Access Copyright Claims Pay-Per-Use Licences Create Incentive to Infringe

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. 


  1. Lost sales
    So that means GM is losing money because the expansion of the public transportation system makes potential buyers go away from cars so Govt shouldn’t expand the public network. Makes sense…

    Also, I may potentially commit a crime (ie: rob) so maybe I should be put in jail preemptively. Along with the rest of the population.

    I think those guys are potential schizophrenics and should go to an insane asylum so they won’t bother us with their delusions.

  2. Jeff Power says:

    It’s one thing to grant a monopoly on works
    it is then another to tie those works together.
    This reeks of anti competitive practices and could possibly damage those willing to license directly to Universities and not through AC.
    Should be illegal.

  3. Huh?
    So by extension everyone on the planet should pay a blanket fee for music, movies & books in case they possibly infringe something?

    Hmm .. that could work, maybe hire AC to manage it.

  4. Auditors
    Don’t most Universities go through intensive financial audits which should detect such infractions of contract? It’s strictly an anti-competitive practice designed to punish those who which to operate outside of AC.

  5. If “universities are seeking licences to ensure that they don’t infringe,” can someone explain why they refused to enter into license negotiations when it was renewal time? Is it because the free-culturists told them not to because fair dealing is their friend?

    Reeping what ye have sown.

  6. Deagan said:”…
    If “universities are seeking licences to ensure that they don’t infringe,” can someone explain why they refused to enter into license negotiations when it was renewal time? Is it because the free-culturists told them not to because fair dealing is their friend?

    Reeping what ye have sown. ”

    hmmm maybe cause AC requested 250%+++ increases? Maybe cause negotiating with something that regards you as nothing more than a cash machine with no other options isn’t really a negotiation.

    Yup seems to be some reaping going on, maybe if the universities can walk away a reasonable increase can be negotiated.

  7. @Degen
    “Reeping what ye have sown.”

    LOL That doesn’t even make sense John. It’s only punishing those institutions who would like to stay with AC, making it less feasible to use other sources…i.e. anti-competitive!! If an institution has walked away from AC why would they care about AC or any asinine proposals AC is trying to push. The more restrictive AC becomes, the more attractive walking away will become.

    Again, quoting you…”As long as they aren’t doing anything illegal…”.

  8. Degen said: If “universities are seeking licences to ensure that they don’t infringe,” can someone explain why they refused to enter into license negotiations when it was renewal time? Is it because the free-culturists told them not to because fair dealing is their friend?

    Umm its pretty obvious. Universities saw that the new pricing level didn’t reflect market value so they move on to the next person/organization that offered them what they wanted. This is exacltly how free markets work. You price yourself out and then the customer gets to go somewhere else. its the customer choice.

    The universities have enough resources from students to set up their electronic system that would let content creators submit their works and get paid directy and fairly,

  9. Sorry end user, it’s all the Universities fault.
    They should be honored to pay whatever AC asks and submit to whatever oversight they determine. They should also be forced to negotiate with AC regardless if they wish to continue using their services in the future or not. It would make great business sense to lock into a contract now before provisions within the new Bill C-32 are examined, or other sources of legal access are researched or self implemented.

    What were they thinking?!

  10. Marchetto says:

    Impractical to implement and costly to administer
    Symptomatic of AC’s ineptitude is its use of the phrase ‘impractical to implement and costly to administer’: yes, if you still can’t calculate precisely what you owe each of your creators and you resort to using back-of-an-envelope estimates to do so. And yes, if you cannot compile a dynamic online listing of what is actually in your repertoire and instead specify only what you imagine is not in your repertoire. (Kind of like GM saying we make all the cars in the world except those made by the following companies. I doubt GM’s auditors would be happy with that.) Show us the repertoire, AC; show us exactly what uses have been made of the repertoire; show us the money.

  11. End user (and Crockett),

    Except, they haven’t walked away. They are loudly complaining today precisely because they do want the AC repertoire. In fact, they are angry because they recognize they NEED AC’s repertoire and probably feel a bit foolish about alienating such a valuable supplier on the advice of a few “experts” who sold them a monorail when what they really needed was to fix their roads and schools.

    I admit, that last part was bit obscure, but I need to throw a Simpson’s reference in here now and again to keep me from falling asleep.

    Monorail, monorail, monorail!

  12. Actually, Degan, they are loudly proclaiming that they would like to use the AC repertoire in a way that AC isn’t letting them do so that would be more beneficial and cost effective for them. So rather than walking away they could, you know, continue to use AC stuff. But AC in their grand wisdom (stupidiity) is denying them this for the stupidest reason on the planet. Not sure why you continue to defend them since they seem to be trying to screw over the creators more than the Universities are.

