Kwantlen Polytechnic University backtracks on Access Copyright agreement

President Alan Davis doesn’t know why the deal wasn’t signed, but says Kwantlen is better off without it.

President Alan Davis doesn’t know why the deal wasn’t signed, but says Kwantlen is better off without it.

By Sarah Schuchard
[associate news editor]

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has not signed on to Access Copyright and has no plans to do so, despite earlier announcements from the former president that they already had signed the agreement.

The transition from former Kwantlen president John McKendry (right) to current president Alan Davis (left) has led in a shift in the university’s position on the controversial Access Copyright agreement. (Photos courtesy Kwantlen)

According to current president Alan Davis, who took office in September, the turnaround of senior Kwantlen staff means that no one is entirely certain as to why the agreement was not signed. Both former interim president John McKendry and former vice president of academics Anne Lavack left the university in late August.

“When I arrived, it had not been signed and I don’t quite know exactly why,” said Davis. “One thing I can say is there was probably not enough discussion internally.”

Davis informed members of the university about his discovery in September and has since asserted that being independent from Access Copyright was the better decision for Kwantlen.

Christopher Girodat, a student representative on the university senate and the chairperson of the Kwantlen Student Association’s (KSA) executive, expressed concern that the university had missed the June signing deadline and didn’t inform the senate, but overall was happy with the final result.

“Thanks to the Fair Use decision in the Supreme Court, and with expanded definitions of copyright in government we’re finding out that a lot of the content that we paid for under the license agreement we can access for free for educational fair use,” said Girodat.

“All together the KSA believes that the costs will be less for the students and less for the university.”

According to information posted on Kwantlen’s website there are four reasons why the university didn’t sign: Access Copyright has requested a large fee for each full time student; a large reporting and survey component might have been needed; recent court changes had allowed for more legal access to copyrighted material; and Kwantlen already had access to a large amount of material provided under Access Copyright through other licenses.

Last summer, Kwantlen’s then-president, McKendry, publicly took on critics from the faculty and student associations last summer, when he declared that Kwantlen would sign on to the agreement by the June 30, 2012 deadline, over their objections.

At the time, Mckendry argued that Kwantlen lacked the maturity and establishment that other schools may have to provide its students with “in house copyright.” He claimed that the university would be forced to hire more staff to handle copyright issues if they didn’t sign on to the agreement. He also expressed confusion with complaints from critics with the university community.

“I really don’t know what the problem is with the agreement,” he said. “I have five key questions from the KSA and I have addressed all of them, so I don’t understand what is the concern.”

In an interview with The Runner Davis insisted that any cost required for obtaining copyrighted materials would not be seen by students, or affect the cost of tuition. However, the university is still not entirely aware of all the potential costs that could result from not signing the agreement.

The university senate created a copyright subcommittee in December with the intention of holding forums and discussing the dynamics of fair dealings.

“It’s a very exciting time for the evolution of access to quality content,” said Davis.

“It’s a very key part for the teaching enterprise . . . the plan will be, that it will be much cheaper, and more accessible. That’s the future.