University course packs going digital

August 24th, 2011 by Barry Sookman Leave a reply »

There has been a lot of debate recently concerning how universities should access and pay for content used for teaching purposes. Some, like Michael Geist, have argued that universities should forgo collective licensing from Access Copyright in favor of other “alternatives”.

Earlier this week, Metro Morning interviewed Jesse Hirsh on this topic. Check out the interview. Here’s a bit of what Jesse Hirsh had to say:

MATT GALLOWAY: What sort of copyright issues do digital course packs present?

JESSE HIRSH: Oh this all comes down to the resilience of the photocopier that has been a key ingredient of allowing universities to keep up in the era of the web. And these course packs are basically updated textbooks every year. Professors able to take the latest research, latest articles.

MATT GALLOWAY: Plug it in.

JESSE HIRSH: And the photocopier as a gateway has allowed authors and publishers to be remunerated because you could track which ones are copied, which ones are used. So it’s a stable system that allowed for flexibility and will let people get paid but the tablets are here. Right, and this notion of the digital platform allows the course packs go digital but not the regulatory regime that guarantees people will get paid. The Copyright Board of Canada has presented a tariff that would act as an interim. But over 30 Canadian Universities are saying: “Forget about it. We’re going to ignore your tariff. We’re going outside of the system”, partly as a pressure to sort of say: “Look we want something that benefits us more.” But it also is a kind of civil disobedience that will basically allow them to save costs by not paying for the content that they distribute….

MATT GALLOWAY: And for the students what does it mean for them?

JESSE HIRSH: If they see their universities and the main authority in their lives, professors, defy copyright law… So it’s really not a good situation, not for authors or publishers, not really for students and researchers. It’s why we need a system that’s legal that allows people to share knowledge openly but still allow the producers to get paid.

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