Monday, July 9, 2012

Access copyright's university model license and scholarly publishing

The Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communications Team supports the University of Guelph’s decision to opt out of the University Model License proposed by Access Copyright. See the post on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 for more details on this decision.

Opting out of Access Copyright in no way diminishes the Library’s obligation to obtain copyright clearance for a work when it is required by law. The Library has always respected copyright legislation and will continue to do so. This often involves paying the copyright holder for the use of her work.

It is important to remember, however, that academic work makes up the bulk of material purchased by university libraries. Most researchers are employed by universities and other institutions and publish as part of their job. Furthermore, much of this research was funded, at least in part, by public sources. In any case, many academic authors (unless they are publishing in Open Access journals) are still asked to sign over their copyright to the journal publisher. Most continue to do so, particularly junior faculty who need to be published. This is changing due to the emergence of alternative options such as Open Access, but this is a recent development and publishers still hold the copyright to much of the academic literature (and therefore receive whatever compensation there may be).

With respect to academic publishing, then, Access Copyright's University Model License benefits the publishers more than the authors. It is a (poorly) disguised attempt to privatize and commodify information, including information that has been produced using public funds. More and more academic authors and universities are themselves ensuring that the research they produce is widely and freely disseminated, hence the spectacular growth of Open Access. Access Copyright is (unsuccessfully) trying to counter this positive trend.

Pascal Lupien, Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communications Team (

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