Attitudes and values regarding the dissemination of your research


This portion of the T&F OA survey supports arguments that scholars as a group do not support the Creative Commons – Attribution Only license (CC-BY), but rather when using CC licenses tend to prefer more restrictive licenses, with CC-Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) being the most popular option. There was strong support for text and data mining. There was an interesting difference in reaction to pre-approving translations (largely positive) and adapations as a whole (largely negative), suggesting the possibility of a more nuanced approach such as ND with preapproval of translations outside the CC license per se. Attribution is taken as a given; further research into the question of attribution might be merited as attribution may not be advisable in the case of research data and the norms for attribution can vary, for example with scholarship and Wikipedia. This portion of the survey indicates support for Taylor and Francis traditional practices (Exclusive License to Publish and Copyright Transfer), which is not surprising considering the survey pool (scholars connected with T&F) and high probability of bias in these responses. 


This is the third post in my Taylor and Francis Open Access Survey critique series covering p. 8 – 10 of the results of this survey, on Attitudes and values regarding the dissemination of your research and Licenses. Please see the main post above for overall critique of this survey. In brief, social science research intended to inform public policy should not be conducted by a commercial entity with a stake in the outcome (this is fox researches hen research), and the survey as a whole is significantly flawed methodologically. The following comments should be interpreted in the light of this overall critique.

Taylor & Francis questions are in bold

What are your attitudes and values regarding the dissemination of your research? p. 8 (14,533 respondents)

It is acceptable for … without my prior knowledge or permission, provided I receive credit as the original author.
Comment: this question assumes attribution as a given. For further research, it should be noted that there are reasons to question the assumption of attribution. For example, with data sharing public domain (not attribution) may be preferable, and some scholars are experimenting with contributing to Wikipedia, which uses attribution but in a different way (authors are anonymous).
The strongest support was for my work to be re-used for non-commercial gain, with 64% either agreeing or strongly agreeing. This was followed by others to use my work in text – or data-mining with 48% agreeing or strongly agreeing. Translations and including works in an anthology received only slightly less support. 
Respondents reacted negatively to others to use my work for commercial gain with 67% agreeing or strongly agreeing and others to adapt my work with 50% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
Licenses (p. 9) (13,143 respondents)

Please indicate in each case if you would be willing to sign the license when publishing your research (Response options: Yes, always; Only in certain circumstances; No, never).
Response options included a variety of Creative Commons licenses, with a significant omission: the Sharealike option, along with License to Publish and Copyright Transfer. The most popular response was Creative Commons – Attribution – Noncommercial – NoDerivatives CC-BY-NC-ND with 71% responding Yes, always.  
Exclusive License to Publish and Copyright Transfer were only slightly less popular. I am inclined to discount these responses because of the obvious strong likelihood of social desirability and acquiescence biases, that is, this is a T&F survey which is likely to elicit positive responses to T&F practices (see the main post in this series for detailed explanation and references); also the pool of respondents are obviously a group that continues to work with this traditional publisher (“Yes, always” actually defines the group), and respondents in favor of the publisher’s practices may have been more likely to respond. 
The Creative Commons – Attribution only license (CC-BY) received the lowest positive response, with 15% indicating “Yes, always”, 59% indicating “Only in certain circumstances” and 26% “No, never”.
License preferences (p. 10)  (12,882 responses)
Please choose your most preferred, and your second most preferred, of the above licences.
Please choose your least preferred of the above licences.
Responses show a similar pattern to the questions on the page above. The most popular option was CC-BY-NC-ND. CC-BY elicited a strong negative reaction.
The response bias discussed above should be taken into account in interpreting the apparent popularity of traditional Taylor & Francis practices (Exclusive License to Publish, Copyright Transfer). That is, the survey population consists of scholars who work with Taylor & Francis; scholars who favor T&F practices may have been more likely to respond to the survey; and of respondents, there is a strong likelihood of social desirability and acquiescent response biases. 
This section of the survey supports the argument that many scholars do not support the Creative Commons – Attribution Only license (CC-BY), but rather when using CC licenses prefer more restrictive licenses, in this case with CC-BY-NC-ND being the top preference. Other evidence supporting this argument comes from Nature Publishing Group’s analysis of author choices for Scientific Reports, referenced from here, which offers a range of CC licenses and found that CC-BY is selected by only 5% of scholars.
This is important because many open access advocates equate open access with the CC-BY license. I argue that the similarity between CC-BY and the open access definition of the Budapest Open Access Initiative is superficial in nature, that CC-BY has both positive and negative implications for scholarship, and as a default has significant loopholes which would present an ongoing danger to open access. My work in this area can be found in my Open Access and Creative Commons critique series.  
The detailed questions about re-use are somewhat useful in indicating what kinds of re-use scholars are likely to be willing to grant. Noncommercial, text and data-mining, translations and including works in anthologies are all supported by many scholars. The difference between adaptions (negative reaction) and translations (positive reaction) is interesting, as this suggest that while scholars do not necessarily want to grant blanket rights for all kinds of derivatives, many would be okay with blanket permissions for translations. This suggests that a more nuanced approach might be worthwhile, for example perhaps NoDerivs with pre-approval of translations handled outside of the CC license per se.
The results of this survey also show that respondents to a T&F survey tend to respond favorably to T&F traditional practices. This is evidence of ongoing support for T&F, which may not be necessary given that authors and editorial boards continue to work with this publisher; beyond that, given the high probability of bias, this finding should be largely discounted. 

