September 18, 2014
There is little enthusiasm for CC-BY [...] in the field of political studies. [...] It is clear that there is serious concern about the potential for work published under a CC-BY licence to be distorted and used inappropriately.
There may be concern, but it’s misplaced. Using CC By does not allow your work to be misrepresented. The human-readably summary of the licence clearly states, in its definition of the attribution clause: [Emphasis added]
You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
What does this mean? It means creationists can’t take our paper on sauropod neck anatomy, change it so that we seem to be advocating Intelligent Design, and post the result as though it’s our work. Instead, the terms of the licence require that they state that changes were made, and that they do not portray us as endorsing their use.
Really, I don’t see how much clearer or simpler the CC By licence could be. It’s 108 words long. For heavens’ sake, folks, go and read it. It’s ridiculous that we have academics, who are supposed to be trained in research and rigour, expressing flagrantly incorrect opinions about a hundred-word-long document that they’ve not even read.
September 2, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, more than hundred scientists sent an open letter to the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) about their new open-access journal Science Advances, which is deficient in various ways — not least the absurdly inflated article-processing charge.
Today I learn from email that there has finally been a response — of sorts. Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt had a long phone-call with Jon Tennant — one of the hundred-plus authors/co-signers. All we know about that call is (and I quote from Jon’s email account) “it became quite apparent that we would have to agree to disagree on many points”.
All I want to say is this. When a hundred scientists co-sign an open letter, it is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for the response to take the form of a private telephone call with one of those authors.
Come on, AAAS. This is all about openness. Let’s see an open response: a substantive, non-patronising one which addresses the actual points made in the original letter.
Meanwhile, you may like to read this article at The New Statesman: Scientists criticise new “open access” journal which limits research-sharing with copyright. In finishes on this very clear note, courtesy of Jon Tennant:
The AAAS should be a shining beacon within the academic world for progression of science. If this is their best shot at that, it’s an absolute disaster at the start on all levels. What publishers need to remember is that the academic community is not here to serve them – it is the other way around.
August 15, 2014
This is an open letter concerning the recent launch of the new open access journal, Science Advances. In addition to the welcome diversification in journal choices for authors looking for open access venues, there are many positive aspects of Science Advances: its broad STEM scope, its interest in cross-disciplinary research, and the offering of fee waivers. While we welcome the commitment of the Association to open access, we are also deeply concerned with the specific approach. Herein, we outline a number of suggestions that are in line with both the current direction that scholarly publishing is taking and the needs expressed by the open access community, which this journal aims to serve.
The first of these issues concerns the licensing terms of the journal articles. The default choice of a non-commercial licence (CC BY-NC) places unnecessary restrictions on reuse and does not meet the standards set out by the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Many large funders, including Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust, do not recognise this as an open license. The adoption of CC BY-NC as the default license means that many researchers will be unable to submit to Science Advances if they are to conform to their funder mandates unless they pay for the upgrade to CC BY. There is little evidence that non-commercial restrictions provide a benefit to the progress of scholarly research, yet they have significant negative impact, limiting the ability to reuse material for educational purposes and advocacy. For example, NC-encumbered materials cannot be used on Wikipedia. The non-commercial clause is known to generate ambiguities and uncertainties (see for example, NC Licenses Considered Harmful) to the detriment of scholarly communication. Additionally, there is little robust evidence to suggest that adopting a CC-BY license will lead to income loss for your Association, and the $1,000 surcharge is difficult to justify or defend. The value of the CC BY license is outlined in detail by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.
We raise an additional issue with the $1,500 surcharge for articles more than 10 pages in length. In an online-only format, page length is an arbitrary unit that results from the article being read in PDF format. Can the AAAS explain what the additional costs associated with the increased length are that would warrant a 50% increase in APC for an unspecified number of additional digital pages? Other leading open access journals, such as PeerJ, the BMC series, and PLOS ONE, offer publication of articles with unlimited page lengths. The extra costs create constraints that may adversely incentivize authors to exclude important details of their study, preventing replication and hindering transparency, all of which are contrary to the aims of scholarly publication. Therefore it seems counterproductive to impose this additional charge; it discriminates against researchers’ best effort to communicate their findings with as much detail as necessary.
