The letter has an air of desperation (not to mention hypocrisy given that it is addressed to the post-secondary education community, many of whom Access Copyright is seeking to exclude from the tariff hearings) as the realization sets in that the tariff process has emerged as the catalyst for many to rethink the need for the Access Copyright licence. Much like any insurance policy, if the price is right and the policy provides value, consumers are willing to pay the annual premium. When prices skyrocket and doubts emerge about the value of the policy, consumers tend to think about alternatives.
That is precisely what is happening right now in the education world. The confluence of alternate sources for the same materials through licenced databases, the growing availability of materials via open access, the importance of fair dealing for research and private study, and the over a billion dollars that are spent annually on books by the post-secondary education sector all render the Access Copyright insurance policy far less valuable than it once was. Even with these factors, many schools were still willing to pay the annual fee when the price was perceived to be reasonable. The demands for a massive increase – at the very time that it would appear the fee should be declining – has put copyright costs on the agenda of senior administrators and University presidents for the first time. As they look closely, they are increasingly reaching the conclusion that they can offer students the very best materials with appropriate creator compensation and without the need for Access Copyright. Letters providing assurances of respect for fair dealing and willingness to negotiate may be too little, too late since many schools have begun to turn the page and search for more suitable copyright licencing alternatives.