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Copyright Agency acts against universities

Copyright Agency launches legal action against universities, Books + Publishing, 14 November 2018

The Copyright Agency has lodged action in the Copyright Tribunal against Universities Australia, the peak body representing universities, over the terms of the licensing agreement for distributing content.

Universities Australia, which represents 39 Australian universities, had been in discussions with the Copyright Agency for a new licensing agreement to begin in 2019. After a breakdown in discussions, the agency launched the action in the Copyright Tribunal on behalf of its 40,000 members.

The licence covers more than 10 million digital and print pages of copyright material that the Copyright Agency says is a ‘core input’ into teaching at Australia’s universities. The annual cost of the license is currently $32.5 million, which the Copyright Agency says converts to 9 cents per student per day, or 0.11% of total expenditure by universities in 2016 of $28.6 billion.

‘The explosion of digital content has radically changed the way universities provide educational content to students,’ said Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling.

‘Licence fees support the Australian educational publishing industry to continue to produce high-quality educational material. Not paying a fair rate undermines the ability of publishers, authors and artists to invest, innovate and develop more Australian content.

‘We’ll be asking the Tribunal to assess the value of these licences in the digital age; the best method of pricing the licence, and to revisit the ways we monitor how much material is being accessed under the licence.’

Suckling said there are better ways of capturing usage than the current approach, such as via the provision of full digital records, which would ensure ‘accurate payments to copyright creators’, including academics.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson told iTnews that universities pay a ‘fair price’ for content and will continue to do so.

‘Universities pay hundreds of millions of dollars directly each year to publishers and copyright owners and that amount continues to grow,’ said Jackson, adding that content creators and copyright owners could be assured that universities will continue to pay for the use of their content.

Jackson said that Universities Australia has been negotiating with the Copyright Agency ‘in good faith’, but the agency’s proposal is ‘akin to saying that universities should pay twice for the content they are using’.

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