Canadian Universities Make Copyright Compromise

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada reached an agreement with copyright collective Access Copyright on April 16 after protracted negotiations, according to University Affairs. Access Copyright is a not-for-profit organization that represents the rights of, and distributes royalties to, many Canadian writers, artists and publishers. However it remains to be seen how many of Canada’s colleges will choose to sign onto the deal rather than negotiating individual licenses themselves. Universities who accept the deal will pay an annual royalty fee of $26 per full-time-equivalent student for the right to copy and distribute copyright-protected works. That’s a big step up from the previous deal, which combined a small flat fee with a per-page charge that worked out to about $19 per pupil. It is, however, a lot less than the $45 fee Access Copyright initially sought, and now covers digital as well as print formats. (The agreement doesn’t apply to universities in Quebec, which have their own deal with a Quebecois collective that works out to $25.50 per student.) The agreement is retroactive to Jan 1, 2011, and will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2015. Licenses will be renewed automatically for one year-terms during which time either party can cancel the deal or request to renegotiate it. An interim agreement set by the Copyright Board last year after the previous deal expired extended the former pricing structure until the new rate was set. Institutions that operated under the interim agreement and sign the new model license by June 30 will not have to make any retroactive payments. Critics of the deal, such as Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, say the agreement grants rights that don’t require a license, such as hyperlinking, and that the universities should wait for the Canadian government to approve new copyright legislation later this year. Bill C-11 would expand “fair dealing” (the Canadian equivalent of fair use) exemptions to include educational purposes and materials publicly available on the Internet.

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