By Patrick Szpak
Associate News Editor
Ryerson student Ardi Mustafa is partaking in a common start-of-term activity: purchasing hundreds of dollars in books and materials for her winter classes.
Clutched under her arm, the fourth-year arts and contemporary studies student holds a plastic wrapped course pack for English 931. It is roughly 300 pages and costs $78.95, or 26 cents a page.
“I think it’s pretty horrible,” Mustafa said on the price of the course pack. She understands that the authors have to be compensated for their work, but she still thinks the price is too steep.
“Personally, I don’t have the money to spend that much on a bunch of photocopies.”
Had Mustafa found and photocopied each reading in her course pack for the usual five cents a page charged by private copiers, she would have paid only $15. How then does one explain the extra $63.95 assessed by Ryerson’s bookstore?
The answer lies in agreements negotiated by Ryerson with Access Copyright, the Canadian copyright licensing agency.
Krista Abramovic is the Lead Hand for copyright at Ryerson’s library. She also worked at Ryerson’s bookstore coordinating the creation of course packs from 2001 to 2003. A large percentage of the cost comes from Ryerson’s agreement with Access Copyright.
In order for Ryerson University to legally copy works for course packs it has negotiated a five-year agreement with Access Copyright to pay royalties to publishers and writers for each page of copied material.
Abramovic said the agreement states a rate the university bookstore must pay for each page it copies for course packs. The rate increases every year, making copying more expensive.
“It has doubled in the last 10 years,” Abramovic said, adding that the rate for 2007 is 10 cents per page, apart from the extra costs of copying, like paper and labour.
She said that if Access Copyright, which manages the rights for over 8,000 publishers and writers, did not have the rights for a publisher in a course pack, Ryerson would have to negotiate directly with that publisher, which could cost much more.
“Sometimes it’s free; sometimes it’s hundreds of dollars. That’s why business students tend to pay so much for their course packs,” Abramovic said. “Access does not hold the rights for things like Harvard Business School.”
Abramovic said the rest of the cost comes from the labour and material cost of copying at Ryerson’s copy centre. The bookstore itself did not make a profit on course packs when Abramovic worked there, saying that the creation of course packs was in fact fairly wasteful.
“No they don’t (make a profit), we used to throw so many out because students wouldn’t buy them.”
That’s the way President Sheldon Levy likes it. “If you said to me we were making big, big profits on it I would be disappointed and surprised,” Levy said.
Ryerson bookstore manager Kelly Abraham said that the bookstore only charges enough to cover cost on the packs, and will actually lose money to keep prices down if royalties for copyright are too high.
Rye students who chose trying to save cash by using reserve copies of the readings in the library or legally photocopying the articles for themselves will save money, but they have already been charged for this copying under Access Copyright’s agreement with Ryerson.
The agreement states that Ryerson must pay a license fee based on the number of full and part-time students enrolled. For 2007, it is $3.38 for each full-time student. This money is meant to pay for general copying like that done by students doing research or saving money on copying assigned course readings.
Janice Winton, executive director of Financial Services at Ryerson, wrote in an e-mail that in 2005-2006 Ryerson paid $50,000 to Access Copyright under the agreement, not including the 10 cent per page cost of creating course packs.
Access Copyright’s annual report states revenues of $31 million in 2005-2006, an increase of 300 per cent since 1995. Of this amount $20 million was distributed to publishers and authors, the rest being used for expenses.
Professor Nima Naghibi teaches Mustafa’s English course and picked the articles in her course pack.
“It’s hard work putting together a course pack,” said Naghibi of putting together the best combination of readings for a course that that are not available in a single book.
“I have the responsibility to offer the best course possible,” said Naghibi, adding that the course pack allows her to do that. She was surprised to hear that her course pack was being sold for $78.95.