By Justin Chandler
Course readers for approximately 60 classes have increased in price as a result of Ryerson letting its Access Copyright licence expire at the end of last year.
Under the university’s five year agreement with Access Copyright, a Canadian copyright licensing agency, each Ryerson student was charged $13 per semester as part of their tuition fees. Access Copyright distributes money to copyright-holders when content is copied, remixed and shared. The non-profit organization represents about 10,000 copyright holders, including several colleges and universities.
Before 2012, education was not a permitted exception under Canada’s Copyright Act. Because of this, Ryerson relied on the Access Copyright agreement to print required materials. The Act was modified at the end of 2012 to include education, which meant the university could copy short experts of works without permission from the copyright holder or publisher and didn’t need to renew the existing agreement.
Interim president Mohamed Lachemi said there are obvious consequences that accompany students not having to pay the fee to Access Copyright.
During the first lecture of the semester, Ryerson political science professor Abbas Gnamo told his students that the reader would cost them $25 — the same price as last semester. When he found out the reader was being sold for $104.95 (a 320 per cent price increase) he sent a memo to his class, writing that he didn’t imagine the price could rise so drastically.
Gnamo said he checked with the bookstore’s manager and was told because Ryerson’s agreement with Access Copyright ended, the price of all readers had risen to cover the cost of production. The bookstore has since reduced the price on Gnamo’s reader by 10 per cent.
Ann Ludbrook, copyright and scholarly engagement librarian at Ryerson, said in a statement that any course pack containing excerpts of copyrighted textual work has a per page increase to account for the royalty fee to be paid to the publisher. The cost is dependent on how many pages of the original work are reproduced.
Similarly, Ryerson English professor Dale Smith was surprised by the increase in price. His reader, priced around $35 last semester, now costs $43.95.
In another class Smith teaches, he only uses texts available for free through the Ryerson library online. But he said he prefers paper copies because they’re more mobile and easier to use. Smith added that he tries to “keep in mind prices, but also realities.”
Ludbrook said the Campus Store usually informs instructors about the costs of course packs, but due to short timelines that doesn’t always happen.
For Julia Alexandra, a second-year English student, most of her books cost under $25. The $37.95-course reader for her American Literature course was the most expensive book she had to buy.
“Obviously [course readers] are useful and organized nicely … but paying $37.95 for things you could have online is a little ridiculous,” Alexandra said.