The University of Toronto, who, together with the University of Western Ontario singed an infamous license agreement with Access Copyright last year, decided not to renew the agreement. In a letter dated June 6, 2013 UofT’s Vice President and Provost Cheryl Misak notified Access Copyright of its decision.
Prof. Misak’s letter mentions “the passage of the Copyright Modernization Act, the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2012 copyright rulings, technological change, changes in the scholarly publishing world, and the broadening reach of open access initiatives (among other developments)” as reasons behind its decision. In making this decision UofT follows the footsteps of the University of British Columbia and the other universities listed on the Fair Dealing Hall of Fame. Prof. Misak further notes that “the University also continues to explore all its options, including alternative approaches that would involve utilizing other licenses, fair dealing and legislative authorizations to provide comprehensive availability of relevant material for the University’s teaching and learning activities.”
While UofT’s decision is a very positive development, it does not foreclose the option of renewed relationships with Access Copyright. As I predicted, the letter invites Access Copyright to enter into negotiations in which UofT would seek a substantially reduced royalty rate. “[I]f there is to be a renewal of the License” Misak writes, “there needs to be a clear, demonstrated value to the University over the course of the renewal term – a value that takes into account and gives credit for the expansive interpretation of fair dealing endorsed by the Supreme Court, as well as the amendments to the legislation and other factors.” It is now up to Access Copyright to demonstrate that if can offer value and not fear.
UofT should be congratulated for this decision, which, together with the adoption of new fair dealing guidelines last November, hopefully signals desire to assume a leadership role in this area. The next few months will tell whether today’s decision to leave the Fair Dealing House of Shame would materialize into full induction into the House of Fame. Today I’m optimistic that it will. Congratulations.