“Free” materials for educational purposes are sometimes derided as sub-standard works based on the premise that you get what you pay for. Inherent in the argument is that value is associated with cost and that turning to materials without cost means relying on materials without value. Yet the reality is that free materials are free as in “freely available” with the costs of production or business models that support those works rivalling conventional publication approaches. Free or openly available materials are not outliers. For example, the University of Guelph told the Industry committee that 24 per cent of materials in their course management systems consisted of open or free online content.
The series on misleading on fair dealing continues with an examination of freely available materials, including four sources: public domain works, open educational resources, open access publishing, and hyperlinking to third party content (prior posts in the series include the legal effect of the 2012 reforms, the wildly exaggerated suggestion of 600 million uncompensated copies each year, the decline of books in coursepacks, the gradual abandonment of print coursepacks, the huge growth of e-book licensing, why site licences offer better value than the Access Copyright licence, my opening remarks to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and transactional licensing).
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My series on Canadian copyright, fair dealing, and education has explored spending and revenue data at universities and publishers, explained the diminishing value of the Access Copyright licence, and conducted a detailed analysis of site licensing on Canadian campuses which demonstrates the foundation for accessing works are the site licences that offer greater flexibility and value than the Access Copyright licence. The series has also shown how some of the publishers who have been most critical of fair dealing are also the ones that have benefited the most from licensing their e-books to educational institutions.
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The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology copyright review has focused exclusively on fair dealing and education to date, hearing from a broad spectrum of witnesses that education spending on licences has increased since 2012, that publisher profit margins have gone up during the same time period, and that distributions from the Access Copyright licence have declined. As discussed in yesterday’s post, the data points to the changing realities of access to materials with site licensing now constituting the majority of electronic reserves followed by open access or freely available online materials. Schools are also collectively spending millions of dollars on transactional licensing that grants access to specific works as needed. The role of fair dealing is relatively modest, reflecting a small part of overall access to materials.
The availability of alternative licences that offer better value than the Access Copyright licence lies at the heart of the decline in Access Copyright distributions.
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Springer Nature, one of the world’s largest publishers of journals and electronic books has filed a prospectus for the purposes of an initial public offering. The prospectus is a fascinating read as it eschews the usual lobbying talking points in favour of legally required frank disclosure. For example, the document provides considerable insights into the continuing emergence of open access, noting that 27% of all research articles published by Springer Nature in 2017 was published on an open access basis.
The prospectus contains several discussions that are directly relevant to the Canadian copyright review.
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The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology starts its year-long review of copyright today with the first of several hearings focused on copyright, education and fair dealing. The hearings begin with evidence from education groups to be followed by publishers and other rights holder representatives (sources indicate that Access Copyright declined an invitation but will presumably return at a later date). The Association of Canadian Publishers, the leading national publisher lobby, has been one of the most vocal groups on copyright and will likely appear to tell MPs that fair dealing should be narrowed.
While the ACP has not hesitated to speak out at industry events, it interestingly has said nothing about a study it commissioned on digital trends and initiatives in education in Canada. The ACP study, which received financial support from the Government of Canada and the Ontario Media Development Corporation, is not posted on the publicly available portion of its website. There was no press release when it was released last June and I can find no public reference to it anywhere on the site. Jean Dryden pointed out to me that the study is available through the OMDC.
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