SHERPA/FACT – BETA Release Now Available

Joint Press Release: Centre for Research Communications, Wellcome Trust, and RCUK

SHERPA/FACT – BETA Release Now Available

To coincide with the RCUK’s new OA policy and Wellcome Trust policy changes, the Centre for Research Communications (CRC) is pleased to announce the availability of SHERPA Funders’ & Authors’ Compliance Tool (SHERPA/FACT) Beta. The beta release of SHERPA/FACT interprets data from SHERPA/RoMEO, JULIET and other sources to provide clear guidance to RCUK and Wellcome Trust funded authors on compliance with their Open Access (OA) policies and advises on the options available.


  • Asks authors to select which of the RCUK Councils or Wellcome Trust has funded their work.
  • Asks authors to enter the journal name or ISSN of the journal they wish to use.
  • Cross-references the information held in RoMEO and in JULIET on both Funders’ and Publishers’ policies.
  • Gives the author clear information as to whether that journal offers publication or archiving rights compliant with their funders’ policy.
  • Notes the level of OA fee payable, if any, and if available from the publisher site.
  • Gives guidance to the author as to what action to take next to comply with their funders’ policy, customising guidance according to the stage of the author’s publication – accepted, published, etc.

For more information and to use SHERPA/FACT beta, please visit

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a beta version and has been tested for accuracy against existing data held by SHERPA/RoMEO, JULIET and other third party sources. However, information in this area is dynamic and many publishers are currently updating, changing and clarifying their policies in response to the launch of the RCUK and Wellcome Trust policies.

As updated policy information becomes available from publishers, SHERPA/FACT will be updated accordingly. We are aware of a number of changes due to be released soon – indeed, FACT may even prompt further clarifications to be made. FACT beta will, over the coming weeks, undergo continuous improvements to the information it holds.

Please use SHERPA/FACT beta for evaluation purposes and report any information that needs updating and any other comments to

Bill Hubbard, Director of the CRC, said: “For more Open Access research from the RCUK and Wellcome Trust to be made available to everyone, researchers need clear guidance about whether their chosen journal complies with their funder’s policy. SHERPA/FACT will give them a clear answer, help raise an institution’s rate of compliance and ultimately help more research to be made available to us all.”

Mark Thorley, chair of Research Councils UK Research Outputs Network, said: “The launch of this beta version of SHERPA FACT is part of our strategy of providing a range of resources to support implementation of the new RCUK Policy on Open Access”.

Robert Kiley, Head of Digital Services at the Wellcome Trust, said: ”Providing clear guidance to our researchers will help to ensure they can comply with the Trust’s Open Access mandate.”

