There is a lot that is disturbing in this announcement for Canadian artists, since the interim tariff covers the work we have out there in the world, in both physical and digital form. This announcement is, in effect, stating USask's intentions to never again allow use of our work within their classrooms (beyond small sampling that would be covered by fair dealing). In other words, students at one of Canada's universities will be severely restricted in their use of specific Canadian subject matter. Even if a professor feels she absolutely must use material covered by the tariff, she will not be allowed to.
Why? I'd like to think it has to do with money, because that would be the simplest answer. But I've done the math (many times), and I know that Canadian universities currently spend a fraction of 1% of their annual budgets on copyright clearance through this Canadian tariff. In fact, these modest and reasonable clearance amounts usually make it into the mix of fees individual students pay on top of their tuition, so the effect on university budgets is null.
No, the attack on Canadian created content in Canadian post-secondary schools is being launched by ideologues, not accountants. The same folks who have for years now been advising that most classroom use of publicly available Canadian work could be interpreted as fair dealing and that current copyright licences are "arguably unnecessary" have convinced a smattering of university administrations to opt out of paying for this content.
It's easy to see what the great free-culture opt-out will mean for Canadian artists. Our work will now be shut out of classrooms (and the brains of Canadian students). But what does the opt-out look like on the ground at USask? That's the scariest question.
From the USask announcement:
Our copyright agreement with Access Copyright—an organization that oversees the process of copyright clearance, payment and licensing—will end August 31, 2011.
Course materials for the 2011/12 terms (i.e. course packs, handouts, etc.) need to be printed before August 31, 2011.
In other words, we're going to stop paying for this stuff before the fall term, so if you want it for the fall term, copy it now. Stockpiling copies of Canadian content for one last go in the classroom? Is this really in the spirit of respecting copyright?
Deans, directors and department heads should keep the Access Copyright situation in mind when hiring new instructors and making appointments, in particular with appointments close to the start of the new school year that will require course materials to be assembled quickly.
Are you applying to work at USask, and do you intend to use the work of Canadian artists in your teaching? Good luck to you.
Go Huskies! Just make sure you don't teach anything about huskies, written by a Canadian.