Summary of Survey Results: Copyright Practices in Canadian Institutional Repositories

August 31, 2021
Summary of Survey Results: Copyright Practices in Canadian Institutional Repositories

Our final blog post contributed alongside the Scholarly Communications SkillShare event this past spring reports on findings from a survey members of the COPPUL Scholarly Communications Working Group (SCWG) conducted back in 2016 on copyright practices in Canadian institutional repositories. While originally intended for publication, and presentation at the ABC Copyright Conference in 2020, life (and a global pandemic) got in the way of sharing these results sooner. While slightly dated, this topic is of enduring relevance, and it ultimately seems fitting that these results be reported here on the working group’s website.  

Guest post by Robyn Hall on behalf of co-researchers and fellow former SCWG members Patti Galilee (Simon Fraser University) & Robert Tiessen (University of Calgary)
Scholarly Communications Librarian
MacEwan University

Summary of Survey Results

During spring 2016 a survey on institutional repositories (IRs) was sent to the repository managers at 47 Canadian academic libraries. The survey focused on copyright management practices related to the online archiving of peer-reviewed journal literature in Canadian IRs. It received a 38% response rate with 18 responses total. The following briefly summarizes the results of the survey to help inform repository staffing, workflows, best practices, and methods of outreach to faculty at Canadian colleges, polytechnics, and universities. 

General Information

  • A majority of survey respondents worked at comprehensive and medical doctoral universities. 
  • IRs managed by respondents had been in operation an average of 7 years, with most using either DSpace (44%) or Digital Commons (28%) platforms. 
  • Repositories were mostly staffed by librarians, library technicians and technical support staff.
    • Some repositories had as many as 3 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions overseeing the repository, while others had as little as one hour per week of staff time devoted to IR services.

Practices Around Article Deposit and Copyright Management 

  • Most respondents were unable to report how many post-prints (aka author accepted manuscripts) were in their IRs; this information was not typically tracked. 
  • Most repositories offered both self-deposit (83%) and mediated deposit (78%) options with mediated deposit slightly higher in usage. 
    • It was noted that self-deposit can result in low-uptake and problems with entered metadata, while mediated deposit maintains quality but requires a great deal of staff time securing permissions and uploading content.
  • At the time of this survey, most respondents did not have an open access mandate in place at their institution, nor did they track compliance with funder or institutional mandates.  
  • SHERPA/RoMEO and publisher websites were noted as the main source for verifying publisher copyright requirements when posting to the IR, but respondents felt that both could be improved to provide more up-to-date and clearer information. 
    • A majority of respondents also noted contacting publishers directly and referring to publishing agreements provided by authors when making copyright determinations about what could be posted to an IR. 
  • Nearly half of respondents (44%) said they proactively ensured that any specific Creative Commons licenses attached to works were recorded in IR’s metadata. 
  • A majority of respondents reported that their IR software allowed for managing embargo periods. Most responded that they relied on the authors to provide this information. Only a few indicated that they check every submission for compliance with embargoes. 


  • When asked about outreach activities to promote IR services, survey respondents gave a number of examples that included providing information through:
    • university newsletters,
    • department and faculty council presentations,
    • workshops, sometimes in partnership with research office staff and other campus partners,
    • library websites and social media, and
    • working closely with liaison librarians.
  • It was noted that workshops and email solicitations for content typically proved least effective. 
  • In terms of promoting the Tri-Council Open Access Policy on Publications announced in 2015, several respondents mentioned working with their offices of research services, and doing presentations, department meeting visits, workshops, providing information on library websites and blogs, and distributing flyers.


Bearing in mind that this survey data is now a few years old, and this research (which also included reviewing relevant literature and repository websites) was preliminary in nature, the following recommendations arising from this work remain timely:

  • Provide clear, straightforward deposit guidelines and contact information on repository websites to make things as easy as possible for depositors. 
  • Where feasible, provide faculty with mediated deposit options. This not only makes deposit less cumbersome for researchers, it also helps ensure that proper copyright permissions are observed.  
  • Work with liaison librarians and other units on campus, including research offices, to engage with researchers about open access options and the role that IRs can play in disseminating research results. 
  • Share strategies for staffing, promoting services and providing researchers with deposit support with other repository managers and staff. This research revealed that IR managers would benefit from hearing from others. Some venues to consider include: