Canadian Universities Change Copyright Approach

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As of this September, Access Copyright will be out of a job at many top Canadian universities.

For a long time, universities have paid fees to Access Copyright, a collective that licenses photocopying and coursepack creation and ensures that intellectual property rights are respected. Now, thanks to changes in technology and the way students and teachers access information, their services are needed less and less.

Thanks to resources like the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, an online database with over 70 member universities that provides access to thousands of journals, there is less and less need for an external body to regulate copyright. Much of the research that is needed for higher education is now available via electronic devices.

Another phenomenon contributing to the change is "open access licensing," whereby individual researchers make their work openly available on the Internet. At the moment, more than 20% of all medical research is available under open access licenses, and there are thousands of journals in various subjects available worldwide.

The shift away from Access Copyright may have been facilitated by new technology, but it was spurred by far less complex concerns. The group filed a proposal in 2010 for a new $45 fee per full-time university student. This will lead to massive new costs for those universities that plan to continue using Access Copyright's services.

Many universities have announced plans to create their own standards for obedience to copyright laws, which will rely on fair dealing (the copyright law provision that allows one to copy a portion of a work for research or private study purposes) and individual license approvals to stay on the right side of the issue.