News & Updates

Why AUGSA Supports Open Access

What is open access and why does AUGSA support it? AUGSA President, Amanda Nielsen, will explain.


You may have heard that AU recently decided not to sign a model license agreement with Access Copyright. You may also have heard that AU opted out of an earlier agreement that Access Copyright proposed to Canadian universities over a year ago. But you may not have heard about these things. Even if you did, you may not know what they mean.

Access Copyright is a copyright collective representing publishers and creators of copyrighted materials. Many of Canada’s universities and colleges license materials through Access Copyright. Essentially, in order to use copyrighted materials for educational purposes, many institutions will go through Access Copyright rather than trying to hammer out individual deals with individual copyright holders. Through the licensing deals that universities have with Access Copyright, students are able to photocopy materials and professors able to use them in their courses without violating copyright laws.

In recent years, however, Access Copyright has attempted to dramatically increase the cost of licensing materials. In the fall of 2010 they proposed raising the licensing fees from $3.38 per full-time student (plus $0.10 per photocopied page) to $45 per full-time student. This represented an increase in price of more than 1,000%. More recently, they signed a model license agreement with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) which will see the fee increase to $26 per full-time student. While this is more moderate than the proposal from 2010, it still represents a significant increase in the cost of access to materials.

Rather than take on the increased cost of working with Access Copyright—a cost that they would be forced to pass on to students—AU opted out of the 2010 agreement and has also opted not to sign the new model license agreement. This is good news for AU students. Not only does the model license agreement increase the cost of education, it does so unnecessarily. Many of the provisions of the model license will soon be considered “fair dealing” as the result of the passage of Bill C-11, the copyright modernization legislation that recently passed in the House of Commons and is expected to quickly pass through the Senate. Had AU signed the model license, they would have ended up paying for things which will soon be perfectly free and legal to do.

If AU isn’t licensing copyrighted materials through Access Copyright, you might wonder, how are they gaining permission to use materials in our courses? The answer is twofold. The first part of the answer is that AU has worked hard to come to agreements with individual copyright holders in order to get permission to use their works. The second part of the answer has to do with open access and open educational resources.

Open access essentially means providing free, unrestricted access to scholarly materials. An open access journal, for example, allows anyone to access its articles for free rather than having to pay for a subscription or per-article fee; relying on open access materials helps to ensure that post-secondary education is more affordable. In addition to keeping advanced education affordable, open access publications allow for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas—something which is crucial for students and faculty at universities and colleges to do their work. Easier access to knowledge also makes it easier for researchers—both in and outside of academia—to innovate and build a knowledge-based economy.

AU is a great supporter of open access, releasing everything published by AU Press in an open format. AUGSA also strongly supports open access and we are working to encourage AU and other institutions to rely more on open access for the reasons outlined above. We also believe that publicly funded research should be freely available to the public—they’ve already paid for it, after all.

As strong supporters of open access, the AUGSA is proud of the strong stance that AU has taken against Access Copyright and in favour of open access. We will be advocating strongly on this important issue in the upcoming year, both on our own and through the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a national student advocacy group of which the AUGSA is a member.

If you have any questions about open access or Access Copyright, please feel free to get in touch with AUGSA by emailing augsa@augsa.com.