Schools balk at copyright fees for teaching materials

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Schools balk at copyright fees for teaching materials

Universities will be required for the first time to pay copyright fees for teaching materials lifted from books.

But schools are struggling to understand how the fees are being calculated, and some are objecting to the plan outright.

The policy is set to be confirmed in September after universities and copyright holders come to an understanding, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Such payments are required under a copyright law amended in 2006, but have never been collected.

“We received an official statement from the ministry recently, asking the school its opinion of the copyright fee and our school sent back a reply that we are against the decision,” said an official at the office of academic affairs at Seoul National University, who asked for anonymity.

“They said they would be collecting around 4,000 won from each student, but we don’t know where this money is going, and the process of how the ministry plans to check how much copyrighted material is used is not clear,” the official said.

“And it’s definitely not a small amount, because the total would be hundreds of millions of won for big schools. If the policy is enforced, the money will be collected from the students, which will lead to tuition hikes and overall discomfort,” said the SNU official.

In response, Lee Myeong-jin of the publishing and printing industry division of the culture ministry told the JoongAng Daily: “Copyright laws here have received many complaints from abroad - that they infringe international laws - so we are doing this for the good of Korean education. None of the money will come to the ministry” and will go to copyright holders.

“Professors use teaching aids with pictures and text taken from authors, right?” Lee continued. “With this policy, schools will have to pay a small amount compared to the copyright fees they would be required to pay for every picture or block of text. We are doing the schools a favor.

“Schools will be required to pay less than 4,000 won ($3.42) per student,” he said. “The largest schools with over 20,000 students on campus will probably be paying 80 million won a year, but there are schools that spend hundreds of millions of won each year on school expenses.” Lee said that the ministry has discouraged schools from collecting the copyright fees directly from the students.

“There is no way the government can keep tabs on how each school comes up with the money,” said the SNU official. “As for now, our school cannot accept this policy.”

The copyright fees will be sent to the Korea Reprographic and Transmission Rights Association, which is under the culture ministry. The association will decide how the fees are distributed.

By Christine Kim []
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