CyberTech Rambler

September 12, 2005

Copyright and Photocopier, VCR, DVD etc

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:12 pm

As any good travellers do, before I depart for my holiday in Ireland, I decided to photocopy some important information about my travel details. Although I used the office photocopier for the purpose, I do fully reimburse the University for the privilege of using the photocopier. The cost, as I put it, is 6p per page.

That got me thinking, why did it cost 6p per page? For every copy I make, the paper and toner powder together cost less than 0.7p, The rest represents the cost of maintaining the copier and operation profit for the company we outsource the maintenance of the photocopier to. I have no beef with that. However, I have a problem knowning a small sum of money, either directly from the 6p I paid, or indirectly paid by the University on my behalf, to so-called copyright licensing fee collecting agency. Why should I pay license fee to them? I owned the copyright for the information on the piece of paper I printed. I did not give them the rights to license the material on my behalf.

I am sure everyone is aware of notices placed near photocopiers talking about restriction on what you can copy. For UK universities, most of us are photocopying under license from a particular license fee collection agency. This agency shall remain anonymous in this blog because I am not against the agency’s practice, but the whole issue of collecting licensing fee where no licensing fee is owned.

First and foremost, I will like to stress that I strongly believe in just reward. Hence if you photocopy/use material copyrighted by others, you have to pay the copyright owner. Equally, nobody should be allowed to demand payment for something you have not used.

It is true that in an academic environment, we used to photocopy a lot of articles under the copyright license. However, the use of photocopiers for this purpose had been superceded by printers. [ Note. There is one exception: photocopiers in libraries. Legally, photocopiers in libraries are treated differently in copyright lawsbecause of their public role. Therefore I excluded them in this blog]. The rights to print a copy is normally covered by a different licensing scheme, i.e., subscriptions to the online library providing the copy. Photocopiers are generally relegated to printing duplicates of important documents generated in the course of business, where the ownership of the documents in most case lies with the person who do the photocopying, or the organization he is attached to. Even in the case where the copyright does not belong to the person or organization, it is highly doubtful that the copyright agencies have the right to collect royalty on behalf the copyright owner. Hence, why should we pay royalty (more like a tax) to them?

That agreement is outdated and should be renegotiated. Academic photocopier usage is getting closer to that of normal business practice. Any renegotiation should take that into account.

The actual agreement between the copyright agency, the university or the photocopy company we use is of course written in such a way that says that the agencies are collecting their dues only and nothing else. This neatly let those agency sidestep the issue of of them collecting license fee illegally. However, as everyone who use a photocopier know or should know, part of your charges goes to those agencies no matter what you are photocopying. This presumption of “photocopying licensed material” is a good compromise in the 80s and 90s, but the situation had changed and hence, no longer valid and should be changed.

Do you know that the empty VCR tapes you buy in the shop is very likely to include a royalty fee (a.k.a. tax) paid to the entertainment industry just because you might use it to copy a copyright movie? How many of us use it to copy movies? Most of us use blank tapes to record TV programs and Home Videos which we have the legal rights to do so in the first place. Copying movies using VCR is technically challenging for most of the population. Even then, not every copying is illegal. There is a case to be made for “fair use” if I simply copied the movie as a backup.

Why is this issue important? The “tax” on photocopying and empty VCR might one day make its way to all blank DVD, CDR etc that you buy. If this happens, you paid someone unnecessarily to record your home video on DVD, make a backup of your software you purchase (which you are entitled to under fair-use). Better still, you paid the wrong person when you download and burn “Free and Open Source Software” which the owner explicitly give you permission to do so.

Personally, I do not like this tax, It treat me like criminals by presuming I am guity and worst of all, do not reward my good behaviour of not copying copyrighted material where I should not.


1 Comment »

  1. This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    Comment by Anonymous — September 12, 2005 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

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