CSUN won’t be availing itself of the Copyright Clearance Center’s recently announced plan that would allow colleges to streamline their practice of providing course reserves to students, at least not yet.
The plan would allow colleges to pay a blanket copyright fee for each student that would eliminate the current need for university personnel to obtain and pay for copyright permission for course reserves, either electronically or printed, on a case-by-case basis.
CSUN’s Physical Plant Management oversees Quick Copies, the entity responsible for putting together course packets. PPM executive director Tom Brown says that even though it sounds like a good idea, it would be too expensive a proposition right now because Copyright Clearance Center only represents about a third of existing publishers used by universities.
“If [Copyright Clearance Center] could get all the publishing houses to sign on, that would be good,” he said.
Even though Copyright Clearance Center is offering an incentive to universities who sign on now to pay a mere dollar per student as a yearly fee, Brown said even that wouldn’t be cost effective until they get a lot more publishers to sign on.
He said the fees paid by CSUN to publishers for copyright in 2006-07 amounted to about $54,000. Charging each student in a student body of 35,000 one dollar for copyright fees would equal $35,000 to pay for only one-third of the publishers CSUN already pays for. The price would then go up to between $8 and $10 per student after the one-dollar-per-student incentive ends.
Bruce Weinstein, director of logistical services for Physical Plant Management, described the process the university uses to provide course packets to students.
“Requests come in from various departments and professors as to what portions of books they want in their course packets,” he said. Personnel at Quick Copies then research each publisher and pay them a fee that is dependent on the amount copied.
Weinstein said that out of the 107 copyrights requested last semester, Copyright Clearance Center only represented 32 publishers, leaving 75 that would have to have been paid for in the usual manner, above and beyond the blanket fee they would charge.
Rebecca Burns, duplicating machine supervisor at Quick Copies, said copyright fees make up the largest portion of fees paid for course packets, adding that depending on the number of pages requested, the cost varies from no charge at all up to $60 or $70 per packet.
“We don’t have a mark-up,” she said, and added that the students only pay for Quick Copies’ costs, which are between 4.5 to 5 cents per page plus the cost of binding materials.
Both Brown and Weinstein have confidence in the process as it exists now, saying that the staff at Quick Copies is more than capable of quickly pinpointing and paying each appropriate publisher for copyrighted material.
They are both aware of the high costs of course packets, but say the amount has been diminishing over the past couple of years.
Numbers provided by Brown show that in 2005-06, copyright fees paid by the university were about $78,000, and were about $54,000 in 2006-07.
Brown and Weinstein said that while they’re not certain of the reason for this drop, they suspect it’s because professors are using outside copy centers to produce their course packets in an effort to lower costs for their students.
“They do it for the benefit of the students’ pocketbooks,” Brown said, but was afraid the professors didn’t realize such practices put the university at risk of being sued because these copy centers may not be aware of the university’s legal copyright obligations.
He even described unscrupulous agents of various outside copy centers actually having come into classrooms to hawk their services, saying that even a city official from Anaheim had been caught doing this on campus a couple semesters ago.
Danielle Ste. Just, supervisor of electronic course reserves at the Oviatt Library, thinks the blanket fee is a good idea, saying anything that streamlines the cumbersome job of scanning material and making it available online is a good thing.
But the size of the institution seems to have a lot to do with how eagerly the Copyright Clearance Center’s plan is received.
Middlebury College, located in central Vermont, was one of the first institutions to sign on to the Copyright Clearance Center’s blanket service. Its student body consists of 2,350 compared to CSUN’s approximate 35,000.
Joanne Stewart, supervisor of electronic reserves there, has nothing but praise for the system.
“It’s been a very good thing,” she said, especially for course packs, adding that there really hasn’t been a problem with the small number of publishers included in the deal.
“You quick pick from a list of publications,” she said. “It’s there three-fourths of the time.”