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UBC rejects million dollar increase in copyright fees

The University of British Columbia has decided to opt-out of Access Copyright's proposed tariff on copyrighted materials that generally make up student course packs, to avoid increased fees and restrictions that would begin Sept. 1, 2011.

While the move may limit the course materials available to students, Paul Smith, Vice-Provost at UBC said that rather than paying a $1.35 million annual increase, the university has alternative ways to access copyright restricted works, like contacting the authors of the copyrighted work directly.

UBC already has 660 licensing agreements which publishers value at $10 million, according to a statement released Monday.

A fraction of copyrighted material that the university uses and that isn't covered in that pool is covered by Access Copyright (AC), which is a copyright collective that licenses photocopying and the creation of course packets.

The new tariff would increase the university's annual fees from $650,000 to $2 million to pay for rights to use the content licensed under AC.

According to the statement, the proposal would also "require universities to give AC access to their records and systems to conduct annual surveillance of copying activities undertaken by their faculty, staff, and students."

Access Copyright had originally proposed the tariff in March 2010, that would affect the 2011-2013 school years. The company has been in a legal battle since.

Smith speculated that Access Copyright's increase in costs comes at a time when "things like Xeroxing are a fading source of income, and they need an expanding source of income."

Colleges across Canada are collectively rejecting the proposal. However, according to AC, it's "virtually impossible" to 'opt-out' of the interim tariff. The only way an institution would be able to 'opt-out' would be an absolute ban on all copying.

The Copyright Board of Canada will hold a public hearing on the proposed AC tariff at the end of September in Ottawa. Until it is finalized by the board, schools would be operating under the proposed interim tariff, unless they refuse.

Carrie Swiggum is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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