Wiley has switched to Creative Commons licensing for its open-access journals
October 22, 2012
Back in July I wrote an open letter to Wiley, asking them to use the Creative Common Attribution licence for their open-access activities. They sent two brief notes in response — one from Director of OA Rachel Burley, and the other from STM Publicity Manager Jennifer Beal. Both are appended to my original post.
Unfortunately, I dropped the ball in following this up — my apologies to Rachel and Jennifer. Six weeks after this, Wiley announced that they were indeed shifting to Creative Commons licences for their open-access journals. The immediate driver for this switch seems to have been the UK Government’s announcement on its new funding regimes.
So this is great news — though not quite perfect. Although the initial announcement mentioned only the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, the details show that “a limited number of Wiley Open Access journals continue to use the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY NC) license”. The list shows that three journals use CC BY-NC, while nine are fully BOAI-compliant with CC BY.
I would like to know why the NC clause is used on these three journals (ChemistryOpen, Food and Energy and JAHA – Journal of the American Heart Association). It seems like a bad mistake, not least because it means that UK Government-funded research can’t be published in these journals.
But even with this reservation, Wiley’s move is very good news for two reasons. First, obviously, it means that 3/4 of their “open-access” journals now really and truly are open access by all definitions, and can be used by even the most radical open-access supporters. Second, even for those three NC-restricted journals, adoption of the CC BY-NC licence is at least clear: anyone looking at the will know instantly what the meaning of the licence is, rather than being bewildered by Wiley-specific wording. So even where it’s not a gain in actual openness, it’s a gain in transparency.
It’s great to see the world moving not just to “open-access” sensu lato, but specifically to the vision of Open Access as first laid out by the Budapest Open Access Initiative a decade ago. In a similar vein, Acta Palaeontologia Polonica, which has long been open access, has now adopted the CC BY licence specifically, in a codification of its existing practice and intent. I only wish that Biology Open would respond to my similar plea to them, rather than continuing with their destructive insistence on the NC clause.
Update (the next day)
As Ross Mounce has pointed out, Creative Commons licences are currently used only for Wiley’s wholly open-access journals, and not for OnlineOpen, their elective “open access” programme for articles in otherwise paywalled journals. At present, OnlineOpen articles are encumbered by a complex proprietary set of terms that forbid many kinds of re-use. We can only hope that this program, too, will shortly switch to CC BY.