Two New Brunswick universities are taking opposite approaches to dealing with copyright restrictions imposed on books and academic journals.

The University of New Brunswick has decided against signing a licence agreement with Access Copyright, which was recently negotiated with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

Access Copyright is a non-profit organization that represents authors and publishers and it licenses content so copyright owners get paid for their work.

The university said it has ongoing concerns about how the agreement affects academic freedom and how it would impose higher fees on students.


John Teskey, the director of libraries at UNB, said opting out of the Access Copyright agreement will save students money. (CBC)

John Teskey, the director of libraries for the university, says the move to more online journals and other documents means the copyright licence is becoming outdated.

"By this point when we were thinking about renewing the licence essentially we have about 37,000 electronic journals under licence, half a million books under licence. We still have over a million volumes in print but in terms of the utilization of our collection, the use is mainly electronic at this point," he said.

UNB has been operating outside of the Access Copyright agreement since Sept. 1, 2011.

However, professors and students are restricted in what they can photocopy or what can be distributed in class.

The director of libraries said the university will save $250,000 by opting out of the contract.

The savings breaks down to $26 per student, which comes after the university added a $150 fee for the new fitness centre and $175 tuition increase.

While the $26 copyright fee is a relatively small amount, one student says every penny counts on a tight budget.

"Even though the public education system in Canada is great and school is very affordable, students definitely need the extra money in their pocket when they're in university so for them to not tack on that fee, it's very important," said Matt Eagles.


Mount Allison University has decided to sign the Access Copyright agreement. (CBC)

UNB’s decision to opt out of the copyright agreement stands in contrast to Mount Allison University’s stance.

At Mount Allison University, they say the agreement gives them peace of mind.

The university says they don't have the staff to make sure every royalty fee is paid and that means those students will pay the $26 fee.

David Stewart, the vice president of administration at Mount Allison University, said being caught using material without a licence could be much more costly.

"That risk, is so great, from our perspective, other universities may have the ability to mitigate, but from our perspective that risk is so great that it didn't make any sense for us to try to do this except through an arrangement with Access Copyright," he said.

Mount Allison will re-evaluate the agreement in a couple years, Stewart said.