The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and Access Copyright (AC) recently announced a deal following a protracted, and sometimes acrimonious, negotiation. It’s a model license; each institution must sign on (or not) individually.
Should a university sign the model license?
At this point we (I) don’t have the text of the agreement so some of what I say here may have to be retracted. Frankly, I hope that is the case.
We do know the fee will go from $3.38 per FTE student to $26 FTE student. That’s a 669% increase. In addition to the blanket coverage, it will also include the $0.10/page for coursepacks.
Is there a 669% increase in the coverage of the agreement? Has the shrinking AC repertoire suddenly become massive? Does this help universities “bend the cost curve” (as we are being exhorted to do in Ontario)?
Some things to consider:
1. Many institutions have, for some time now, been operating quite successfully (and in full compliance with all legislation and contractual agreements) without an Access Copyright agreement. They have been paying appropriate clearance fees where necessary, using existing licenses that enable classroom/coursepack use, taking advantage of Open Educational Resources or open access publications, and adopting a variety of other effective ways of enabling access to publications.
(In this regard, it’s too bad AC has stopped providing transactional licenses for their repertoire. Presumably they did this to put pressure on AUCC to conclude a deal. In the meantime we learned how to find alternative publications, to work directly with publishers, or to use the Copyright Clearance Center in the U.S.)
2. The proposed new Copyright bill will broaden exemptions to include “educational” use. This will provide new options for learners under this expanded definition of fair dealing.
3. The recently much maligned “Big Deals” that library consortia have arranged turn out to have cost savings that have been unacknowledged. Many of these deals have negotiated clauses that allow the material to be used in courepacks or for other classroom/course use. Paying twice for such usage rights seems wasteful.
4. For me the most profound issue to consider is pedagogical change. Contemporary higher education is moving (in many places, has moved) to a more discovery-based approach where students are uncovering material in a self-directed manner. Coursepacks, assigned readings, and handing out articles to the class? So 10 minutes ago. The AC model is based out dated pedagogy. Are we being asked to pay for a 19th century view of learning?
5. If I understand it correctly, UofT and Western will pass on this massive increase to students through tuition fee increases. The concern that motivated them to sign their own agreements with AC was, presumably, legal liability not financial burden. However, since we know how to do all this without an agreement with AC, is downloading to students really the most appropriate response?
AUCC institutions should think carefully about whether to sign on to the model license.
Just a reminder, all my comments and statements are mine, and may or may not reflect those of my employer.