Last March, Canada's Copyright Board brought a judgment on the validity of objections to the Access Copyright Interim Tariff for post-secondary educational institutions. An organized cadre of free-culture lobbyists had flooded the CB with written objections to a perfectly fair tariff.
It's worth remembering that the interim tariff was put in place only when the good-faith license proposals of Canada's copyright licensing agency were ignored and avoided by many in Canada's university and college sector, leaving Canada's creators, publishers and copyright holders with no protection for their intellectual property and Canada's students and professors liable for any incidental infringements.
Instead of negotiating price and access, many universities chose to follow the siren call of free culture and hope that changes to the fair dealing provision would give them a broad exception from license payments for publicly available material.
The judgment of the copyright board was unequivocal. The objections of the free-culture crowd were, well, ridiculous. You can read all about that judgment in my earlier blog posting here.
You'd think the kind of public embarrassment that comes with having one's core arguments so completely undressed by an authoritative body would make the free-culture folks a bit skittish about going back to the Copyright Board with more complaints on the same subject. You'd think.
Last week, the Copyright Board released its latest decision about the latest objections from the free-culture folks claiming to represent the best interests of our country's educational system. The verdict? Wrong again. You can see the full text of the latest Copyright Board decision on their website.
Universities who have opted out of the interim tariff actually need to keep using the material in the Access Copyright repertoire. They objected, somewhat bizarrely, to the Board that they needed to license the material per-clearance rather than just paying the perfectly reasonable tariff for blanket clearance - a plan that would certainly cause more administrative headaches and quite possibly even cost more.
As ridiculous as that probably sounds to you, dear reader, that's exactly how ridiculous it is, according to the Copyright Board's decision. Here's a few quotes from the Access Copyright press release on the decision:
The Board said post-secondary institutions cannot claim on the one hand that their needs of the materials in the Access Copyright repertoire are so “marginal” as not to require the Access Copyright tariff, while arguing at the same time that the same materials are so “critically important” that they need generous access to transactional licences.
"We cannot be ‘marginal’ and ‘critically important’ at the same time. It’s either one or the other,” Ms. Cavan said. “Last year, over 100 million pages were copied from over 120,000 titles into coursepacks alone. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Access Copyright represents over 10,000 Canadian creators and publishers.