THE cost of photocopying protected material may increase by 50 cents a page if a proposal for copyright licensing and tariffs is adopted. A publishers' association is devising a system of charging individuals and organisations for a licence to copy material whose copyright is held by its members. The cost of licences will be based on the volume of material copied, the average international tariff standing at 50 cents for an A4-sized page. It is likely this tariff will eventually be passed on to end users and, in the case of education institutes, students will bear the brunt. Representatives of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations, whose members already subscribe to a tariff scheme, were invited by publishers to speak at a seminar yesterday. Federation Chairman Tarja Koskinen said: ''The total number of copies and the percentage of material protected by copyright is usually investigated through statistical methods.'' Tom Ng Yun-lam, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Publishing Federation, said his organisation was examining a system which followed the average international tariff. He said surveys would first be undertaken to determine the quantity of material a prospective licensee was copying. The system, which is outlined in a Law Reform Commission report, aims to minimise copyright abuse. Publishers would initially target schools, government departments and private companies. Mr Ng estimated $30 million was lost every year to copyright abuse at libraries in tertiary institutions. But commercial and industrial sectors have made a lot more copies of protected material. He said institutional users or copying shops might have to record the quantity and type of copies made. Some tertiary institutions have expressed concern over the extra administrative workload. It has been a general practice for tertiary institutions to post a copyright warning near photocopying machines. In this way the individual user bears personal responsibility for any infringement. Deputy Director of Intellectual Property, Averil Waters, said the Government preferred a non-interventionist approach towards the establishment of a licensing system. ''However, we believe any collective administration of copyrights should be beneficial to both copyright owners and users,'' Ms Waters said. Mr Ng estimated $500,000 would be needed to administer the system, which would save copyright users from seeking authorisation each time they wished to make a copy. He said collection of fees might be handed over to the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong, which protects the rights of musical works, as it had similar experience. He said they were aiming to give 85 per cent of takings to copyright holders. The rest would cover administration costs.