UBC Sets the Record Straight on University Spending on Copyright Materials

UBC President Stephen Toope has written an important letter responding to criticism from the Writers’ Union of Canada over his university’s reliance on fair dealing. Consistent with many universities across the country, UBC has moved away from the Access Copyright licence, focusing instead on a combination of fair dealing, open access, and site licences. The Toope letter notes how much the university community still pays for copyright materials and how little course pack sales are in relationship to overall spending:

UBC pays in the neighbourhood of $25 million to publishers and authors every year. In fiscal 2011/12, UBC spent approximately $2 million on book acquisitions, $2 million on print serials, and $10 million on digitally licensed subscriptions for students and faculty to access through its library system. UBC also sold approximately $14 million of books directly to students and faculty (for which UBC paid publishers about $10 million). In the same period, total course pack sales were about $1 million, less than 4% of the total spent on learning materials. Responsive to the needs of today’s students, UBC’s faculty members are increasingly utilizing online modes of content delivery, which means that course pack production volumes will form an even smaller percentage over time.

The declining economic importance of course pack sales is important, given that economic impact is one of the six fair dealing factors. UBC has been a national leader on the intersection between copyright and educational use and the Toope letter further confirms that the university’s policies are well-considered and fall comfortably within the law.  If the issue is of interest, a reminder that on October 4, 2013, the University of Ottawa will host a free conference on copyright in Canada. Register here for the Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law.

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