyright has dropped the fee from $45.00 to $26.00, it remains unreasonable and exploitative. Furthermore, the proposed Model License that educational intuitions such as Carleton University are being asked to sign contains highly questionable clauses that are both regressive and overreaching. Such clauses include:

  • Prohibiting students and researchers from storing and cataloguing journal articles, effectively making a person with a library of research materials in violation of the license model.
  • Payment for rights already granted under copyright legislation – such as copying or pasting hyperlinks, something which contradicts a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.1
  • Prohibiting the storage of materials on networks other than those operated and controlled by the university. For example, USB drives, Dropbox, and email.

Clearly, clauses such as these within the Model License arrangement are troubling, particularly when coupled with the minimum $26.00 per student fee. To make matters worse, Access Copyright has imposed a signing deadline of May 15, 2012. If educational institutions do not wish to face a dramatic increase in retroactive payments and/or threats of legal actions and invasive surveillance tactics they must sign by this deadline.

We would like to make it clear that it is not necessary to sign on to Access Copyright and AUCC’s Model License. The actions of Access Copyright would seem to amount to little more than a form of extortion. This is evident given the fact that existing rights are being rescinded and that payment of these inflated fees serves only as protection from the company purporting to provide it.

Alternatives to Access Copyright’s demands do exist, one of which Carleton and other universities have already managed to successfully implement and maintain. We strongly urge the Carleton community to speak out against the possibility of Carleton’s engagement with Access Copyright and AUCC’s Model License arrangement.

The Carleton Graduate Students’ Association and others in the student body are firmly against having the $26.00 fee and its associated conditions imposed upon us. It is of particular importance that the Carleton community reject this unreasonable scheme, especially at a time when Canadians are immersed in a discourse surrounding public education and the rights of citizens to access and share in knowledge creation.

Kelly Black
Graduate Students’ Association
More information on copyright is widely available:

Canadian Federation of Students
Ariel Katz – “The Best Possible Outcome for Universities, Really?”
Canadian Association of Research Libraries

  1. Crookes v. Newton, 2011 SCC 47, [2011] 3 S.C.R. 269