Further information

Azhar Hussain
Tel: 0115 8467235 or email:


A problem with CC-BY: permitting downstream use with no strings attached is the toll access model

The Creative Commons – Attribution (CC-BY) only license grants blanket permission rights for commercial use to any third party downstream. Proponents of CC-BY argue that this will open up the possibility for new commercial services to serve scholarship. This may or may not be; this is a speculative argument at this point. However, if this happens, this opens up the possibility that these new services will be made available on a toll access basis, because none of the CC-BY licenses is specific to works that are free of charge.

This is very similar to the current model for dissemination of scholarship. Scholarly research is largely funded by the public, whether through research grants or university salaries. Scholars must make their work public (publish) in order to continue to receive grants, retain their jobs and advance in their careers. They give away their work to publishers with no strings attached, often signing away all copyright. A few publishers have taken advantage of this system to lock up scholarship for their private profit.

One potential outcome of a CC-BY default for scholarship is a next generation of Elsevier-like toll access services. Many scholars and the public whose work was given away through CC-BY could be unable to afford the latest and best services made possible by their contributions. This is just one of the reasons to give serious thought to this matter before recommending a CC-BY default. For more, please see my Creative Commons and open access critique series.

Thanks to Heather Piwowar for posting an opposing view on google g+ that helped me to work through this argument.

Wikipedia, scholarship and CC-BY

The Wellcome Trust's Robert Kiley, a long-time open access advocate, raised a common rationale for a default CC-BY license in a comment on Richard Poynder's interview of Mike Rossner.  Following are my comments. Summary: a scholarly CC-BY is not compatible with the Wikipedia conception of attribution, which involves anonymity. Permitting open re-use in Wikipedia with attribution (assuming the problem of Wikipedia anonymity is overcome) means that any Wikipedia editor can change the words of scholar, a situation that seems highly likely to result in scholars being incorrectly cited due to the edits of others. I am a fan of Wikipedia, have contributed as an editor in the past and may do so in the future, and am in favour of increasing the scholarly content in Wikipedia. However, I argue that what needs to happen is that Wikipedia policy and practices need to be more flexible to accommodate the needs of scholars and their works, rather than all scholars being required to give away all of their work for blanket commercial rights to any third party to suit the preferences of the current Wikipedia team. 
Following is my comment on this topic on Poynder's blog.
Robert Kiley says: Equally, the NC clause prohibits a user from sharing content at resources like Wikipedia. See table at:
Comment: first, I would like to say that I am a fan of Wikipedia. I use Wikipedia, have contributed to Wikipedia in the past, and would like to see more scholarly content in Wikipedia. However, there are some problems with including scholarly content in Wikipedia, and I argue that these are not resolved by CC-BY.
The first problem is the difference in the expectations of attribution. For scholars, the key elements in attribution are things like the scholar, journal, and publisher. In Wikipedia, the norm is anonymity Attribution. This means that Wikipedia and scholarly works are not compatible from the perspective of Attribution.
Another reason for caution in including scholarly works in Wikipedia is the norm that anyone can edit. If the work of a serious scholar is deposited in Wikipedia, it could be "corrected" by someone with far less knowledge. If this is combined with Attribution (assuming the Wikipedia anonymity problem is overcome), then it seems highly likely that the result will be incorrect citations of scholar's works. This would harm rather than benefit scholarship.
Finally, if we want to see more scholarly works in Wikipedia, it is Wikipedia policies and practices that need to change to accomodate this rather than a wholesale transformation of scholarship to accomodate the preferences of the current Wikipedia team.
To return to Robert Kiley's comment: it is not the NC clause that prohibits a user from sharing content at Wikipedia, but rather Wikipedia's policies that do not permit works with NC clauses. Wikipedia is free to develop a more flexible policy at any time.
This post is part of my Creative Commons and Open Access critique series. 

SHERPA FACT – Helping researchers comply with the Open Access policies from RCUK and the Wellcome Trust

The Centre for Research Communications (CRC) is pleased to announce that Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Wellcome Trust have provided seed funding for the development of a SHERPA Funders’ & Authors’ Compliance Tool (SHERPA FACT). SHERPA FACT will interpret data from SHERPA RoMEO, JULIET and other sources to provide clear guidance to RCUK and Wellcome Trust funded authors on compliance with their Open Access (OA) policies and advise on the options available.

