Open access (OA) is a publishing model that provides an alternative to the traditional scholarly publishing model. There are different ways that open access can manifest, but for an initiative to be considered open access it must be free of price barriers such as paywalls, subscription costs to end users, or other charges/fees to access materials. OA resources must also be free of most kinds of permission barriers, such as copyright and licensing restrictions around (re)distribution of the materials. OA permissions may grant the user the right to copy, use, change, distribute or display the information, as long as the original author is given credit. OA does not change how information is created; rather, it changes how it is distributed. In a nutshell, Open Access attempts to make digital information freely available and easy to share.
For an excellent introduction to Open Access see Peter Suber's Open Access Overview. For an introduction to Open Access and libraries, the Association of Research Libraries offers a great overview of key issues.
Open Access Journals
The MRU Library maintains an open access journal system.
Open access scholarly journals typically provide free and immediate access to scholarly research without paywalls, subscription fees, or by charging the reader for access. There remains some debate around the quality of open access journals varies, with an oft-repeated myth being that OA journals are less credible compared to traditionally published journals. The reality is that the quality of an open access quality is driven by the same key factors as for traditional journals: authors, editors, reviewers, and readers.
The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an authoritative source to search for OA publications.
Open Access Repositories
The MRU Library maintains an open access institutional repository, launched in 2014.
Open access repositories typically consist of disciplines' or institutions' archived research materials and distributes that material for free via the Internet. The materials archived are not necessarily peer-reviewed by the repository, and may or may not have been published prior to being deposited into the repository.
An authoritative list of other open access repositories is available via the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).
Open access is about distribution and making information available; it does not significantly change the production of research, and does not seek to change author rights. In fact, in most cases authors who publish via an open access model retain more rights over their their works that when publishing under a traditional model. Authors who publish via open access agree to right of use, allowing unrestricted distribution (reading, downloading, copying, sharing, storing, and printing) of the full-text work, so long as the original author is given credit. Authors may choose to license their works under open content licensing, such as Creative Commons.
To search for permissions given by publishers as part of a journal publisher's copyright transfer agreement see the SHERPA/ tool.
Benefits and Concerns
There are a variety of benefits and challenges to the open access publishing model. One of the major benefits to open access publishing is the increased access the public has to scholarly research. This increased availability of research leads to increased citation rates for authors. Disciplines also enjoy more international and cross-disciplinary collaboration when information is more freely available. One of the common myths about open access publishing is that articles published in an open access journal will be considered of lower quality than those published in a traditional journal. Some open access journals may not be as well recognized as some traditionally-published journals, however the research quality of both types of journal does not depend on the publishing model used by the journal.
Why Libraries Are Involved
Libraries, especially academic libraries, typically purchase access to traditional journals on behalf of their user communities. The annually increasing costs of access to these journals have created significant budget problems for libraries as they seek to continue providing that access. Therefore, it makes sense that libraries and library associations are very interested in the open access movement as we seek for alternative ways to collect and promote scholarly materials. Plus, libraries deal with access to and storage of information on a daily basis, and so libraries tend to be good source of information about publishing and the distribution of information.
For another perspective on Open Access from a library point of view see the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.
Intellectual property includes patents, copyright, trade-marks and industrial design. These rights protect intangible subjects that are produced as a result of human creativity. Intellectual property rights mean that other people can be stopped from using the "property" and that the rights can be transferred. Open access does not change intellectual property rights. For information about intellectual property in Canada see the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
Most journals that use an open access model ensure that works are published under the current copyright system or using a Creative Commons license. Authors typically remain as copyright holders, but allow for the general public to freely use and redistribute their work, giving credit to the author. Authors can agree to have their work publicly accessed or publicly accessed and modified. The Canadian Copyright Act is available online.