Geist: Significant new costs loom for students

An article in the Toronto Star by Michael Geist brings up the educational licensing debate again. I made my views on this debate known in an earlier article I titled The most objectionable aspect of the Copyright debate.

I've often felt that much of the infringement problem for copyright holders is self-inflicted due to business model issues ("not available for sale", regional restrictions, etc). I feel the same with the educational community which should take Michael Geist's suggestion and walk away from Access Copyright. It is the slow adoption in Canada of Open Access models which is at the heart of the educational licensing debate.

One common misconception perpetuated by Access Copyright devotees is that Open Access publishing means that authors don't get paid. What they are actually trying to suggest is that royalty payments, being speculatively paid after-the-fact for work you did in the past, is the only business model that exists for creativity. This is an oddball suggestion as most people get paid today (or at pay-day, some time fairly soon) for work they do today, not speculatively wondering if they may or may not get paid in the future.

All Open Access does is transform the payment method for certain creative works to being much closer to how most other workplaces have always worked.

In the case of educational Open Access, authors, editors and other critical creative people are hired by educational institutions. They get paid one-time fees, just like the rest of the economy, for their valuable work.

Educational institutions reduce their costs by cutting out unnecessary middle-men, as well as the complexity of royalty-payment schemes. Rather than paying royalties and residuals forever, they make one-time payments that can be more easily budgeted for the creation of these works. Institutions can share and coordinate regionally, nationally and internationally for the creation of works to reduce wasted efforts in duplication.

This is a win-win situation for the educational sector and creators of educational works. The savings happen not by not paying creators, but by getting rid of unnecessary overhead that exists in the educational publishing sector. It also gets rid of the necessity for per-student licensing from organisations like Access Copyright, with the educational sector then calling upon collectives as a "one stop shopping" for the remaining (primarily fiction) materials that students still require that use royalty-based licensing models.

Will the Canadian educational sector make the right decision, or will they continue to be behind the times in their adoption of Open Access? Lets not take these articles as a justification for feeling sorry for the educational sector's self-inflicted wounds, but as a reminder that they have some forward-facing choices to make.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Access Copyright

Access Copyright seems to be of the opinion that no one can work without them. By attempting to raise fees, they will drive their potential customers away.

It should be interesting seeing how this plays out. In my opinion there should be an educational exemption added to copyright law, however since we seem to be dealing with a case of regulatory capture, that isn't likely to happen.


Clarification on "educational exemption"

Access Copyright wants to remove choice from everyone concerned, making paying royalties to them and receiving royalties from them the only option for audience and creators. This is a pretty extreme anti-copyright belief, even if they claim they are doing it to "protect" copyright related rights.

Whenever I hear the term "educational exemption" in the context of copyright, I want to ask people for clarity.

Do you mean an institutional exception, where provincially chartered institutions are treated differently than all other organisations or individuals in Canada?

Or do you mean an exemption that is tied to a specific activity that can be carried out by any Canadian citizen, at any time of their life, in any building?


I'm on record as being strongly opposed to the former, which I consider to be an unfair government program masquerading as copyright. I actually think this type of policy is dangerous, and induces infringement outside of walls of these institutions.

I support the latter, including allowing teachers to step into the shoes of pupils and do anything on behalf of pupils that would have been legal for them to do individually.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.