The RCUK’s new OA policy will be effective from 01 April 2013. This policy requires that all peer reviewed research papers, resulting from research funded by the Research Councils, will be published in journals under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License or otherwise made available as OA via a repository. On the same date, the Wellcome Trust will also require that articles with which it is associated – and for which an Article Processing Charge (APC) has been levied – must also be published under a CC-BY license


  • allow authors to select which of the RCUK Councils or Wellcome Trust has funded their work
  • allow authors to enter the journal name or ISSN, or ESSN, or publisher of the journal they wish to use
  • cross-reference the information held in RoMEO and in JULIET on both Funders’ and Publishers’ policies
  • give the author clear information as to whether that journal or publisher offers publication or archiving rights compliant with their funders’ policy
  • note the level of OA fee payable, if any, and if available from the publisher site
  • give guidance to the author as to what action to take next to comply with their funders’ policy, customising guidance according to the stage of the author’s publication – pre-submission, accepted, published, etc


Such guidance might be, for example, to:

  • take a hybrid OA option offered by the publisher;
  • pay the OA fee for a full OA journal or
  • archive their work under a particular embargo period

SHERPA FACT will be available from 01 April 2013.

Further information

Azhar Hussain
Tel: 0115 8467235 or email:

UK Business, Innovation & Skills Committee’s inquiry into Government’s Open Access Policy: my submission

