I'll take seven. That's a great trade.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, esteemed committee members, fellow witnesses, and members of the gallery.
My name is Michael McDonald. I'm the Executive Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, otherwise known as CASA. CASA is a non-partisan organization that represents over 250,000 students at colleges, universities, and polytechnics from across the country. We advocate for a post-secondary education system that is affordable, accessible, innovative, and of the highest quality for all.
Thank you for the invitation to speak today about the Copyright Act. Copyright law has a profound impact on students in Canada. We believe the statutory review presents an excellent opportunity to reflect on what has worked, and to address what has not.
Students purchase, study, and create copyrighted material daily. It will surprise no one at this hearing to learn that students are seeing first-hand the rapid shift towards digital content delivery and the adoption of new learning tools. For example, open access journals are ensuring that more content than ever before is available freely. In many academic fields, including the STEM fields, these journals are now becoming the primary way through which new research is shared.
Open educational resources are also reshaping the academic materials landscape. These high-quality, open-source materials allow for content, such as textbooks, to be available to students and educators for free. Such materials have immense potential to be adapted to meet the needs of diverse students and diverse audiences. British Columbia and Ontario have already committed to providing funding for the creation of OER textbooks, and the savings students have seen for these programs have been growing daily.
Both open access and open educational resources are modern innovations whose returns for students, in both cost savings and quality improvements, are only just being realized. While we understand this is outside of the Copyright Act itself, we believe it is crucial to understand what educational content will look like in the years to come when reviewing the act and the arguments presented here today. They also present a valuable opportunity for the federal government to foster further innovation and learning.
A further facet of the modern learning environment has been fair dealing. The official inclusion of education as a component of fair dealing in 2012 clarified the rights articulated by the Supreme Court. While this right has helped reduce some of the transactional costs for students associated with accessing content, we think it is important to give special attention to how fair dealing has improved the quality of the post-secondary education experience provided here in Canada. The inclusion of education as a component of fair dealing creates a mechanism that facilitates the legitimate exchange of small amounts of information. This encourages a diversity of sources and perspectives to be used. In an academic setting, to use a metaphor, this is an intellectual lubricant. This can be content delivered by professors in classrooms, but it can also be through the peer-to-peer learning experiences fostered in study groups and group presentations. This is the organic teaching that is so hard to quantify, and we think is so precious to protect.
CASA believes that fair dealing for educational provisions in the Copyright Act must remain intact. We also recommend that, to further strengthen the system, the committee examine any punishments for bypassing digital lock systems and consider their removal, since these restrict users' ability to exercise their legal rights over that content.
It is critical to note that, throughout this era of digital disruptions, students, professors, and post-secondary institutions continue to pay for academic materials. According to household survey data from Statistics Canada, average household spending on textbooks alone was over $650 in 2015 for university texts and $430 for college texts. These expenditures are clear evidence of the continued use and purchase of effective published materials.
This leads us to discuss the Copyright Board. CASA believes that the current regime overseen by the Copyright Board does have some flaws. Transparency, openness to feedback, and honesty are values that we would expect from Facebook, and these are values that we would expect also from our tariff system. While post-secondary education tariffs are presented as an agreement between rights holders and the post-secondary education institutions, we believe that it's important that the primary consumer of these materials—students—be considered. Students pay for these tariffs, either directly, through ancillary fees administered by provincial ancillary fee structures, or indirectly, through operations budgets. It is the cost they are expected to bear and one that we do not believe is being adequately considered. CASA believes that any fee assessed on students must clearly be explained and justified. This is something we would ask at an institution and it's something we expect from the federal government as well.
Access Copyright fees, so far, have lacked many of the attributes that we would expect from normal service provision. First, these fees sometimes seem to be determined at random. The fees for university students were $45 in 2011 to 2013, and were adjusted to $35 in 2014 and 2017, while the fee offered on the website was $26.
Students are concerned about what kind of product they have this kind of variability. The attempts that have been made to more clearly understand this fee have been met by opposition from Access Copyright, when requests for this transparency have been made by the Copyright Board.
At it stands, there's no clear rationale why these fees apply to all students equally, especially considering the different licensing needs of faculties. We believe that university administrations are excellent decision-makers when deciding what kind of content to purchase in these environments.
We're also extremely concerned that the fees proposed in other sectors by Access Copyright have so far been found to be much higher than deemed appropriate by the Copyright Board. This is deeply troubling, and we're calling on the committee to ensure that the Copyright Board provides clear, public rationale for why fees exist and to demand public accounting for those who wish to operate tariffs.
CASA hopes that the committee, through it's consultations and deliberations, keeps in mind the importance of preserving flexible, adaptable copyright systems that serve the needs of both creators and users.
Students appreciate the committee's dedicated work on this complex subject.
I look forward to answering your questions.