We feel that the proposed APCs and licencing scheme are detrimental to the AAAS and the global academic community. As such, we recommend that Science Advances:
Offers CC BY as standard for no additional cost, in line with leading open access publishers, so authors are able to comply with respective funding mandates;
Provides a transparent calculation of its APCs based on the publishing practices of the AAAS and explains how additional value created by the journal will measure against the significantly high prices paid by the authors;
Removes the surcharges associated with increased page number;
We hope that you will consider the points raised above, keeping in mind how best to serve the scientific community, and use Science Advances to add the AAAS to the group of progressive and innovative open access scholarly publishers. We hope AAAS will collaborate with the academic community to facilitate the dissemination of scientific knowledge through a journal committed to fully embracing the principles of Open Access.
We kindly request that you allow your response(s) to be made public along with this letter, and look forward to hearing your response soon.
Signatories (please note that we do not formally represent the institutions listed):
- Jonathan P. Tennant, PhD student, Imperial College London (email@example.com, @protohedgehog)
- Timothée Poisot, University of Canterbury (firstname.lastname@example.org, @tpoi)
- Joseph R. Hancock, Montana State University-Bozeman (email@example.com, @Joe_R_Hancock)
- M Fabiana Kubke, University of Auckland, New Zealand (firstname.lastname@example.org, @kubke)
- François Michonneau, University of Florida (email@example.com, @FrancoisInvert)
- Michael P. Taylor, University of Bristol (firstname.lastname@example.org, @MikeTaylor)
- Graham Steel, Open Science, Scotland (email@example.com, @McDawg)
- Jérémy Anquetin, Section d’Archéologie et Paléontologie, Switzerland (firstname.lastname@example.org, @FossilTurtles)
- Emily Coyte, University of Bristol (email@example.com, @emilycoyte)
- Benjamin Schwessinger, UC Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org, @schwessinger)
- Erin C. McKiernan, independent scientist (email@example.com, @emckiernan13)
- Tom Pollard, PhD student, University College London (firstname.lastname@example.org, @tompollard)
- Aimee Eckert, MRes student, Imperial College London (email@example.com, @aimee_e27)
- Liz Allen, ScienceOpen, San Francisco (firstname.lastname@example.org, @LizAllenSO)
- Dalmeet Singh Chawla, Imperial College London (email@example.com, @DalmeetS)
- Elizabeth Silva, San Francisco (firstname.lastname@example.org, @lizatucsf)
- Nicholas Gardner, Marshall University (email@example.com, @RomerianReptile)
- Nathan Cantley, Medical Student, Queens University Belfast (firstname.lastname@example.org, @NathanWPCantley)
- John Dupuis, Librarian, York University, Toronto (email@example.com, @dupuisj)
- Christina Pikas, Doctoral Candidate, University of Maryland (firstname.lastname@example.org, @cpikas)
- Amy Buckland, Librarian, McGill University, Montreal (email@example.com, @jambina)
- Lenny Teytelman, www.zappylab.com, Berkeley, CA (firstname.lastname@example.org), @lteytelman)
- Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge, UK (email@example.com), @petermurrayrust)
- Zen Faulkes, The University of Texas-Pan American, firstname.lastname@example.org, @DoctorZen)
- Robert J. Gay, The University of Arizona/Mission Heights Preparatory High School, AZ, USA (email@example.com, @paleorob)
- Peter T.B. Brett, University of Surrey, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org, @PeterTBBrett)
- Anders Eklund, Linköping University, Sweden (email@example.com, @wandedob)
- Johannes Björk, Institute of Marine Sciences, Barcelona, Spain (firstname.lastname@example.org, @AwfulDodger)
- William Gunn, Mendeley, London, UK, email@example.com, @mrgunn)
- Nitika Pant Pai, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org) @nikkiannike
- Philippe Desjardins-Proulx, Ph.D. student (email@example.com, @phdpqc).