Dr. Heather Morrison
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
hgmorris at sfu dot ca
Business, Innovation & Skills Committee
February 5, 2013
Re:            Business, Innovation & Skills Committee’s inquiry into Government’s Open Access Policy
1.     This is an individual submission from a scholar specializing in open access and scholarly communication and a long-time open access advocate. This is a substantially different submission from the one that I recently submitted to the House of Lord’s Science and Technology Committee.
Executive Summary
2.     Changing the Government’s Open Access Policy from one intended to support ‘gold’ open access publishing to a straightforward ‘green’ open access policy requiring researchers to deposit works for open access in a UK-based repository is recommended. This is absolutely necessary to ensure that the works of UK researchers remain open access and available to UK researchers and the UK public. The Open Access Policy applies only to UK researchers, not publishers. A researcher can publish in a fully open access journal that uses CC-BY, which is then sold to another publisher and converted to toll access. The steady growth of open access journals, and more recently monographs, over the past few years illustrates that ‘green’ open access policy is sufficient to drive growth in open access publishing. Conversely, the policy as written is highly likely to harm ‘gold’ open access publishing, by inflating prices which is likely to decrease support for this approach outside the UK.
3.     The use of CC licenses for scholarly works should be considered experimental for the time being. None of the CC licenses map to any definition of open access. Any of the CC licenses can be used with toll access works. Some of the arguments used for CC-BY do not bear careful scrutiny. For example, it is a common belief that CC-BY is needed to facilitate data and text mining. CC-BY is not necessary, sufficient, or even desirable for data and text mining. Internet search engines routinely conduct data and text mining on a massive scale without any need for CC-BY. CC-BY can be used with works that are not at all suitable for data or text mining, such as locked-down PDFs. The Attribution element of CC-BY is problematic when a number of data / text mining sources are combined; data experts recommend CC-0 or public domain, not CC-BY.
4.     There are aspects of the CC-BY license that are problematic for scholarship. CC-BY will often be incompatible with research ethics and rights of third parties whose work is included in scholarly works. Permitting the creation of derivatives may open up possibilities for new ways of speeding the advance of knowledge, but it also opens up the possibility of introducing errors and damaging the reputations of scholars by facilitating the creation of poor quality derivatives. These are just a couple of examples. Much more thought and research would be desirable before a default license for open access scholarly works is accepted.
5.     The vast majority of open access journals do not use Creative Commons licenses at all, and those that do, do not always choose CC-BY. Only 11% of the fully open access journals listed in the DOAJ use the CC-BY license. There is evidence that, given a choice, scholars prefer to use more restrictive licenses. Recent evidence from Nature’s Scientific Reports found that only 5% of scholars given a choice between 3 CC licenses chose CC-BY.
6.     There are problems with affordability in scholarly communication in addition to access barriers. It is important to create a future for scholarly communication that is both open access and affordable. At the average cost of $188 per journal found by Edgar & Willinsky in a major survey of journals using OJS, the full cost of global open access publishing could be supported by the budgets of academic libraries, at a small fraction of current spend, which could free funds to support emerging needs such as preservation of electronic information and support for research data services. At the rate of the $5,000 per article charged by Elsevier’s Cell Press for “sponsored access”, the costs of the global scholarly communication system would increase by 16%.
About me
7.     Recently, I completed a doctorate at the Simon Fraser University School of Communication. My dissertation, Freedom for scholarship in the internet age, reports on research that is highly relevant to this inquiry, particularly chapter 5, on the economics of transition to open access, and chapter 3, which includes a substantial section mapping Creative Commons licenses and open access. I have developed and taught courses on scholarly communication and open access at the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and have published extensively on the topics of scholarly communication and open access, including the monograph Scholarly Communication for Librarians: Chandos, 2009. I have also taught Information rights for the information age at the SFU School of Communication.
8.    I am also a librarian with more than a decade’s experience, primarily negotiating
purchase of electronic resources at a provincial and sometimes a national level, through my position as Coordinator at BC Electronic Library Network.
Detailed comments
9.     Open access policy should always require that researchers deposit work into open access repositories – the ‘green’ approach, and never require that researchers publish in open access venues such as journals – the ‘gold’ approach.
10.  Open access policy should stipulate that researchers deposit works into UK based open access repositories, such as institutional repositories. The reason for this stipulation is to ensure that UK funded research remains open access and remains available to the UK research community and public. To illustrate why this is necessary, consider the scenario where a researcher publishes in an open access journal but does not deposit in a UK based open access archive. The open access journal may cease to exist or be sold to a publisher that decides to change the model from open to toll access. Note that policies covering UK funded researchers, by definition, cover the actions of the researcher, not the publisher.
11.  It is not necessary for open access policy to require publication in ‘gold’ open access journals, because ‘green’ open access policies are more than sufficient to provide incentive for publishers to adapt and offer ‘gold’ open access journals. Over the past few years, thanks in large part to the leading-edge ‘green’ open access policies of the UK Research Councils and similar funding bodies elsewhere, an open access publishing system has emerged and is growing on a steady basis. There are more than 8,000 fully open access, scholarly peer-reviewed journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The net growth of the DOAJ is a fairly consistent 3-4 titles per day.
12.  It is premature to make any recommendations about which license is optimal for scholarship. For this reason it is not advisable to insist that researchers publish using the CC-BY license.
13.  One of the reasons it is not advisable to recommend the CC-BY license is because many of the arguments in favour of this license are not well thought out. For example, on a superficial level CC-BY appears to reflect the strong open access of the Budapest Open Access Initiative definition. However, this superficial resemblance is not reflected in the legal code. For example, CC-BY does not necessarily mean “free of charge” which is central to any definition of open access.
