Copyright Clearance Center Raises Transactional Fees

Article excerpt

As a licenser of print and digital rights, the Copyright Clearance Center is almost certain to enter the work lives of those responsible for delivering information: librarians, educators, nonprofits, document suppliers, public relations experts, or marketing specialists. Billed as a "One-Stop Shop Around the Clock," CCC's centralized system is a convenient service for any user who's seeking permission to reproduce copyrighted works.

Despite its significance, CCC faces criticism from its customers, who tend to blame it for ever-increasing royalty fees. In fairness to the organization, it doesn't set the royalty fees. It's the rightsholders, mainly scholarly publishers, who do. But there are critics who expect CCC to advocate just as equally for those who seek permissions--at affordable, reasonable prices--as it does for the publishers that own the majority of copyrights.

Users of CCC's services are also frustrated by the monopolistic control the nonprofit seems to have over granting rights permissions in the U.S. The CCC originated in 1978, soon after the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed. In the years since CCC's inception, various newcomers have attempted to offer the same breadth of publications, but to date no one has been successful. Small companies, nonprofits, and individuals could attempt to negotiate separate agreements with hundreds of publishers and other rightsholders. Compared to large academic libraries and corporations, however, they just don't have the same financial resources, time, or clout. In short, they simply have no choice but to use CCC.

Despite the disparagement it often faces, CCC has gone out of its way to make a number of transactional services available to small users for a variety of permissions. These include the Academic Permission Service, Digital Permission Service, Electronic Course Content Service, Republication Licensing Service, and Transactional Reporting Service (https://www .copyright.com/services/OnlinePermissions.asp).

Because CCC has been supportive of any size customer (by establishing several types of permissions systems over the years), transactional users were surprised to learn about an escalation in CCC's processing fee--from 30 cents to $3 per transaction--effective March 15. Those who felt the need to pull out their calculators realized that the new fee is a 1,000-percent (or tenfold) increase. On top of royalty fees of $25 or more--charged by publishers such as Lippincott-Raven, Elsevier, Springer-Verlag, Humana Press, and Marcel Dekker--plus fees paid to commercial document suppliers who provide many of us with articles, transactional users questioned the reason for the increase. Most users assumed that CCC was more than adequately compensated to run its organization by taking a percentage of rightsholders' royalties.

In response to user inquiries about the increase, CCC's Tracey L. Armstrong, vice president of Transactional Services, posted a letter on the organization's Web site (http://www.copyright.com/Services/ FlatFeeNotice.asp). After noting CCC's not-for-profit status, Armstrong listed reasons for the changes in pricing structure: standardization of fees across CCC's services, simplified pricing, and system enhancements. She pointed out that the processing fee had not increased in 7 years and only occurred "after months of careful cost studies, market analysis, and an extensive survey of our customers, most of whom supported the proposed changes." Armstrong also wrote: "The processing fee is a very small portion, generally only 2 percent of the total fees paid for copyright permission, and will continue to be under the new model."

Perhaps to soften the blow, Armstrong announced a volume-purchase program that's available to transactional users who spend more than $10,000 a year "in combined royalty and processing fees." Volume users will pay a reduced fee of $1 per transaction. Armstrong encouraged the formation of consortia among small organizations, so they could "aggregate their usage reporting" in order to "qualify for the volume discount. …