- Joshua M. Nicholson, PhD candidate Virginia Tech, VA and founder The Winnower, VA (firstname.lastname@example.org, @thewinnower)
- Scott Edmunds, GigaScience, BGI Hong Kong (email@example.com, @SCEdmunds)
- Steven Ray Wilson, University of Oslo (firstname.lastname@example.org, @stevenRayOslo)
- Stuart Buck, Vice President of Research Integrity, Laura and John Arnold Foundation (email@example.com, @stuartbuck1)
- B. Arman Aksoy, Ph.D. student, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (firstname.lastname@example.org, @armish)
- Nazeefa Fatima, University of Huddersfield, UK (email@example.com, @NazeefaFatima)
- Ross Mounce, University of Bath, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org, @rmounce)
- Heather Piwowar, Impactstory, (email@example.com), @researchremix
- Avinash Thirumalai, Ph.D student, East Tennessee State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jason Priem, Impactstory (email@example.com), @jasonpriem
- Clayton Aldern, University of Oxford, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org, @compatibilism)
- Marcus D. Hanwell, Technical Leader, Kitware, Inc., (email@example.com, @mhanwell)
- Kristen L. Marhaver, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Carmabi Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org, @CoralSci)
- David Michael Roberts, ARC Research Associate, University of Adelaide (email@example.com)
- Brian Hole, Ubiquity Press, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ubiquitypress)
- Alexander Grossmann, University of Applied Sciences Leipzig, Germany and co-founder of ScienceOpen, Berlin/Boston (email@example.com, @SciPubLab)
- David L.Vaux, Assistant Director, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Australia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- John Murtagh, Repository Manager, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine @LSHTMlibrary
- Alecia Carter, University of Cambridge, UK (email@example.com, @alecia_carter)
- Alex O. Holcombe, University of Sydney (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ceptional)
- Ignacio Torres Aleman, Cajal Institute, Madrid. Spain. (email@example.com)
- Sarah Molloy, Research Support Manager, Queen Mary University of London (firstname.lastname@example.org, @moragm23)
- John Lamp, Deakin University, Australia (email@example.com, @johnwlamp)
- Matthew Todd, The University of Sydney and Open Source Malaria, firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Anusha Seneviratne, Imperial College London (email@example.com, @anushans)
- Guido Guidotti, Harvard University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Joseph McArthur, Assistant Director, Right to Research Coalition(Joe@RighttoResearch.org, @mcarthur_joe)
- Carlos H. Grohmann, University of São Paulo, Brazil (email@example.com)
- Jan de Leeuw, University of California Los Angeles, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jung H. Choi, Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology (email@example.com)
- Ernesto Priego, Centre for Information Science, City University London, UK (Ernesto.Priego.firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Brian Pasley, University of California, Berkeley (email@example.com)
- Stacy Konkiel, Impactstory.org (firstname.lastname@example.org), @skonkiel)
- Elizabeth HB Hellen, Rutgers University (email@example.com)
- Raphael Levy, University of Liverpool (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Paul Coxon, University of Cambridge (email@example.com)
- Nitika Pant Pai, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- David Carroll, Queen’s University Belfast (email@example.com, @davidecarroll)
- Jacinto Dávila, Universidad de Los Andes (firstname.lastname@example.org, @jacintodavila)
- Marco Arieli Herrera-Valdez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (email@example.com, @brujonildo)
- Juan Pablo Alperin, Simon Fraser University, Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jan P. de Ruiter, Bielefeld University (email@example.com, @JPdeRuiter)
- Xianwen Chen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (firstname.lastname@example.org, @xianwen_chen)
- Jeanette Hatherill, Librarian, University of Ottawa, Canada (email@example.com, @jeanetteanneh)
- Katharine Mullen, University of California Los Angeles (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Pedro Bekinschtein, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina (email@example.com; @pedrobek)
- Quentin Groom, Botanic Garden Meise, Belgium (firstname.lastname@example.org, @cabbageleek)
- Karen Meijer-Kline, Librarian, Simon Fraser University, Canada (email@example.com, @kmeijerkline)
- Pietro Gatti-Lafranconi, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org, @p_gl)
- Jeffrey Hollister, USEPA, Narragansett, RI (email@example.com, @jhollist)
- Lachlan Coin, University of Queensland and founder of Academic Karma (firstname.lastname@example.org @AcademicKarma )
- MooYoung Choi, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Seoul National University, Korea (email@example.com)
- Oscar Patterson-Lomba, Harvard School of Public Health (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Rowena Ball, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia (Rowena.Ball@anu.edu.au)
- Daniel Swan, Oxford Gene Technology, UK (Daniel.Swan@ogt.com @DrDanielSwan)
- Stephen Curry, Imperial College London, UK (email@example.com, @Stephen_Curry)
- Abigail Noyce, Boston University (firstname.lastname@example.org, @abbynoyce)
- Jordan Ward, UCSF, San Francisco, CA, USA (email@example.com, @Jordan_D_Ward)
- Ben Meghreblian, criticalscience.com, London, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org, @benmeg)
