The Academic Copyrights Trade: Canadian Scholars Buying the Privilege of Citation

Michelle Daveluy

DOI: 10.2190/WR.16.3-4.j


In Canada, anthropological knowledge has long been made available through scholarly journals financially supported by state agencies. Some of these journals are produced by anthropology departments in specific universities (e.g., Anthropologie et sociétés, Ethnologies) while others are published by scholarly associations (Anthropologica, Culture). For a long time, the quantitative measure for allocating funds to these journals was readership, demonstrated by the number of paid subscriptions or members in good standing. In that context, relinquishing copyrights was a sound strategy for the diffusion of knowledge. Then, the readership of Canadian journals was enhanced by electronic publishing, because some have benefited from a coordinated policy embracing electronic diffusion through a portal specifically designed for the promotion of academic research ( However, readership is not the sole indicator now used to determine diffusion. As some Canadian universities start endorsing open and free access in order to achieve the equitable and expeditious availability of research results, ownership must be addressed. Indeed, scholars must own the rights to reproduce their work in order to grant access to it. To ensure proper diffusion, some have stopped giving up their copyrights and are sometimes contemplating buying them back for past publications. Open access can be viewed as an opportunity for scholars to counter citation indexes they have little or no control of, but it is also a way to liberate oneself from the collective. Access is even used as a bargaining tool between scholars and administrators. The challenges we face in fostering access to knowledge must take these circumstances into account.

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