Landing : Athabascau University

University Affairs comments on the Access Copyright Agreement

I have submitted this response to the UA article. See:


This agreement could have been made with no effort on the part of AUCC,  Access Copyright (AC) has been given more than it could possibly have dreamed of. I understood that the universities through AUCC were going to fight this AC proposal, and significant funding was provided for this purpose. This has not happened this can be partly explained by the hiring of legal council that worked for the publishers. This was at a minimum a perceived conflict of interest and quite possibly a real conflict of interest. Protests were made about this that were ignored.  So, a complete cave-in on negotiations by AUCC was not unexpected.


The fact that this agreement purportedly covers digital rights is new. Does AC even have those digital rights? Oh, we don’t know because they will not reveal their repertoire. And, where do they get the right to allow us to link to sites. There is no internet without site links. The internet is site links. Do they own the internet? How presumptious, especially when the courts have already ruled on this allowing site linking.


The model license is a disaster for universities. The license prohibits faculty from sharing articles with our colleagues outside our institutions. Nor can we legally store any research articles or parts. How are we supposed to do research if we cannot continue these practices that are essential. What is that all about? We have always had access to digital materials; the long-term certainty in prices has not given us access to a new range of digital materials, on the contrary, it has now placed serious and possibly catastrophic restrictions on our access.


The timing is highly suspect and works out perfectly for AC as the new copyright law will extend fair dealing to include educational uses that would allow copying a single chapter of a text. It also proposes positive changes in statutory damages that limit universities’ liability. Why could AUCC not wait until after this becomes law?


The most cynical part of this agreement is the pressure that they are putting on other universities to sign now. They were not happy with giving in for themselves, but they also agreed to a limited time formula for others and have now given a clear passage to a tariff that will force us all to accept the agreement. This isn’t “fear mongering” – this is a fact.


This could set back the growing movement for Open Access journals and  Open Educational Resources, as universities that use them extensively will still have to pay the same tariff as universities who continue to use mostly proprietary content. As universities and colleges around the world are becoming more open, AUCC agrees to penalize institutions in Canada that support openness.


I support the right of creators to fair compensation. Good luck to them getting it from Access Copyright. I'm sure the AC gang will be giving themselves big raises after winning this agreement. I hope there is some money left for authors.


Rory McGreal

UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning Chair in OER


  • Thank you. Nice to see it said.

    I take it that it is impractical for AU to go 100% AC free?

    BTW: If you go OA and OER in a public or crowd funded model post the link and I'll donate. I would rather support universities and creators than publishers or AC with admin over 15%.

    Eric von Stackelberg April 26, 2012 - 12:44am

  • Thank you for posting your response to the University Affairs article, Rory. The AUGSA is in full support of your comments. We believe that universities should be pushing for greater access—particularly through the use of Open Access journals and Open Educational Resources—not less, and we cannot understand why AUCC would sign the new agreement when the passing of Bill C-11 is just around the corner.

    We have posted our own response to the UA article, supporting your comments, which I have copied below for the convenience of those reading your blog.


    I echo Rory McGreal’s comments. This deal is bad for students and will ultimately see the cost of education rise. 

    As universities continue to make greater use of digital and open resources, imposing a flat rate per student rather than a per-page copying rate can be seen as little more than a money-grab on the part of Access Copyright. As fewer pages will be photocopied, the cost for universities (and, by extension, students) should be decreasing. Access Copyright saw a decline in revenue coming and thus drafted this new, supposedly “more certain” agreement. 

    As a graduate student, I must also echo Dr. McGreal’s concerns about the detrimental effects that this agreement will have on research. Without the ability to share articles with colleagues at other institutions, and without the ability to legally store research articles, conducting meaningful research will become more difficult. Academic research requires the free flow of ideas. The new Access Copyright agreement will significantly hinder that flow. 

    I also agree that the timing of this agreement is highly suspect. Access Copyright and AUCC know that new copyright legislation will soon be passed. They know that Bill C-11 includes changes that will increase educational fair dealing and decrease the cost of access for educational institutions. That this agreement was signed prior to these changes to copyright legislation suggests that Access Copyright is attempting to get universities to lock into a deal that will look preposterous as soon as Bill C-11 is passed. 

    As a supporter of Open Access journals and Open Education Resources (OER), I also fear that this new agreement will hurt the Open Access movement. Universities who sign onto the new agreement have little incentive to make use of Open Access journals or OER, which will limit the expansion of OER, thus limiting the available resources for those universities who choose not to sign the agreement and/or make extensive use of Open Access resources. 

    Amanda Nielsen 
    Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association 


    Amanda Nielsen April 26, 2012 - 12:30pm

  • Thanks Amanda,

    An excellent post!

    We really need students to rally around this. Are there any national student initiatives (protests) being planned. What is the national student consensus?


    Rory McGreal April 26, 2012 - 12:58pm

  • Now it's my turn to echo Rory's comments. Excellent riposte!

    BTW, we've launched a new Landing group to discuss and strategize what to do about the looming #ACdeal. While we're considering our options, we welcome ideas from the whole AU community, and (because of AC's inexplicably precipitous deadlines) we need them fast.

    Mark A. McCutcheon April 26, 2012 - 1:05pm

  • Hi Rory,

    One of the 'hats' that I wear is serving as Chair of the Graduate Council of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). CASA represents 27 student associations and over 320,000 students across Canada. 

    CASA issued a press release ("Model Agreement Not a Model for Students") about this on April 18th. CASA does not stand behind the model license, and has asked that post-secondary institutions work with their respective student associations to explore other options. I'm proud of the strong stance that Athabasca University has taken on this matter.

    Through CASA, we are also in the process of exploring a federal open access policy related to the tricouncil granting agencies. Innovation doesn't happen when you restrict access to publicly funded resources!


    Amanda Nielsen April 26, 2012 - 1:17pm

  • Hi everyone,

    To further support the cause, we've just issued a press release to keep this item top of mind. You can access it here: :)



    Amanda Nielsen April 26, 2012 - 8:49pm

  • Thanks Rory and Amanda!

    Pamela Walsh April 28, 2012 - 3:27pm

  • Thanks Rory, and Amand for your work to support open access to digital material that contributes to research innovation in universities.



    Diane Meyia Mengue May 3, 2012 - 11:59am

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