The latest developments further point to growing sentiment on Canadian campuses that it is time for post-secondary education to decline the coverage by walking away from Access Copyright. Since this statement is bound to be mischaracterized as advocating not paying for the rights to use works, let me repeat what I consistently stated this summer. The decision to walk away is not an effort to avoid paying appropriate rights fees. Rather, it is based on the recognition that a collective licence is not the only way for a university to appropriately compensate for use.
Many faculties and their professors can obtain the necessary rights by relying on site database licences that are already in place, open access licences to scholarly research, and fair dealing. In those instances where there is still a work not covered by these approaches, it can be individually licenced (or licenced for national use) directly with the copyright holder, thereby ensuring that the rights holder receive the full benefits associated with its use. In fact, this is already starting to happen – for example, Lethbridge College’s Early Childhood Education Department has established a three year plan to replace all of its print-based materials to online delivery in light of the Access Copyright situation.
Lest this be further mischaracterized as an effort to avoid payment, there is a further step that I think universities should take. I would argue that each should commit to the same funding levels for materials as currently exists today. Assuming that walking away from Access Copyright frees up some money, those funds should be committed to additional library acquisitions or database site licences. Either way, the spending on copyright materials would not change from the current levels, faculty and students would have access to more materials, and copyright holders would receive direct payment not subject to all the lost revenues from Access Copyright administration, lobbying, and legal costs.