By Lee Richardson
Ryerson University is one of a few universities involved in creating a legal position against a potential copyright system that could significantly increase student fees.
The new proposal by Access Copyright – a leading Canadian copyright license provider – aims to overhaul copyright policy in the age of increasing digital course material.
“If a teacher tries to send out a hyperlink to an article to a class, saying to the class ‘Go to this website and read this article,’ they’re saying that that should count as copying,” said Noah Stewart of the (CFS) Canadian Federation of Students.
Such a shift would see the current flat-rate fee of $3.38 per student plus 10 cents per page of copied material (such as pages of a course pack) increase to a blended flat-rate fee of $45 per university student. College students would see an increase to $35.
“That’s ridiculous, it’s already expensive to go to school,” said Second year Social Work student, Sawyer Pow. “You’re just sharing information, there should be a difference between sharing information and using it for your own gain.”
However, Access Copyright maintains that this simply an eventual development as course reading materials gradually shift towards digital.
“All we’re trying to do is get a fair rate for our members who are Canadian, and international authors and publishers,” said Erin Finlay, Manager of legal services at Access Copyright.
“We’re trying to get a fair rate for when colleges and universities use or copy works instead of buying them.” A collective legal position from universities across Canada has been set up in response to the proposal.
“This doesn’t happen very often that you would have an uniform position all across Canada, all worrying about the costs of it and taking a collective action,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.
The proposal, which has been filed to the Copyright Board of Canada, may affect the workloads of institutional staff by requiring them to keep track of every instance of copying, said Stewart.
Due to the method that Access Copyright would use to evaluate the amount of copying carried out in educational institutions, privacy concerns have been brought forward in an objection filed by the CFS and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
“The institution has to hand over to Access Copyright access to the email accounts of every single professor in the institution as well as every student,” said Stewart.
The proposal, if passed, would almost double costs that educational institutions are required to pay.
“Like everyone I’m concerned that there isn’t new costs and double costs, said Levy. “We’ll have to watch out very carefully at this issue.”