UBC Will Not Sign the AUCC – Access Copyright Deal

UBC, one of Canada’s largest universities, has announced that it will not sign the Access Copyright model licence. The decision is particularly notable since UBC President Stephen Toope is also the chair of AUCC, which negotiated the model licence. UBC says it is “taking the bolder, more principled and sustainable option” and points to three main reasons for the decision:

  • UBC has existing license agreements with over 950 publishers providing access to online resources.  UBC’s decision positions us towards a sustainable future and full adoption of digital learning and teaching technologies.
  • UBC remains concerned about the affordability of higher education, which is borne in part by taxpayers and in part by students.  The measures taken by UBC since its 2011 decision have positioned it well and enable UBC’s students and faculty to access teaching and research materials more cost-effectively than if UBC were to enter into a license based on the model.
  • The AUCC model license only permits copying of up to 10% of a work (20% in case of course packs) and only with respect to a narrow repertoire that is almost exclusively print-based. Therefore, the license would not be cost-effective for UBC and does not absolve faculty members and students from the need to respect the legal rights of copyright owners.

UBC deserves great credit for taking a principled stand at a time when the AUCC has abdicated its leadership on the copyright issue and many other universities seem likely to sign the agreement since the costs can simply be pased along to students. While there are obviously risks, there is also the opportunity for great rewards as UBC may position itself as a national leader at a time that other universities are content to take a major step backward.


  1. There reasoning makes sense.

  2. Real life scenario
    Degen of course has weighed in on this issue with his most recent blog post.

    While his post is blatantly bias and unfair to UBC, he does bring up an interesting real life example which would be good to know more about from a person knowledgeable about A/C and significantly more balanced (In more than one way) than John.

    Specifically he mentions a course pack for an english course which would normally be a heavy user of A/C licensing.


    Course pack containing: Christine Jorgensen’s memoir “The Story of My Life” (1953), Mark Shane’s pulp novel Sex Gantlet to Murder (1955), a selection of short stories, press clippings, historical medical scholarship, and critical readings

    While many parts of the pack may be fair dealing (especially after C-11), not all would. I assume they will have to either alter the course pack or seek out the publishers for some of this material. Are there other options?

    Also, Christine Jorgensen’s memoir from what I can tell is only published in the States. If its publisher is not a member of A/C then does A/C really have either the moral or legal authority to license this in the first place?

  3. Course packs
    Language on the site appears to say course packs are purchased through the book store. Nothing is sold through a college book store unless licenses are paid:

  4. Thanks for the link.


    Copyright information

    Permissions are valid for one-time use only, and must be re-negotiated for each new printing or term.

    The Bookstore cannot assume that copyright permission has been granted to a professor. We will renegotiate all permissions and have them assigned to the Bookstore.

    Many publishers/authors charge a fee for granting copyright permission. These fees are included (at our cost) in the final cost to your students.

    Cost factors

    Final cost of all custom course materials is determined by:

    Cost of production
    Copyright/permission fees
    Volume of articles to be reproduce.


    So it appears from the above that the bookstore has put a broad system in place to negotiate transactional licensing directly with the publishers, to replace A/C (I guess that would be the transactional licenses which A/C was unwilling to provide themselves.) As per usual, John is talking out of his ear. I guess for the million dollars or so they save not paying A/C they could afford a few full time staff to negotiate transactional licenses on behalf of the faculty.

    It is a pity certain copyright maximalist bloggers don’t bother getting their facts straight before accusing people of stealing from the mouths of authors, but then this is the sort of shoddy tactic I’ve come to expect from this group over the years. I’d pass this link on to John, but he has recently taken to covering his ears and yelling “bla bla bla bla …” whenever he sees a “Free Culture” proponent in the neighbourhood. Such is life.

  5. I know institutions use this group for paid course pack compilations.

  6. Marchetto says:

    Glorp’s url is for Canadian Scholars Press Inc, which functions as a middle-man between Access Copyright and post-secondary bookstores:

    According to CSPI,”The bulk of the cost of each coursepack is due to permissions. Permissions are calculated and remitted to *Access Copyright* or the appropriate rightsholder [transactional licenses?] by our staff. You do not need to do any of the work! The rest of the price is determined by variables like printing, production and bookstore markup.”

    This would seem to add to the cost, rather than reducing it.