At a recent Library Board meeting a question arose about a $300 charge from Access Copyright. I explained that libraries providing photocopier access to the public must pay the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency an annual fee to ensure that when our patrons photocopy something that is copyright protected it is legal to do so. Huh? This has nothing to do with photocopier leases or paper and ink costs; it is Canadian law that we must pay an annual fee for patrons to photocopy pages from our books. The $300 is just for four photocopiers and is based on population. More people and photocopiers mean higher fees to pay. The fees ostensibly go back to the creators and publishers.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Libraries have to pay for public performance rights to show movies even if they own the movie. We are also supposed to pay SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) fees to play music. I had quite a lively conversation with a SOCAN rep on the phone one day when he tried to tell me that singing songs in preschool storytime could violate SOCAN laws if the songs were copyright protected and I didn’t pay for a license for each branch library. I ended the conversation with the challenge for him to tell me who owns the copyright to the Hokey Pokey.
I agree that artists, whether they are writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc., need to be protected by copyright and should be fairly compensated for their work, but the reality is the money we spend on these licensing fees depletes our ability to pay for books and other library materials.
Speaking of licenses, think about all the software licenses we have to pay for each computer. The Annapolis Valley Regional Library has 67 computers for the public to use as well as our own staff computers. A simple upgrade to a new version of Windows is a costly endeavour even with special education discount rates.
There are many hidden costs to running a public library, but the dollars invested in library service pay back the community ten-fold.
--- Frances Newman, Regional Librarian