Canadian universities sign bone-stupid copyright deal with collecting society: emailing a link is the same as making a photocopy, faculty email to be surveilled

Under a new deal signed by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, the act of emailing a link will be classed as equivalent to photocopying, and each student and faculty member will cost the universities $27.50/year for this right that the law gives them for free, along with a collection of other blanket licenses of varying legitimacy. In order to enforce these licenses, all faculty email will be subject to surveillance.

“Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s actions are inexplicable,” said James L. Turk, CAUT executive director. “They have buckled under to Access Copyright’s outrageous and unjustified demands at a time when courts have extended rights to use copyrighted material, better alternatives are becoming available to the services Access offers and just before the passage of new federal copyright legislation that provides additional protections for the educational sector”.

Turk also pointed out that the Supreme Court is set to clarify the educational use of copyrighted works in the coming months, clarifications that could undercut Access’s bargaining position. In contrast to Western Ontario and Toronto, many institutions have opted out of agreements with Access Copyright or are fighting its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.

“These two universities threw in the towel on the copyright battle prematurely,” said Turk. “We call on other post-secondary institutions not to follow Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s example of capitulating to Access Copyright. It‘s time to stand up for the right to fair and reasonable access to copyrighted works for educational purposes”.

Copyright agreement with Western and Toronto a bad and unwarranted deal (via O'Reilly Radar)


      1. “Lobbying” is basically just regulated bribery, isn’t it? Sure sounds like it to me, at least nowadays.

          1. Perhaps industrialized is the word that better suits what I was trying to say. It’s an established mechanism in politics.

  1. I thought links were supposed to be the equivalent of citations. Will the universities be monitoring the references lists in essays submitted via e-mail as well? If you’re going to do stupid, might as well do it all the way…

  2. If I mail a link explaining how to fill and ignite flaming sacks of shit, and the link goes on to locate the offices of the people involved on both sides of this transaction, is THAT illegal, too?

    1. I’m not condoning this one bit, but I get the feeling that it won’t be too long before the faculty mail admin will have to block mail from outside the network if it contains any URLs. You know that Anonymous is going to have a crack at DDOSing the surveillance feeds by just shitposting half the Internet to the entire faculty userlist.

      I wonder if faculty would be punished for using PGP with a hardware device such as a Yubikey in lieu of a password (claim destruction of the device in the event that you’re coerced for a password if they’re only demanding the key because this surveillance is failing and they’re butthurt) and encrypting their official correspondence. It would be trivial to share public keys; I’d have business cards printed up with mine if I were faculty there.

      Edit: Yubikey, not Ubikey. Damn you, English, and your abundancy of homophones!

  3. Surveill this!
    More pragmatically, though, how are they planning on dodging the fact that faculty email probably contain, y’know, potentially-legally-sensitive-and-or-protected-in-various-ways material?

    I have to imagine that there would be hell to pay if some of the shop talk that goes on around clinical research, say, were being scraped by the low bidder working for some dodgy outside entity…

      1. Quite so; but the point of this exercise appears to be scraping for the terrifying ‘URL’s that are leading the kids into piracy these days. Those should all be in the body of the message.

    1.  I didn’t follow the article, but I wouldn’t expect this surveillance to extend to faculty, just students.

  4. I feel like I am living inside a badly written parody.  I am daily assaulted with stupidity so absurd that 20 years ago it would have been laughed at as improbable and untrue.


    1. UPDATE:  I’ve contacted Access Copyright to open negotiations as to how much of the licensing fee I should receive as a license holder.

      I’m responsible for a few sites that are likely to be shared via email; of course I have absolutely no right to restrict this practice, but if they’re going to charge for it on my behalf then the majority of that licensing fee should be going to rights holders, and I’m one of them.

      What’s the bet that all of the licensing money they collect stays firmly in their own bank account?

      1.  So now we bring back the auto-surfing programs and set them to constantly email yourself your site. Instant bonus. If you don’t get any extra money, then Access Copyright is withholding it.

  5. Some clever, if evil, corporate lawyer at Access Copyright is getting a bonus.

    And hopefully, at the very least, some corporate lawyer at the University is getting a pink slip. Unless they did spot this, in which case basically everyone they report to should be getting a pink slip.

  6. I took a publishing course at Ryerson taught by one of Access Copyright’s execs. He didn’t believe digital publishing would ever take off, argued that dedicated devices for reading books would never sell, told us the publishing industry would stick with selling bound books because that’s what consumers want. This was in 2007. I dropped out of that program; I couldn’t really see myself working in an industry that denied the obvious importance of technology – like the music industry took a brutal hit, the movie and TV industries had to adapt, but… publishing? NAAAAW. PEOPLE LIKE THE SMELL OF BOOKS!

    1. What you were witnessing was a man conducting an extremely elaborate exercise of reassuring himself that his world view need never change, and making money while doing it.
      The moment the iPhone was announced (and I’m no Apple fanboy), I knew that the mobile revolution was finally here. Not the RAZR, that was just a fleeting fad with a transitional form factor that laid part of the path towards the smartphone as we recognize it today. That it would steamroll over into ebooks and video and other forms of media consumption was inevitable.

      If he’s that blind to the future, it comes as no surprise that Access Copyright is trying to essentially extort money where they can. They’ve finally realized that the future has no place for them, and they’re scrambling against the tide.

    2.  As someone who just completed the program, I can tell you that the instructors don’t deny technology, but there aren’t enough courses that actually teach you how to use the software you’ll need in the job market. I did teach myself (with help) how to code an epub, but I’ll never be able to compete with India for low cost.

    3. I DO like the smell of books, and I COLLECT  rare and signed copies of books I like.  That being said, I don’t actually READ any of them; they look too good on my shelves to ruin.  Instead, I listen to them on my iPhone.  Publishing isn’t dead, exactly, but the reasons people buy printed copies vs digital copies are changing, for sure!

  7. Ridiculous! As a university student, I’m already frustrated by some of the limits placed on profs. Yet another factor deterring me from pursuing grad studies at these universities…

  8. I knew UofT was slightly off its rocker when they hired me for two semesters, but this is troubling. Oh well, at least now I have something to look forward to when I leave these hallowed halls in April.

    Also funny: I heard about this on Boingboing first. Flow of information goes boink.

  9. At which point we’ll have to resort to mass civil disobedience  acts in order to stop this madness? If I were a faculty professor at one of those universities I’d be raising hell right about now, threatening to sit out my classes without saying a word, and let  students (and parents) deal with the joy of paying $$$$ for no education… Heads would roll pretty quick, I bet.

    1. Fuck it, just PGP/GPG everything. Everybody. Business card companies could make a killing offering 25 free cards with your name, a place to sign, and your public key on them, with discounts to students and faculty for more (especially since you could hand people multiple cards to distribute for you as a local web of trust). Scruss has already linked a site allowing you to search for local people who’d be willing to sign your keys.

    2. Your head, in fact. The only professors who have the institutional power to change the ways universities work are tenured full professors, who constitute a very small number of the entire faculty. And as it happens, tentured full professors are often the least likely to care about these sort of issues.

        1. Most tenured full professors do not have this difficulty as they have developed relationships with publishers, journal editors, etc; some of them occupy these posts themselves. Moreover, many do not publish with nearly the same frequency as their younger peers; professionally-speaking (to say nothing of the intellectual endeavor) they do not need to. Finally, for many the ability to e-mail a PDF to students (among various other activities that Access Copyright claims to govern) is not even on the radar.

          EDIT: I should say, these comments relate to tenured full professors in the Humanities. I have little idea of how things work over in the ‘hard’ sciences.

  10. So what are they supposed to do with that little chain-link icon in their email’s toolbar, wear it around their fucking neck?

  11. I have to wonder how this will actually be enforced. UofT is such a fragmented institution where many departments run their own email services. How the heck will all emails be monitored without compromising security and privacy?

    1. Well, they’ll have to install new hardware and software and hire people to monitor all emails. Then hike tuition to pay for it!

    2.  Silly! All emails are Already monitored. Geez. Your security and privacy have been compromised for your own good, citizen.

      Papers, please.

  12. This is kinda missing the picture. Instead of paying a per-page charge for course readers, as students are doing at all other Canadian universities, this agreement switches UofT and Western to a per-student charge, then permits unlimited copying and filesharing within the scope of that. I don’t see how it matters whether links get categorized as photocopies, since they’re all royalty-free now within those institutions.  There may come a day when everyone can copy whatever they want without consequence, but in the world we live in, this looks to me like it’s going to save students money, and save faculty a lot of headaches. Perhaps I’m missing something, I guess we’ll see how it plays out.

    I don’t understand the claims about monitoring email — since the point of the agreement is that it no longer matters if faculty send links, or even pdfs, of copyrighted material to their students. Anyhow, faculty email at Ontario universities is already subject to FIPPA (i.e. access to information), so it’s not as though they were living with some presumption of privacy prior to this.

    1. It’s not clear that they are.

      What you have here appears to proceed as follows:

      A) the copyright deal includes a clause mentioning email links as equivalent to copyright use. Kind of over-reach, probably put there to help justify an increase in fees…

      B) The copyright deal also says the university will develop a survey to see how  much copyright material is being used. (Extent of this not stated; survey and surveillance are similar in some ways, but this could might just be a report on how much copyrighted material was used in a course list, i.e., a bit of year-end paperwork by the professors…)

      The group OPPOSED to the deal string these two things together and claim that since links are now copyright, and survey must, therefore, involve monitoring of student and faculty email.

      Voila! “Big brother” controversy! Are they right? Maybe, but…

      The actual statement given out from the university itself is that the survey hasn’t been developed yet, but will definitely NOT involve any monitoring of email; rather, they’re totaling up how much photocopying takes place and how much paper was used (“oh, look, we students 2,000,000 photocopies of something…”)

      1. The troubling bit is the wild (not ‘kind of’) over-reach in claiming links to work are somehow the equivalent of that work.  

        That’s ludicrous, and a dangerous precedent.

  13. I’m in the entertainment industry (games and film) in Toronto and I’m currently talking with several prospective hires at U of T. I’m going to work tomorrow and asking them to switch the conversation to non-University email accounts, because we’re discussing things of strategic interest to our competitors (who are now, apparently, watching).

    Thanks for the warning! Talk about a chilling effect on small business and Canadian innovation. :(

  14. I’ve seen both Strange Brew and Canadian Bacon but up until now, I thought the whole thing about Canadians being tragically dense was just a stereotype…not that we can claim much better…but still…geez Canada.  /facepalm

    1. We’re not so much dense as just as vulnerable to greed and corruption as most anyone else on this ball.

      That being said, /doublefacepalm

  15. Funny thing. A note in my university newsletter said that my university was ending relations with Access Copyright this year.

    Now I know why.

  16. Every site licence that I have ever seen permits one authorised user to email full-text articles to other authorised user in the same institution. So not only is the ‘a link is a copy’ thing absurd, but they are almost certainly already entitled to email each other licenced online articles for no additional cost. They are paying for rights they already have.

  17. So, using the linking criteria, would an email with the call number to a book in the UofT library incur liability? 

  18. As a Western alum I always hated how they treated users rights.  Even when I was there our student fees covered an “access copyright license fee” then I would go a buy a coursepack and pay a 10 cent per page copyright charge….essentially I was paying for something my student fees had already covered.  Furthermore this copyright charge on coursepacks was charged even when the work was something like Karl Marx, which access copyright had no grounds to charge for.  I am curious as to how linking to random websites can be considered copying….and how an Ontario based copyright collective can claim to give a license to the various stuff online.  I understand Western’s higher ups view this as a cover-your-ass charge so that they are less likely to be sued, however, I think that cooler heads should have prevailed.  When what I have heard from my former profs a lot of people feel betrayted by this.

  19. Who the heck runs these schools.  People who are obviously out of touch with society have no place in our education systems.

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