Authors & Publishers Seek Fair Copyright Deal from Universities

A refusal by the country’s eight universities to agree a fairer annual license fee, allowing lecturers to copy authors work for their students, has left the non profit organisation that protects and licenses copyrighted work no option but to file a case with the Copyright Tribunal

A refusal by the country’s eight universities to agree a fairer annual license fee, allowing lecturers to copy authors work for their students, has left the non profit organisation that protects and licenses copyrighted work no option but to file a case with the Copyright Tribunal.

As the academic year kicks off New Zealand universities are selling ‘course packs’ to students containing photocopied chapters and articles so that full textbooks don’t have to be purchased by students.

Universities must have a license in place with Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) in order to legally provide large amounts of copied course material to students outside what’s allowed under the Copyright Act. Without a license universities cannot charge for course packs and students would have to purchase the whole book or publication. The license also enables university staff to copy and share an extensive range of resources to ensure their teaching meets international standards.

The licensing scheme operated by CLNZ ensures that authors and publishers are being fairly paid for the use of their work. The net proceeds of the licensing scheme are paid out to the authors and publishers whose works are copied by the universities.

It will be the first time the Copyright Tribunal has looked at what universities are paying for the license fee. But it’s a move Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) Chief Executive, Paula Browning says CLNZ has been forced to take. She says after a year of negotiations, Universities New Zealand (UNZ) has refused to budge on the current $20 fee per student, which was agreed in 2007.

Until the Tribunal can hear the case, CLNZ has offered to rollover the existing license to ensure universities are protected against legal action for breach of copyright.

“Despite increases in the average number of pages being copied per student and the ability the license gives universities to provide copies electronically to students, the universities aren’t prepared to negotiate a very small $6 increase in the annual fee, which hasn’t even been adjusted to account for inflation over the past 5 years,” said Paula Browning.

“Many universities have been increasing their fees by the maximum allowable annually. They then also charge students to receive each individual course pack. Students will generally require several course packs in one year and fees charged per pack are significant - up to $85 in some cases. At the same time the universities are paying just $20 per student per year to use the published works that those courses are based on.”

The universities current license with CLNZ expired on 31 December 2012. CLNZ extended the existing license to 28 February pending the completion of negotiations on the new fee. Paula Browning says CLNZ has gone to the Tribunal seeking a four-year deal with an annual license fee of $26 per Equivalent Full Time Student (EFTS) for 2013, adjusted each year by the rate of CPI.

While the case is before the Tribunal, CLNZ has offered the Universities the option of rolling-over the existing license to ensure they are protected against legal action for breach of copyright.

The Copyright Tribunal is mandated to look at what is a reasonable fee taking into account all of the relevant circumstances. If the Tribunal upholds the new fee being proposed by CLNZ, it has the discretion to backdate it to take effect from 1 March 2013.

A timetable for the matter to be heard before the Copyright Tribunal has not been set.

ENDS

For more information or an interview with Paula Browning please contact Trish Sherson at Sherson Willis on 021 570 803 or trish@shersonwillis.com.

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