Athabasca University Decides Not To Renew Access Copyright Licence

Athabasca University has announced that it will not renew the Access Copyright licence, joining a growing number of universities that have decided to walk away from the licence in favour of alternative means of paying for works.  In the case of AU, they plan to increase reliance on open educational resources and engage in direct licencing for specific materials.


  1. Perhaps more will follow. The money, especially large, univesity can save on the AC fees, full time copyright staff could be hired whose sole purpose in to attain copyrights. As Rory McGreal says, “And the idea that the Copyright Board is considering an order to pay Access Copyright an advance in order to cover their exorbitant salaries and to pay for their legal actions against us is outrageous.”

    Right on!!

  2. You know, maybe Access Copyright should have gone to the universities to see what they would accept for a change before they decided to petition the copyright board for that change. Then maybe they wouldn’t have people doing things.

  3. @Chris Not really possible. The institutions would ask for lower fees, because of CCH. Access Copyright needs more money to keep their empire propped up, and they probably have a better chance of propping themselves up through the Board.

  4. Not if they alineate all their clients and cause them to jump ship.

  5. Advance payment to Acces Copyright
    According to Access Canada’s annual report they had enormous cash reserves compared to their annual income. After various seemingly very generous reserves for enumerated purposes, there was an additional ten million dollar unallocated reserve. That alone is almost a third of the collective’s annual income. The report says somewhat disingenuously “The corporation is not subject to externally imposed capital requirements.” However s. 85 of the Copyright Act says they do have to distribute the levies “as soon as possible”.
    Somehow the collective has net assets of $72 million and cash of $51 million from annual cash receipts of $35 million, which it is supposed to be giving out to its members. It will be interesting to see whether the Copyright Board reviews the collective’s balance sheet in any orders it makes.
    See for yourself at

  6. Graeme Turner says:

    A list?
    Only after seeing the article about Athabasca rejecting Access Copyright for next year did I realize that I had missed out on the news that the University of Alberta had already done this a week or two ago.

    Is anyone compiling a list of the universities which are saying no to Access Copyright? It would be good to start collecting this information as a way to pressure other university administrations to follow suit.

  7. @Allsebrook
    As there is an awful lot of misinformation out here…

    * AC usually has close to a year’s undistributed royalties on hand, as it can take that long to process the distribution data. There’s nothing sinister there, it’s just a function of how schools in particular report on what’s been copied.

    * a very large portion of the current reserves are related to the retroactive payments from schools, but these cannot be paid out until all appeals are exhausted as some of it may have to be rebated – in other words, this is not money that AC can distribute.

    * like most organizations, AC keeps a reserve to cover any wind-up liabilities.

    * money allocated to distribution isn’t available for operating expenses.

    So while the Board may look at the balance sheet, it won’t find anything there that contradicts what AC has said.

  8. @Theodore
    Well, now the problem is that they have institutions walking away from them all together. Sure they would have asked for lower fees, at least seeing what they thought probably would have done a lot better than proposing what they have done.

    I also never said just do based on what the universities wanted, but at least see what they would be willing stay on for.

  9. This is what happens when an organization such as this loses touch with reality and starts to consider themselves indespensible or irreplacable. They somehow get this idea that they’re above accountability and that they can simply tell people to jump and people will simply do it. It’s much like narcissistic personality disorder, better know by it’s slang term, “God complex”.

    Fortunately, they’re not in a monopoly position and it is possible people to walk away. Too bad this wasn’t the case for utilities, where they truely have a God complex and we pretty much HAVE to pay what they want, even if the the asking price is vastly higher than it should be, or risk getting cut off. Remember, there is no price fixing on gasoline, it just magically goes up in price a fews days before every long weekend and usually comes back down shortly there afterward.

  10. The CRIA and RIAA will soon find themselves in a similar situation if they don’t get their act together. I see the MPAA as being in a better situation than the respective recording industries.