On July 30, 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada brought an end to one of the longest-running copyright sagas in recent memory when it rendered its judgement in the York University v. Access Copyright case. The case capped the debate around the rights and limits of educational institutions who are reproducing copyrighted material for student use using the “fair dealing” exception as outlined in the Canadian Copyright Act and Supreme Court cases such as CCH v. LSUC.
At the Ontario College and University Library Association (OCULA) annual general meeting on February 1, 2013, members passed a motion to oppose Access Copyright license agreements. Librarians from the University of Western brought forward the motion, which was seconded by current OCULA president Kristin Hoffmann.
The resolution referred specifically the current licensing agreements between Access Copyright and both the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario because on January 30, 2012 these two institutions were the first to sign agreements. These licenses set a precedent for dealings between other Canadian academic libraries and Access Copyright.
So what’s the problem? The main issues are:
- For students: Costs are downloaded to students. Currently students at the University of Western Ontario are paying a fee of $23.50 per year, a substantial increase from $3.38.
- For faculty and instructors: The license anticipates providing Access Copyright access to the university’s “premises” (physical and virtual) increasing the potential for monitoring and surveillance of course software and email.
- For universities and colleges: With the definition of fair dealing broadened to include education, parody, and satire (Bill C11) and the Supreme Court’s clarification of the concept, there is little copying done on campuses that requires a copyright license.
- For library workers: All of these issues affect our work. We want to legally and successfully access and share information without burdening our students with fees. We also want to encourage the use our vast resources that are vital for teaching, learning, and research without fear of reprisal and monitoring.
For a detailed analysis of problems with Access Copyright agreements, see Samuel Trosow’s working paper Objections to the Proposed Access Copyright Post-Secondary Tariff and its Progeny Licenses: A Working Paper (2012).
In passing this motion, OCULA members do not want or intend to penalize authors and allow indiscriminate, public use of their work. The use of authors’ works for educational purposes is considered fair dealing even if an institution has an Access Copyright license. Fair dealing is the use of copyrighted material that is not considered an infringement, and is guided by criteria that determine whether the dealing is fair.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers has created guidelines for codified practices of fair dealing in post-secondary environments (2013).
What can you do as an academic library worker?
• Educate yourself! Gain a basic understanding of copyright
• If your institution has signed a license, encourage non-renewal through letter-writing campaigns and petitions
• Rely on fair dealing and other educational exceptions when acting and advising on copyright issues
• Create links to materials rather than re-hosting online
• Create institutional copyright and fair dealing policies (see University of Toronto’s new fair dealing guidelines)
Many Canadian academic organizations and libraries have taken strong positions against the Access Copyright licenses, including the:
• Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)
• British Columbia Library Association (BCLA)
• Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA)
• Manitoba Library Association (MLA)
• Newfoundland Labrador Library Association (NLLA)
• Progressive Librarians’ Guild (PLG)
We should be proud that OCULA is now on this list.
For further information on copyright and Canadian academic libraries that includes a timeline of events leading up to the current state of affairs, as well as other resources, see Alan Kilpatrick’s poster from OLA 2013 Super Conference (2013).
Marni Harrington, Librarian, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario.