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U of W rejects copyright deal as 'money grab'

U of M to sign national agreement

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The University of Winnipeg is opting out of a national copyright deal the U of W says would be a waste of $200,000 a year.

University president Lloyd Axworthy said this week that the university senate will vote next week to opt out of a copyright licence agreement the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has signed with Access Copyright, a private company based in downtown Toronto.

The University of Manitoba and several of Canada's largest universities will sign the deal. University College of the North said it doesn't use enough copyrighted material to make it worthwhile.

Axworthy said the deal would cost the U of W $26 per full-time student, which he called "a big money grab."

The university library and bookstore already have licensing deals with various publishers, which ensure access to copyrighted materials while giving authors and publishers a fair return on their work, Axworthy said.

"The (campus) consensus is, this deal doesn't provide much protection" on copyright infringement the U of W doesn't already have, he said.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has also been critical of the deal, which AUCC negotiated recently after giants University of Toronto and Western University signed on with Access Copyright.

Axworthy said the deal infringes on academic freedom -- it gives the private company the right to look for violations of copyright in something as simple as a student quoting and footnoting a paragraph from an online link.

"There's an implied iron fist in this," he said.

But Maureen Cavan, executive director of Access Copyright, said her company ensures authors and publishers get fair payment for their work.

"The only purpose of this is to protect the author and publisher," Cavan said. Access Copyright is a collective with links to international organizations, providing legal access to far more material than she believes the U of W has through existing agreements, she said.

Any licenced university and any person associated with that school can legally copy up to 20 per cent of a published book from the company's clients, Cavan said.

Previously, her company charged $3.88 per student plus 10 cents for every copied page, which could add as much as $200 to the price for course packs -- collections of photocopied sections of textbooks. The new agreement makes it a flat $26 and digital versions of published works as well as books and journals will be covered.

U of M counsel Gregory Juliano said the national agreement provides universities with a risk-management tool, obtaining licensing requirements from a collective deal rather than negotiating separate agreements.

Those who sign the deal, as the U of M will do, will be safe from an infringement claim from publishers that operate through Access Copyright, Juliano said.

The agreement also gives universities rights to some materials that are otherwise difficult to obtain, such as a single chapter from a textbook, he said, adding the U of M plans to cover the cost rather than pass it on to students.

Prof. Pauline Pearson, president of the U of W Faculty Association, said the deal would require universities to place surveillance on their own employees.

Cavan dismissed fears of surveillance as extreme. "There'll be no monitoring of emails or any of the scary things they purport," she said.

Access Copyright only takes action against egregious violations, which usually occur in copying shops near campus where course packs get copied at prices below bookstores and without royalties, she said.

Students are backing the U of W administration.

"(The national deal) would put up barriers for students trying to access information," said Lauren Bosc, president of the U of W Students Association.

Axworthy said as an author of books likely referenced in history or political science courses, he's never received a penny from Access Copyright. Other professors have told him the company has never passed on royalties to them.

That's because they haven't signed on with Access Copyright, Cavan said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 19, 2012 B4

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