14.  There is a common misperception that CC-BY is needed to facilitate text and data mining. CC-BY is not necessary, sufficient, or even desirable for text and data mining.
15.  CC-BY is not necessary for text and data mining. Internet search engines such as Google conduct text and data mining on a massive scale, on a continuous basis. This text and data mining is routinely conducted on works with any of the Creative Commons licenses, or no license specified, and even web pages that are All Rights Restricted. On the Internet, the way to note that a web page is not available for text and data mining is to use the norobots.txt in the web page’s metadata. Otherwise, the default is that text and mining is the norm.
16.  CC-BY is not sufficient to permit text and data mining. The Creative Commons licenses are a means by which creators or rights holders can waive certain rights that they have under copyright. However, the CC licenses do not place any obligations on the licensor. A CC-BY license can be used on a work that consists of locked-down image files that are not at all useful for text or data mining. A CC-BY license can also be used on a website that uses the nonrobots.txt metadata that tells the web that the page is not available for crawling.
17.  CC-BY is not desirable for text and data mining, because the attribution element is problematic when large numbers of datasets are combined. Data experts are recommending CC-0 or similar types of licenses for data for this reason.
18.  CC-BY licenses can be problematic for scholarship.
19.  CC-BY as a default for scholarly works is highly problematic, because CC-BY places no obligations on the licensor. An open access publisher using the CC-BY license can sell all of their journals to another entity. There is nothing in the CC-BY license that obligates the purchaser to continue with the open access model; they are free to convert all of the journals to toll access. This is one of the reasons I always recommend that open access policy be for ‘green’ open access archiving.
20.  CC-BY licenses will tend to conflict with research ethics and rights of third parties whose works are included in scholarly works covered by policy. A CC-BY license grants blanket permission to use works, including commercial works and making of derivatives, to anyone, anywhere. This means that a picture of a research subject could be harvested and included in an image bank to sell for a wide variety of uses, including advertising. Informed consent in this situation would require explaining to research subject that if their photo is published under a CC-BY license the consequences could include such scenarios as having their picture (possibly modified) posted as part of an ad on a bus.
21.  CC-BY licenses, by allowing for derivatives on a blanket basis without requiring permission, can add inaccuracy into the scholarly record and/or damage the reputation of scholars, universities, and the UK education system, if poor quality derivatives are made.
22.  CC-BY licenses, by granting commercial rights on a blanket basis, permit commercial entities to use the works of a publisher to compete with the publisher for revenue. For example, a commercial company could set themselves up to automatically capture new content created by a journal in order to attract advertising revenue that might otherwise have gone to the journal. This is a threat to journals, particularly smaller society journals.
23.  The full impact of the Creative Commons licenses at this point in time is not fully known. Allowing for the creation of derivatives could open up the potential to increase the speed of knowledge creation and/or the development of useful new tools and services, or it could slow down progress by facilitating the creation and dissemination of poor quality derivatives. For this reason, the use of particular licenses for scholarship at this point in time should be considered experimental. Use of the CC licenses should be encouraged, but a particular license should not be selected as a default, and researchers should not be required to use a particular license.
24.  Most open access journals do not use Creative Commons licenses at all; those that do use CC licenses do not necessarily use CC-BY. Only about 11% of the fully open access journals listed in the DOAJ use CC-BY (see Suber, P. June 2012 SPARC Open Access Newsletter, The Rise of Libre Open Access
25.  There is some evidence suggesting that CC-BY is not the choice of scholars themselves. Nature’s Scientific Reports is a gold open access journal that provides authors a choice of CC license, affording an unusual opportunity to observe the CC license choice of scholars when all other variables are equal, e.g. there is no difference in cost based on the license choice. As reported by Nature’s Grace Baynes to the GOAL Open Access list on February 5, 2013, only 5% of authors chose the CC-BY license (from
1 July 2012 to 7 November 2012
Introduced CC-BY;
Three license choices available
412 papers accepted
* 37% were CC BY-NC-SA 
* 58% were CC BY-NC-ND 
* 5% were CC BY
26.  The affordability of an open access scholarly publishing system hinges on the average cost per article. The majority of open access journals do not charge article processing fees, so it is important not to confuse average cost per article with the APF approach. In addition to the access problem, scholarly communication has had an affordability problem over the past few decades. It is important to address the affordability problem in the transition to open access.
27.  By my calculations, if all of the world’s scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles were published at the $188 US average per article found by Edgar & Willinsky in their 2009 survey of more than 900 journals using Open Journal Systems, the full cost could come from academic library budgets with cost savings of 96% of academic library budgets (for details, see chapter 5 of my dissertation). It is important to seek these savings as academic libraries have many new needs to fill, such as preservation of electronic information and supporting research data services. On the other hand, if the average cost were the $5,000 per article charged by Elsevier’s Cell Press for “sponsored access”, this would increase the cost of the system overall by about 16% - and still not achieve open access, as sponsored access is not really open access, just free-to-read from the publisher’s website.
28.  The RCUK’s generous block grants for article processing fees are likely to distort the market by inflating costs for article processing fees. If this approach were to success in achieving open access, it would be at the cost of increasing the problem of lack of affordability of the system. However, I predict that this approach will fail, as the impact of inflating the costs of article processing fees is very likely to decrease support for open access publishing outside the UK, thus dooming the sector the grants are intended to support.
29.  I predict that an unintended consequence of the RCUK block grants for article processing fees will be a decrease in support for this approach outside the UK as this is likely to inflate costs. This will decrease the competitiveness of the UK research system, as it will be stuck with costs that researchers elsewhere do not have to pay.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate, and for the UK’s leadership in the area of open access policy.
Heather Morrison, PhD
hgmorris at sfu dot ca

