COUNTER - Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources


Last updated: March 2014
1: What is COUNTER?

COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources), launched in 2002, is an international initiative to improve the reliability of online usage statistics. It is supported by the vendor, intermediary and librarian communities. COUNTER’s objective is to ensure that vendor online usage reports are credible, compatible and consistent. This is achieved by the publication of Codes of Practice that specify the content, format, delivery mechanisms and data processing rules for a set of core usage reports that are easily implemented by vendors and easily understood by librarians and others who use them.

2: How is COUNTER organised?

COUNTER is a not-for-profit company, based in the United Kingdom and owned by its members. Overall legal responsibility rests with a Board of Directors, who have appointed an Executive Committee to oversee the operation. A Project Director, reporting to the Executive committee, is responsible for the day-to-day management of COUNTER. The publisher, intermediary and librarian communities are all represented on the Board and on the Executive Committee, as well as on the International Advisory Board.

3: How is COUNTER funded?

COUNTER’s principal source of funding is annual membership fees and sponsorships, supplemented by occasional research grants for specific projects.

4: Who is eligible for COUNTER membership?

Publishers, intermediaries, libraries, and library consortia are all eligible for membership of COUNTER, as are industry organizations, such as ARL (the Association of Research Libraries) and ALPSP (the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers).

5: How many COUNTER Codes of Practice are there?

There are currently three COUNTER Codes of Practices. These are: first, the Code of Practice for e-Resources (Release 4 has, since January 2014, been the only valid version of this Code of Practice); second, Release 1 of the Code of Practice for Articles (valid from March 2014), which provides a standard for the recording and reporting of usage at the individual article level; third, the COUNTER Code of Practice for Usage Factors, which enables publishers to calculate Usage Factors for journals, based on COUNTER standards.

6: Do I have to implement all 3 Codes of Practice to be COUNTER compliant?

No, to be registered as COUNTER compliant, vendors need to implement only Release 4 of the COUNTER Code of Practice for e-Resources. Vendors and other organizations that host articles may also apply for compliance with COUNTER Articles and the Usage Factor, but these are covered in separate compliance Registers. The three COUNTER compliance Registers are:

  • Register of COUNTER compliance: for organizations that are compliant with Release 4 of the COUNTER Code of practice for e-Resources
  • Register of COUNTER Articles compliance: for organizations that are complaint with the Counter Cede of practice for Articles
  • Register of Usage Factor compliance: for organizations that are compliant with the COUNTER Code of practice for Usage Factors

7: How can I find out if a particular vendor is COUNTER compliant?

All organizations who are COUNTER complaint, COUNTER Articles compliant, or Usage Factor compliant are listed on the relevant Register on ‘the COUNTER website (, along with the usage reports that they provide. Only the organizations and usage reports listed on the relevant Register on the COUNTER website can be regarded as compliant with that Code of Practice.

8: How frequently will there be new Releases of the COUNTER Code of Practice?

Release 1 of the Code of Practice for Journals and databases was published in January 2003. Release 2 was published in April 2005. Release 3 was published in August 2008 and was valid from 1st September 2009 until 31st December 2013. Release 4 was published in April 2012 and is the only current valid Release. There is no fixed timetable for future Releases, as COUNTER responds to the demands of and changes in the market. It is not envisaged, however, that there will be a new Release of a given Code of Practice more than every 2-3 years.

9: When a new Release is implemented mid-calendar-year, do usage reports that are compliant with the prior Release during the first part of that year have to be retrospectively upgraded to meet the requirements of the new Release?

No. Retrospective upgrading is not required. For most organizations such retrospective upgrading of the usage reports is not possible, as the relevant raw data will not have been retained.

10: What does it mean when an organization states that it is ‘COUNTER compliant?

This means that the organization is providing usage reports, for a specific range of its online products and services, which are compliant with the current Release of a COUNTER Code of Practice. Only those products and services that are listed in the Registers published on the COUNTER website may be regarded as being COUNTER compliant, COUNTER Articles compliant, or Usage Factor compliant. When an organization states that it is COUNTER compliant this does not imply that all of its online products/services are 3 COUNTER compliant. Customers should check the compliance status of individual organizations in the Registers on the COUNTER website.

11: How is the COUNTER audit done?

The COUNTER audit must be carried out by an independent auditor, who does an online audit, using test scripts prepared by COUNTER. The audit process, together with the test scripts, is described in Appendix E of Release 4 of the Code of Practice, which is published on the COUNTER website (

COUNTER will recognise any Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the USA, any Chartered Accountant in the UK, or their equivalents elsewhere, as independent auditors. Alternatively, organizations may choose to use ABC, which is specifically devoted to online auditing and which has demonstrated to COUNTER its ability to do this audit.

12: Can I use the COUNTER reports as a basis for billable pay-per-view transactions?

No. A number of publishers offer pay-per-view or deposit account agreements that involve leaving access to a specific article open for 12 hours or 24 hours within the same IP-address In such cases the COUNTER usage reports should not be used as a basis for billing. The purpose of COUNTER is to record usage, not to record billable events; neither vendors nor customers should use the COUNTER reports as a record of billable transactions. As a guideline, however, the number of pay-per-view articles billed should be no greater than the COUNTER JR1 count of usage.

13: How can I find out more about COUNTER?

The full texts of all our Codes of Practice are freely available on the COUNTER website (, along with much other information on COUNTER. In addition, for those who want to know more about implementing COUNTER and using the usage reports, we co-operate with the UK Serials Group and with NISO on a series of workshops and webinars. Information on such events may be found on the COUNTER website.

14: What are the next steps for COUNTER?

In addition to increasing the number of organizations that are compliant with the COUNTER Codes of Practice, we shall continue to improve and refine the Codes of Practice and extend the range of content covered by them. Recent initiatives include: a new Code of Practice – COUNTER Articles- reporting of usage at the individual article level; setting standards for the usage of content held by institutional repositories; launch of the new Code of Practice for Usage Factors. COUNTER also participates in industry initiatives that are designed to improve the quality of usage data, to facilitate the management of usage data and to develop measurement tools derived from usage data. To these ends COUNTER has actively worked with NISO on SUSHI, with the UK Serials Group on the development of the Usage Factor; and with the UK JISC on the development of standards for recording and reporting usage at the individual article level.


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