- Ethan P. White, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA (email@example.com, @ethanwhite)
- Sean R. Mulcahy, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org, @srmulcahy)
- Sibele Fausto, University of São Paulo, Brazil (email@example.com @sibelefausto)
- Lorena A. Barba, George Washington University (firstname.lastname@example.org @LorenaABarba)
- Ed Trollope, Director, Things We Don’t Know CIC (email@example.com, @TWeDK)
- Stephen Beckett, Ph.D. student, University of Exeter (S.J.Beckett@exeter.ac.uk, @BeckettStephen)
- Andrew D. Steen, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (firstname.lastname@example.org, @drdrewsteen)
- Mari Sarv, Estonian Literary Museum (email@example.com, @kaskekanke)
- Noam Ross, Ph.D. Candidate, Ecology, University of California-Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org, @noamross)
- Erika Amir, Geologist, Massachusetts, USA (email@example.com, @geoflier)
- Martin Paul Eve, University of Lincoln (firstname.lastname@example.org, @martin_eve)
- Franco Cecchi, University of Florence (email@example.com)
- Jason B. Colditz, University of Pittsburgh (firstname.lastname@example.org, @colditzjb)
- Philip Spear, postdoc, Northwestern University (email@example.com)
- Mythili Menon, University of Southern California (firstname.lastname@example.org, @mythmenon)
- Matthew Clapham, University of California Santa Cruz (email@example.com,@meclapham)
- Karl W. Broman, University of Wisconsin–Madison (firstname.lastname@example.org, @kwbroman)
- Graham Triggs, Symplectic (email@example.com, @grahamtriggs)
- Tom Crick, Cardiff Metropolitan University (firstname.lastname@example.org, @DrTomCrick)
- Diano F. Marrone, Wilfrid Laurier University (email@example.com)
- Joseph Kraus, Librarian, University of Denver (firstname.lastname@example.org, @OAJoe)
- Steven Buyske, Rutgers University (email@example.com)
- Gavin Simpson, University of Regina (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Colleen Morgan, University of York (email@example.com @clmorgan)
- Kara Woo, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, UC Santa Barbara (firstname.lastname@example.org, @kara_woo)
- Mathew Wedel, Western University of Health Sciences (email@example.com)
January 31, 2014
[Introduction from Mike. I'm on the OKFN's open-access mailing list, where we're currently embroiled in a rather tedious reiteration of the debate about the merits of the various open-access licences. On Monday, veteran of the OA wars Jan Velterop posted a message so perfect that I immediately asked him for permission to re-publish it as a guest post here on SV-POW!. He kindly agreed, so over to Jan for the rest of this post. The only changes I've made are to highlight what I consider the key passages.]
I’ve been following this discussion with increasing bemusement. Frankly, it’s getting ridiculous, at least in my humble opinion. A discussion such as this one about licensing and copyright only serves to demonstrate that copyright, once conceived as a way to stimulate and enable science and the arts, has degenerated into a way to frustrate, derange and debilitate knowledge exchange.
I’m not the first one to point out that absolutely anything, under any copyright licence or none, could be abused for evil purposes or, in more mild circumstances, lead to misunderstandings and accidental abuse. I agree with all those who said it.
The issue here is what science and scientific results stand for. Their purpose is emphatically not “to be copyrightable items”. Copyright, invented to combat commercial abuse, has become a means of commercial abuse. The purpose of science and scientific results is to enrich the world’s knowledge. Any commercial advantage – appropriate for industrially funded research – can be had by 1) keeping results secret (i.e. not publishing them), or 2) getting a patent. Science, particularly modern science, is nothing without a liberal exchange of ideas and information.
Ideally, scientific publications are not copyrightable at all, and community standards take care of proper acknowledgement. We don’t live in an ideal world, so we have to get as close as we can to that ideal, and that is by ameliorating the insidious pernicious effects of copyright with CC-Zero and CC-BY licences.
The existence of the NC rider or stipulation for CC licences is unfortunate and quite damaging. Mainly because of the vagueness and ambiguity of what ‘commercial use’ means. Ideas in published articles can be freely used for commercial purposes of any kind, as ideas are not copyrightable. Only “the way the ideas have been formulated” is covered by copyright, and thus by the NC clause in copyright licences. In my interpretation that means that most usage of published material that is not a straightforward selling of text or images can be freely done. But that’s my interpretation. And that’s exactly where it rubs, because all the NC clause does is introduce hypothetical difficulties and liabilities. As a result of which, NC practically means: “stay away from using this material, because you never know with all those predatory legal eagles around”. In other words, it’s virtually useless for modern, sophisticated scientific knowledge discovery, which doesn’t just consist of reading papers any longer, but increasingly relies on the ability to machine-process large amounts of relevant information, as human ocular reading of even a fraction of the information is not possible anymore. At least not in most fast-moving areas of the sciences. Read this article, or similar ones, if you want to be convinced: On the impossibility of being expert, BMJ 2010; 341 (Published 14 December 2010 – unfortunately behind a paywall).
