Western and the University of Toronto signed a voluntary agreement Jan. 30 with copyright licensing company Access Copyright after the expiration of previous licensing agreements.
The contract imposes a new fee of $27.50 for full-time students and includes controversial provisions that outline a broad definition of copying and monitoring.
The Canadian Federation of Students is raising concerns because it says the agreement allows the two universities to monitor links being shared in e-mails sent by students.
The federation said the monitoring of e-mails would infringe on the right of students to privacy.
“Of course the university may say that that’s not their intention except the agreement positions them to be able to do that, which is what we see as the problem,” said Roxanne Dubois, national chairperson of the federation.
“Frankly we think this is a step in the wrong direction.”
Students at Western also argue that the new fee is unwarranted, said Desirée Lamoureux, vice-president of student services for the Society of Graduate Students at Western.
“There should not be a fee in the first place,” she said. “We’re doing things that are within fair dealing, and with copyright law right now, you do not pay for fair dealing.”
A Western official said the university won’t monitor students e-mails.
Western will survey students to assess the use of paper and digital copying, said Janice Deakin, Western’s vice-president academic and provost.
“There will be no intervention into people’s e-mail. The conditions of privacy and confidentiality would be respected and nothing would happen until such time that the parties agree to a methodology to develop the survey.”
The university also has the ability to leave the agreement within six months if the fairness of the fee is not to its satisfaction, Deakin said.
Written by Eric Clement. Published in The London Free Press, February 13, 2012.