ACCC Legal Counsel: Access Copyright Licence Provides “Little Value”

It has been nearly two months since the Supreme Court of Canada issued its landmark five copyright decisions. In the aftermath of those decisions that provided a strong defense of users’ rights and fair dealing, I have written multiple posts on the implications for education and Access Copyright. These include an analysis of why the decisions eviscerate the Access Copyright business model, why the shift away from Access Copyright does not mean the end of payment for educational copying, and a detailed look at how to assess fair dealing that uses the Supreme Court’s own words.

The next big step will come from the major education associations as they react to the decisions and offer guidance to their members. The AUCC, which represents the university community, has remained silent. Two months is a long time to say nothing about the decisions, but the association is presumably struggling with how to save face given that it advised member institutions to commit millions of dollars to Access Copyright by signing a model licence, only to find that weeks later the Supreme Court of Canada rendered the licence unnecessary.

The ACCC, which represents community colleges, recently received a legal opinion from its counsel that leaves no doubt about where Canada’s colleges are heading. According to the legal opinion:

I have concluded that the majority of dealing authorized by the ACCC Model Licence no longer requires permission or payment of copyright royalties. There is therefore little value in signing the ACCC Model Licence. For those ACCC members currently operating under the Interim Tariff, the majority of dealing authorized by that tariff no longer requires permission or royalty payments. There is therefore little value in remaining in a tariff relationship with Access Copyright beyond August 31, 2012.

The opinion is entirely consistent with earlier posts noting that the Access Copyright licence simply does not provide rights to copy that extend much beyond fair dealing.  Educational institutions at all levels will still be paying millions for books and licences, but the Supreme Court decision has eliminated need for the additional Access Copyright licence, a reality acknowledged by ACCC’s counsel and one that AUCC should also endorse.


  1. I found it very curious that the AUCC advised signing the model AC license as the the Chairman of the board, Stephen Toope, is also the president of UBC which early on decided to not sign at all.

    Having said that, this is a complex situation which still needs to be sure authors be paid for their work.

  2. And maybe it isn’t that straightforward. There’s nothing in the SCC decision about coursepacks. Apparently several universities have decided that for now it is cheaper to pay the AC tariff than to clear rights for these any other way.

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