Access Copyright has issued a response to the AUCC complaint over its decision to stop issuing pay-per-use or transactional licences. The complaint arises from requests from universities to license individual works so that they can be used with payment and without risk of copyright infringement. Access Copyright is refusing to issue such licences, offering only a more expensive blanket licence that requires universities to license use of the entire repertoire. The Access Copyright response bizarrely claims that pay-per-use licences actually create incentives to infringe and that blanket licences are more appropriate in the digital economy. Never mind that Access Copyright offers transactional licences to corporate customers. Never mind that millions of cultural products are licensed individually and that the Internet and new technologies make it easier to do so.
According to Access Copyright, since copying is now easier, a blanket licence is needed to guard against any potential uncompensated use:
Transactional licences for secondary uses of works are often not suited to the demands of the new digital economy. Impractical to implement and costly to administer, they have the added weakness of being unable to capture uses that should be compensated. They do not ensure that all secondary uses are legal, on the contrary, their very impracticality is an incentive to infringe.
This analysis simply makes no sense. Universities are seeking licences to ensure that they don’t infringe and Access Copyright says the licence they seek will create an incentive to infringe. Copyright law doesn’t require users to pay in advance for any possible use as a safeguard against potential infringement. If there is use that requires permission, it requires the user to obtain that permission. There are legal safeguards against infringing activity (called damages) and claiming that blanket licences are the appropriate way to guard against possible infringement is utter nonsense. If Canadian universities yet needed further evidence that they should be investing in alternative licenses and open educational materials in order to break from Access Copyright, the copyright collective just provided it.