Have De Gruyters enclosed previously open-access Bepress journals?
November 16, 2014
At the end of October, we published a short piece called CC-By documents cannot be re-enclosed if their publisher is acquired. In an interesting discussion in the comments, moominoid asked:
Isn’t this what happened when DeGruyter acquired BEPress?
This is the announcement of the acquisition. If you visit the journals now, they are behind paywalls, when they were OA before the acquisition.
Having previously read (and commented favourably on) an interview with bepress CEO Jean-Gabriel Bankier, I was disappointed to think this might be true. I emailed him to ask for clarification, and he passed my message on to Irene Kamotsky, bepress’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. A little later, she send a helpful a detailed response, which I now reproduce with her permission.
Date: 10 November 2014 14:27
From: Irene Kamotsky
To: Mike Taylor
Cc: Jean-Gabriel Bankier
Subject: Re: Previous OA journals enclosed behind paywalls?
I apologize for sitting on this for so long — thank you so much for following up, and for clarifying what was, indeed, always a bit confusing about the bepress-published journals that are now with deGruyter.
To answer your question, the bepress journals were not open access in the formal (Budapest) definition of the term, and they never used a CC license. The copyright was traditional publisher-owned copyright, with permission to authors to post their articles on their websites and university IRs.
The bepress journals did have an unusual access policy: we made all articles available to readers for free, as a way to demonstrate demand and urge libraries to subscribe. Basically, if a guest filled out a short form we would grant them access to the article. We would tally those forms by institution and then call the library and ask them to subscribe. There’s an article in Learned Publishing that describes the model in more detail. It wasn’t open access but it was a good balance for many years. Unfortunately, libraries facing strong budget pressures stopped subscribing. They said “we can’t justify paying for a title that our authors can get for free. We have to spend the money on titles that are otherwise unavailable.”
At the same time, we had already developed our institutional repository and publishing platform called Digital Commons. This platform allowed libraries to host and publish their own faculty’s and students’ journals (among all the other digital scholarly content produced on campus), and this has turned out to be an extremely successful approach. There are now nearly 800 journals published by libraries using Digital Commons, the vast majority of which are open access (and none charge author article fees). You can see a brief overview of this new model in a recent report.
I’d be happy to talk more about the new direction in library-led publishing; I know this is a growing interest among UK libraries. Is this something you’re seeing as well?
Thanks again for getting in touch, and clarifying this point.