Print Edition: May 9, 2012
UFV is in the midst of a battle. The University has been in negotiations with Access Copyright for the last year-and-a-half in an attempt to find a middle ground between what both parties believe is a fair tariff to pay on the copying UFV students and professors do on a day-to-day basis.
Access Copyright first proposed an adjusted fee of $45 per full-time student back in 2010, since their previous agreement was due to expire in January 2011. This was a far jump from the prior tariff, which was $3.38 per student, plus a ten-cent-a-page fee for course packs – a combined fee that worked out to about $16 a student. This cost was absorbed by the university as a whole and largely recouped through photocopying revenue and revenue from the campus bookstore.
A jump to $45 per student however, is not so easy to swallow, and it was widely believed that the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of Community Colleges of Canada (ACCC) had a strong standing point to renegotiate to something much lower.
“The actual amount of copyrighted material that we’re actually using is decreasing,” explained Jackie Hogan, chief financial officer at UFV, “and yet this fee is going up.”
After the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario both settled earlier this year at a fee of $27.50 per full-time student, AUCC and ACCC have been struggling to bring the negotiated figure much lower than that. The current deal at the table is $26 a student, something Hogan said is still very high.
“It weakened their (AUCC’s) position by having two large institutions settle outside of their dispute,” Hogan said. “Looking at how much we have been paying as an institution for the number of students we have, we’d be happy with an agreement that would keep it at or below that [current] level.”
But as time goes by, that looks less and less likely. Currently, Access Copyright has set a deadline to “declare intent to sign” by May 15, which would mean signing by June 30. It’s what they’ve declared “a limited time offer,” meaning that any university that fails to come to an agreement by those dates would be subjected to retroactive payments. Since the old copyright agreement expired in January of last year, this would mean paying a year’s worth of difference in fees.
So with a week left before the deadline, where does UFV stand?
AUCC and ACCC still have the $26 per full-time student deal on the table, which UFV is welcome to join at any time. But Hogan said that UFV isn’t ready to jump into anything feet first just yet.
“We’re kind of a little bit playing the waiting game,” she admitted. “We’re still considering what other options we have, and whether there are other avenues that we can take.”
At the end of the day, though, UFV is going to have to come to an agreement with Access Copyright, one way or the other.
“We definitely need […] protection in ensuring we have correct copyright clearances paid, and we don’t have the structures internally to do that,” Hogan said. “We do rely on Access Copyright, or something similar. At this point, we don’t have too many options; we think that we will need to continue to work through [Access Copyright] until something else is identified, but we haven’t made the decision to sign on to the AUCC model license, although that option is still open to us.”
It’s looking more and more likely that there is going to be an increase in this fee, no matter how it falls out. UFV has absorbed the fee in the past, but there simply isn’t enough revenue from photocopying or the bookstore to recoup what this new fee might shape up to be.
“It would have to come out of existing operating funds, which would then decrease allocations to something else within the university,” Hogan said. “It would be an additional cost.”