The taxpayer angle (“must be open because the taxpayer paid for it”), leading to Kent Andersonian notions of knowledge protectionism (“results of research paid by US taxpayers should not be available to non-US citizens unless they pay for it”), is a most unfortunate, visceral and primitive reaction and a complete red herring. For many reasons, not least because the taxpayer, or vicariously the taxman, isn’t the party that pockets any money payed for paywalled information. Besides, how far do you go? Americans not being allowed to stay alive due to a cure that was developed with public money in Switzerland unless they pay through the nose for it to the Swiss tax authorities? The “as-long-as-I-am-well-the-rest-of-you-can-go-to-hell” personality disorder. The whole idea is so against the ethos of science that those even thinking in that direction must be taken to be utterly and entirely unsuitable to any role in the scientific community.
Access control and restriction via copyright was at best a necessary evil in the print era; the ‘necessary’, though, has disappeared in the web environment.
Have a nice day!
January 28, 2014
The Journal of Paleontology and Paleobiology now offer two options for Open Access publishing [...]
Gold Open Access: authors or their institution may purchase Gold OA for their article by paying an Article Processing Fee (APC) of $2,500 ($1,500 for Society members). [...] Gold Open Access articles will be published under the terms of the CC-BY-NC 3.0 license by default or CC-BY 3.0 license upon request.
Green Open Access: Authors of all articles published in the Journal of Paleontology or Paleobiology may freely post (e.g., to personal and institutional web sites) and distribute freely the final accepted manuscript file (not the pdf of the published article) under Green Open Access, 12 months after its publication.
It’s good to see this real step forwards, and a lot of people are going to be particularly pleased that both Gold and Green are on offer.
The Gold APC, especially for members, is noticeably cheaper than at most of the legacy publishers. (It’s $2500 for non-members, but they can join the society for $55 to take advantage of the lower price.) Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor and Francis have all spontaneously arrived at APCs at or very close to $3000 (and I’m quite sure there was no illegal price-fixing involved.) Members pay half of that — which is in the same ball-park as PLOS ONE’s long-established benchmark of $1350.
It’s good that the Green OA embargo is no longer than 12 months.
While $1500 is half the price of legacy publishers’ OA offerings, it still feels like a previous-generation APC. PeerJ, Ubiquity and Magnolia Press among others have raised the bar (or do I mean lowered it?) by charging APCs an order of magnitude less. It’s a shame that the Paleontological Society haven’t opted to go with a next-gen publisher such as Ubiquity, who publish quite a few society journals at good prices.
The default to the CC By-NC licence is unfortunate, as it will prevent legitimate scholarly uses including re-use of figures in commercial journals, uses in teaching at universities that charge tuition, and use in Wikipedia. We can hope that most authors will choose CC By, which suffers from none of these drawbacks; but experience shows that most authors’s immediate reaction, before they’ve thought it through in detail, is to err towards imposing more rather than less restrictions. The Society could have set expectations differently by using CC By except where authors request CC By-NC.
It’s odd that the policy stipulates that version 3.0 of the CC licences is used, when the current version is 4.0, but it’s not a big deal.
The imposition of the Green OA embargo is unfortunate (All Green-OA embargoes are iniquitous). Not only that, but 12 months exceeds the 6 months suggested by the better, earlier version of the RCUK policy and some others.
Nothing at all is said about the licence under which Green OA manuscripts should be made available. This is a missed opportunity, since in the absence of a clear statement of what is allowed, potential users will err on the side of safety — so, for example, PaleoSoc Green papers are likely to be omitted from content-mining projects.
This policy represents a valuable step forward for the Society; but it’s not all it could have been.
Some of the limitations have been imposed by the Society for its own benefit, which one can understand: the highish APC, the embargo (though of course there is no evidence that embargo-less Green affects subscription revenue).
