Access Copyright’s Beneficiaries

The Toronto Star today publishes a letter to the editor from Maureen Cavan, the Executive Director of Access Copyright that responds to Monday' s column on education and copyright.  Not surprisingly, Ms. Cavan disagrees with the column, arguing that

In his column, Geist describes Access Copyright as one of two "direct beneficiaries" of the photocopying licences held by Canadian colleges and universities, a statement that is not merely inaccurate, but misleading.

The truth of the matter is that there are two distinct beneficiaries of photocopy licensing, neither of which is Access Copyright. The copyright owners who founded, and continue to own, Access Copyright benefit from the royalties we collect on their behalf. And the users of copyright protected works benefit from the ability to photocopy from those works for a reasonable fee.

I don' t think there is anything misleading about the column nor about the characterization of Access Copyright as a beneficiary of the copy licenses.  It may be a non-profit, but according to its most recent annual report, one out of every four dollars it received went to expenses.  How did it manage to spend more than $7 million dollars in administrative expenses in 2004?  All organizations bear costs, but not all organizations have as many as three lobbyists on their payroll.  Today their lead lobbyist appears to be Paul Bonwick, the former MP who sat on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that delivered the embarrassingly one-sided May 2004 copyright reform report.  

In other words, Canadians students and taxpayers unnecessarily pay millions in license fees that is then used to fund lobbyists who argue for further policies that run counter their interests.  Of course, that ultimately leads to yet further license fees and the cycle continues.

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