Increase in cost of course packs, but what are the reasons?

The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student newspaper, reports that students are being made to pay increased (sometimes doubled) prices for printed course packs since the expiry of the UofT’s licence agreement with Access Copyright (AC).

Some might jump straight to the argument that because UofT no longer licences with Access Copyright, the works (or at least up to 20% of them) aren’t covered by a blanket agreement, and thus by necessity students are paying more on a per-page basis.

More likely, this is an issue with communication, specifically between the library and the instructors.

The article does not state whether the faculty members who created and assigned these course packs sought information and advice from the scholarly communications and copyright librarian, Bobby Glushko. Glushko points out that he and his group have engaged in outreach activities to make instructors aware of the services they provide, not to mention the ins and outs of copyright itself.

Glushko also notes that some of the material being reproduced in the printed course packs is already available through the university library, for which the school pays a separate licensing fee, which includes the right to download or print a copy of one’s own. If, instead of gathering content in a course pack, instructors directed students to the relevant electronic databases, students would save that 10 cents per page. The library knows this, but apparently some instructors do not.

Likewise, the availability of publicly-licensed material (for example, Creative Commons content, or open access journals) is something that should be brought to the attention of those responsible for setting syllabi. Open access journals and textbooks are seeing growing popularity. The Directory of Open Access Journals allows for the searching of articles in open access scholarly publications. British Columbia’s Open Textbook Project has access to over 60 open textbooks written by experts and geared toward first- and second-year university students. The site also provides a list of other places to find open textbooks.

Finally, Gluskho raises the issue of fair dealing itself. It is not clear from the article what type of materials are being reproduced in course packs. While “10% of a work” can be a guideline for the amount permissible to copy under fair dealing, it is possible that an entire work can be dealt with fairly (CCH v. LSUC, 2012, Supreme Court of Canada, para. 56). This is especially true when it comes to journal articles. In CCH, the Supreme Court said that the Great Library’s practice of providing a copy of one article to a requesting lawyer for research purposes was fair (para. 73). In Alberta v. Access Copyright, the Court rejected the idea that multiple copies of the same work(s) provided to students on the initiative of the instructor was inherently unfair — the question, rather, is how much of the work was taken (para. 29).

UofT (and other AC-less institutions) is going through a transition phase. Procedures and protocols are changing in ways that directly affect how instructors do their jobs. Copyright is not just for lawyers and librarians anymore. Copyright literacy is fast becoming a necessary element of faculty members’ toolkits.

Source: Iris Robin (21 September 2014), “After Access Copyright: Students report significant increase in course pack costs under new copyright arrangement.” The Varsity, vol. CXXXV, no. 4.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: course packs at home and abroad | Fair Duty

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