Friday, August 2, 2013

Open access licenses: It's all about reuse - part 2

This post is a response to this post by Rosie Redfield.
"It's time for open-access advocates and especially publishers to take on the responsibility of informing authors of all the consequences, not just the good ones."
I think this is the fundamental disconnect in the discussion.  I think most OA advocates on-balance don't see the commercial use of OA content allowed by the CC-BY as a bad thing.  I don't think the "The authors shouldn't see this as harmful" responses you mention in your comments are blaming the authors.  Rather, people are trying to tell them something important about the fundamental motivation behind OA: gratis vs libre (  Are you just free to read the paper or can you do something with it?

If you really think about it any license but CC-BY (or CC0) place severe (and often unexpected) limitations on use.

Some examples: publishing under CC-BY-NC means that figures cannot be used in textbooks, course packs for sale at the bookstore, blogposts on http://rrresearch.fieldofscience.COM/, lecture notes for students paying for the signature track in this MOOC:, any company that charges anything at all to cover the cost of distributing papers on DVDs to regions with poor internet connections, and, most important, hundreds of other good uses no-one has thought of yet.
Publishing under CC-BY-SA means that if you use a single figure from such a paper in your lecture notes, then you must license your notes under CC-BY-SA.  The same goes for using a CC-BY-SA image on a blogpost.  One could make a good argument for the fact now you have to license your entire blog under that license.  This is why CC-BY-SA is called a viral license: a single instance of use "infects" the site/file/book/course and "spreads" the license.  For people who don't want to license their work under the CC-BY-SA license, work published under the CC-BY-SA license is hard to use.

CC-BY (or CC0) removes these problems, so your reasons for using anything else have better be well thought-through.*  I would be very interested in some detailed reasons for why having your OA article included in a compendium by a commercial publisher is a bad thing and why stopping that from happening outweighs other problems associated with licenses other than CC-BY or signing your copyright away.

*That includes signing your copyright over to commercial publishers (i.e. when authors "rethink their use of open-access").  Try to ask permission to use a figure from such a publication for much of anything and you'll find that these figures are very much for sale by commercial publishers, without asking authors (why? they don't have copyright) and for a lot more than $80.

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