  13. Ki,

    I respectfully disagree with your interpretation and suggest you actually study the real history of this dispute instead of getting all your information about it from two postings on Michael Geist’s blog.
    Post-sec education away from a good-faith opportunity to negotiate whatever deal they wanted, which forced Access Copyright to protect the value of their repertoire through a tariff application.

    Access Copyright is a collective made up of creators and publishers. The decisions they make and the direction they take are the result of creator agreement and consensus with industry partners. We are well aware of who is applying the “screw” here, and it is not our own collective.

  14. @Degen
    The relationship between AC and Post-sec education is being driven towards a supplier-customer one, when in the past it was more like a captive audience (with regulation by the copyright board).

    Regardless of the makeup or decision processes of AC, they will need to start acting like a supplier to customers, with “competition” that they haven’t really had before. Things are still in transition, and there are still “products” which their customers want – but not in the “packages” they are offering. But they now have “competition”, and if they don’t supply the products the customer wants, in the way they want, the “competition” will eventually supply it instead.

    This transition is somewhat complicated by regulation, of both AC and participating institutions, by the copyright board.

  15. That’s a nice story oldguy, but it depends on revisionist history, also known around here as fake data. Access Copyright never captured audience. It licensed a repertoire to a willing client. The license would not have been required if the “audience” weren’t willingly already using the content.

    That client still wants the repertoire, which grows each day and shows no signs of being less relevant and valuable despite all the claims of increased competition by open access and closed databases.

    The reason the Copyright Board is involved and a tariff is on the table is because the good-faith license negotiation route was rejected by post-sec-ed, on the advice of those pushing expanded fair dealing.

    That’s what actually happened, and what is actually happening. I know you’re all about the relevance in these comments, so I hope I’ve helped in my small way.

  16. @Degen
    Thank you for bringing it back to a locale that is at least partially on topic.

    Who is being revisionist?

    I’ll grant that the audience/customer was willing – at one time. I never said otherwise. Your collective was at one time the most efficient mechanism for all involved, the participating establishments willingly became a captive audience. But times have changed.

    Yes, the customer still wants the repertoire, or at least some of it. But obviously not in the “packages” being offered. “Value” and “cost” are different things, what is junk to one can be priceless to another. When the total “cost” of a package exceeds the total “value” of the desired items within the package, it becomes an issue. A customer loss issue in the case of a business, a copyright board issue in the case of AC and the participating post-sec institutions. Ultimately, the post-sec institutions can elect to not participate, and go 100% to alternatives/competition. That is a choice that AC and the institution negotiators must face.

    I’d like to see your evidence that the negotiation was rejected solely because of advice by of those pushing for fair dealing. I’ll grant that such advice was probably offered, but I want to hear evidence that negotiations failed solely on that advice. Otherwise you are just blowing smoke.
    I’d also like to note that “good faith” negotiations requires at least 2 parties. Breakdowns of negotiations cannot solely be blamed on one party alone. Both bear the blame for that breakdown.

    You seem to have rejected everything I previously stated, with a simple “revisionist” classification.
    Do you agree that times have changed?
    Do you agree that post-sec now has options (effectively competition) to what was previously an AC only prerogative?
    Do you agree that modern technology should be reducing the admin/overhead costs, even for individual items/usage?

    Simple questions. Do you dare to answer them?

    Numbers. And interpretations.
    It’s a matter of record that the previous per student fee was $3.38, and the current fee is $45.00. That amounts to over a 1300% increase. Do you dispute the source of the numbers or the math? Feel to correct either one, with a reference – and the new math.
    Granted, the current fee covers a lot more than the old fee did. Costs that used to be in other areas are now folded into this area. It’s not an apples and apples comparison. Not a valid interpretation.
    So step up another level or 3. The contract/license has significant changes from previous. The cost per institution can vary depending on size, student composition, and curriculum makeup. You can’t point to a single number and say “there, that’s how much more/less it will cost per institution”. But you can estimate an average. That average seems to focus in around 250% across a wide selection of institutions. I can’t recall where Geist or Knopf has stated that the total cost per institution will rise by 1300%. Can you supply a reference that includes this context? As far as I can tell, the “1300% increase per institution” quote is something you have created, but have never backed with a contextual reference.

    Yes, there are those that focus in on the 1300% figure. Just as you might if your average cell bill went up by
    250% while the text/web/etc portion went up by 1300%. But the fact would still be that your average bill went up by 250% at a time when it should be going down (see Telus recently). There is nothing that can be said to mitigate or diminish that number. You would probably start complaining, and also casting around for alternatives.

  17. @Degen
    I don’t really see anything wrong with my analysis. Is AC the only way to licence things that universities need, or are there more ways for them to do it? Would it not behoove AC, if they want to continue to be relevant, to make things available the way their customers want? I would think so, but apparently logic really is not something to use in this situation, only clinging on to the past in some hope that the future might never happen.