But other limitations could easily be fixed at no cost to the Society. In particular, I would like to see them reverse the CC By/By-NC option, so that the more open option is the default; and I’d like them to make it clear that Green OA papers may be (and should preferentially be) provided under CC By, too.
February 22, 2013
A while back, I submitted evidence to the House of Lords’ inquiry into Open Access — pointlessly, as it turns out, since they were too busy listening to the whining of publishers, and of misinformed traditionalist academics who hadn’t taken the trouble to learn about OA before making public statements about it.
Today the Lords’ report [PDF version] is out, summarised here. And it’s a crushing disappointment. As I’d feared, this inquiry didn’t represent an opportunity to forge ahead, but a retreat. The RCUK’s excellent OA policy is to be emasculated by a more gradual implementation, the acceptance of longer embargoes and a toning down of the preference for Gold over Green. (While there is case for Green in the abstract, the form of Green required by the RCUK policy is much weaker that its form of Gold, in that it doesn’t require a liberal licence such as would enable text-mining, use in education, etc.)
On top of that, RCUK have been criticised for “lack of clarity”: quite unfair since their policy is pretty explicit and in any case has twice been clarified on their blog. This is not a hard resource to find: anyone honestly concerned about a perceived lack of clarity could find it in ten seconds of googling. RCUK also caught criticism for lack of consultation — also unfairly, as they made a call for comments which I also responded to.
RCUK has responded apologetically to all this — “Lessons have been learned and we will continue to actively engage with the academic and publishing sectors” as though the publishing sector has any right to a say. I would much rather RCUK had shown the balls to stick with the leadership they initially provided, but I assume they’re under political pressures and were left with no choice. Instead, venality from publishers, ignorance from certain academics and cowardice from the Lords has conspired to strip the UK of its leadership in OA, and reduce it to being a follower.
As Nature News editor Richard Van Noorden said, “In other words, RCUK in response promises nothing it wasn’t doing already”. And the reason was rather diplomatically stated by ICL researcher Stephen Curry: “Not 100% convinced their lordships have mastered topic”. You can say that again.
Taking a step back — and a deep breath — the weakened RCUK policy is still A Good Thing — just a much less good thing than it could have been, and was on track to be. At a time when radical new journals like eLife and PeerJ are showing just how much better our publishing ecosystem can be, it’s desperately disappointing to see the Lords backing an approach to OA that will mean we
- keep paying $5333 per article in subscriptions,
- don’t see the work until two years after it’s fresh,
- even then get only a draft instead of the final versions, and
- don’t have permission to actually do anything with it.
What I would like to see from RCUK now is a statement that, if the public that funds our research is to face yet longer embargoes before it can see that work, it must at least be allowed to use it when it gets it. RCUK must insist on CC BY for the Green arm of its policy.
February 8, 2013
Earlier today, Richard Van Noorden pointed out on Twitter that in this video, at about 5:40, the speaker says that “CC BY is essentially a viral licence”. I was surprised to say the least that the speaker — Sue Joshua, Director of Legal Affairs at John Wiley & Sons — would make such a basic mistake. I’d have expected a copyright lawyer to know what the term “viral licence” means.
Hence this post.
This is the meaning of the term “viral licence”. It doesn’t mean “a licence that has suddenly become popular, i.e. ‘gone viral'”. It refers specifically to a licence that (by design) infects numerous works by transmitting itself to from one work to others.
The classic example of a viral licence is the GNU General Public Licence, which is used for much of the world’s most important free software including the Linux kernel. [Disclosure: in my day-job, some of the software we release is under the GPL: YAZ Proxy, Metaproxy, pazpar2, Zebra, IRSpy, MKDru.]
The other best-known viral licence is Creative Commons Attribute-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA). Specifically, this is differentiated from the more common non-viral CC BY licence by the addition of the ShareAlike clause, which says:
Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.
The reason that CC BY is the most widely used licence for open-access publications is precisely that it is not viral — its non-viral nature means that work licenced using it can be deployed in the widest possible range of circumstances, which is generally what funders want in exchange for their money.
Why am I making such a big deal about this? Because we need to communicate! The term “viral licence” has one meaning, which makes it very easy and unambiguous to talk about. But if we allow Sue Joshua’s confusion to spread, the term will soon become debased just as “open access” has. I was surprised to see in today’s Twitter stream that a couple of people who I expected to know this term seemed unclear on it, so it’s worth clearing up.
[In this post I am not interested in arguing about whether viral licences are a good or a bad thing; just in establishing what they are.]