  18. To add
    I think they are trying to screw over the people in their repertoire because they are specifically denying the use of a certain type of licence for what amounts to fear mongering on what may or may not happen with it, with nothing to really back that up. If they had something more legitimate to back that up with, then maybe I would understand their reasoning.

    Something like this could also point to the fact that they need a new way to licence things. But based on what I do know of them, which is more than form here, they are not really interested in working out things to keep themselves relevant.

  19. Again to add
    If you don’t give the people you are trying to sell your stuff too at a price they are willing to pay, no matter how much you think you deserve that, you’ll get nothing when they decide to walk away and get what they need elsewhere. So even if the current AC rules are agreed upon by the creators and publishers, that just means that you really just want to screw yourself over.

  20. One last time
    I really should make sure I’m finished, but oh well.

    If you’re fine with them deciding to want to walk away, then I am really curious why you seem to feel the need to post here and defend everything AC does? I mean, all that the posts here from you show is that you seem to think that AC is in the right, and completely ignore the viewpoint that people may not think the things you make are worth the price you are wanting to charge for it to the point where you think that people are purposely trying to screw you over just because you charge too much.

    aC is not a single source provider for Universities anymore based on new and emerging ways for Universities to get similar things without AC. If you are not going to sell your product at a price people are willing to pay, then don’t be upset when those people decide to go elsewhere like you seem to be. It’s just part of the real world you have to live in. I mean, it’s not like they are going to use it without your permission (because that would open them up to a lawsuit), so really not sure why it bothers you so much that people can find other ways to get information while paying creators that isn’t AC.

  21. Bourne 4?
    Laugh Out Loud!

    Access Copyright is a ‘professional’ organization, Right?

    Bourne 4? AC has been in a program for some time with only msg communicated to them over and over: ‘Dominate, dictate, take’. AC’s let out and starts rampaging. Somewhere deep in AC’s mind is a professional, educated digital age contributor to society. But that doesn’t matter…

  22. Choiceless says:

    Well, just look at your cable or sat TV. When was the last time you could buy only channels you want to watch? Like it or not, you pay one fat bill and get it all. It seems such business model is appealing to other sectors as well.

  23. …”Well, just look at your cable or sat TV.”

    This too will change, when customers want it and there is “competition” that will offer it. It’s starting to look like Netflix and other OTT services will be the “competition” that will force this option..

    Just because “that’s the way it always was”, doesn’t mean “that’s the way it will always be”. Anybody that takes even a cursory look at the wide sweeping changes the digital age has triggered in the last 20 years will recognize this.

  24. @Choiceless
    I don’t have cable or satellite. All my TV watching is via Netflix, and what I can’t find there I watch online from the station’s website on my computer. Anything I can’t see that way? Not worth the cost for either cable or satellite to get. I know other people who do similar things.

    The times are changing, and some corporations are going to have to adapt to stay relevant because fighting it will get them no where.

  25. @MG
    Your characterization of the logic of the AC response to AUCC as “utter nonsense” is utter propaganda. A little intellectual honesty would go a long way to raise the level of debate here. I can hardly blame the participants since the original blog postings are inflammatory in the extreme.

  26. @Anon
    (Re)quoting the excerpt from the AC response to the AUCC:

    ..”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.”

    ..”not suited to the demands of the new digital economy”

    Excuse me? Being able to very cheaply do transactions, even “micro” transactions is the strength of the digital world, and the economy evolving around it.

    ..”Impractical to implement and costly to administer”

    Only if you refuse to leverage the exact same “digital economy” technologies you are discussing.

    The rest of the excerpted response follows in the same vein. The words are strung together properly, but to anyone that understands the technology surrounding the digital economy, they make little or no sense. I’d suggest you get someone with a strong background in the technology driving the “digital economy” to parse this out, and explain exactly why leveraging that same technology won’t resolve the issues raised. Explain exactly what is “missing” in the technology that forces AC to structure it this way.

    On the face, it appears this was written by a PR wordsmith, and what you really need to do (if true), is get a strong technologist to formulate the “response”. From the perspective of someone that understands the technology behind and driving the “digital economy”, the AC response does sound like “pure nonsense”..

  27. Sorry folks, I’ve responded, but the administrator has decided not to let my responses through.

  28. Michael Geist says:


    You can say whatever you like on my site, no matter how wrong. However, there is no truth to the claim that I’ve blocked any of your postings. I never have and never will.

    I double checked and there is nothing in the queue. As I’ve indicated many times, any delays are anti-spam measures that affect all users equally.


  29. Yes, I know, they all come through eventually. It’s just hard to effectively respond when you are outnumbered AND consistently delayed in posting.

    Not sure what you claim I’m “wrong” about in my comments. Your minions have failed utterly to back up your various attacks on Canadian creators – or even your faulty math – and you seem to be following a take-your-best-shot-and-then-hide strategy. I’m sure all your supporters here would appreciate the occasional bit of back-up from the original author.

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