Do the strong moral rights of Creative Commons licenses restrict academic use?

Creative Commons has issued some clarifications to the UK Business, Innovation and Skills Committee’s inquiry into open access, which can be found here:

These clarifications raise more questions than answers for me. For example, it appears that the strong moral rights that are part of CC licensing may negate the “free unrestricted use” that many think CC licensing implies.  Also, it appears to me that CC licensing involves stronger moral rights than under automatic copyright. If this is the case, is it possible that using CC licensing actually takes away rights that scholars currently have under fair dealing?

From the Creative Commons clarifications:

CC licenses contain a number of additional mechanisms designed to protect an author’s reputation. These include a “no endorsement, no sponsorship” clause, which is a standard feature of all CC licences. This clause prohibits users of a work from implicitly or explicitly asserting or implying any connection with, sponsorship or endorsement by the author of that work without express, prior written consent.

How is it possible to create a derivative, with attribution, without implying any connection with, sponsorship or endorsement by the author of that work? If the first author objects, the second author has an obligation to the integrity of the first author. In other words, it is not clear that one should assume that it is safe to use CC licensed material without express, prior written consent – in which case, what is the point of the CC license?

Glyn Moody blogs about another problem with using CC licenses – the ease with which the original creator can change or remove the license. It is true that the author cannot take away the CC license on a copy you already have – but how can you prove that the work was issued under a particular license? Details can be found on techdirt

This reinforces my argument that it is premature to decide on a license for open access, a point that I make in my submission to the UK’s Business, Innovation & Skills Committee’s inquiry into open access.

A simple definition for open access: a proposal to open the discussion

This post proposes a shift from the detailed BBB definition of open access to Peter Suber’s brief definition, as follows: Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (from Suber’s Open Access Overview).  


In my dissertation, I map and analyze the relationship of open access and various Creative Commons licenses and conclude that OA and CC licenses, despite superficial similarities, simply do not map, and that attempting to equate OA with a particular CC license such as CC-BY is highly problematic for scholarship.

For a journal, I argue that the best way to express a journal’s open access status may well be the default Open Journal Systems (OJS) statement, which reads: this journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.

This is an open definition in a very important sense: it leaves room for scholars to consider, and experiment with, exactly what open access can or should mean, or do for scholarship. We should be articulating the commons – engaging in thinking about what a knowledge commons might mean – not jumping to a quick technical solution such as a particular CC license (acknowledging that the CC licenses, all of them, are valuable tools for scholars). Some of the elements that we should consider in articulating the commons include:

  •  the traditional concept of reciprocity that is an expectation with gift-giving in many various societies, as reported by Mauss;
  • developing a sustainable knowledge commons could benefit from the research of Ostrom, for example the importance of developing community expectations and sanctions in sustaining a commons; and,
  • expanding the limitations of western concepts of ownership through incorporating concepts from traditional knowledges.  

Why not CC-BY?

The Creative Commons Attribution Only (CC-BY) license superficially looks exactly like the BOAI definition of open access: works that are free online and free for re-use. However, a careful examination of the legal code, discussion with the Creative Commons community, and analysis of scholarly works and how businesses could interact with scholarly works licensed under Creative Commons, demonstrates that it is not wise to equate open access with CC-BY. To help make the shift, the following dispels a few myths about CC-BY.  

Myth: Creative Commons licenses are for works that are free of charge to users, just like open access is meant to be.  

Fact: Creative Commons licenses are not specific to works that are free of charge; they can also be used for works that are toll access.  

Myth: CC-BY is needed so that we can do text and data-mining.

 Fact: CC-BY is not necessary, sufficient, or desirable for text and data-mining.

Why CC-BY is not necessary for text or data mining: any work that is posted on the web without technical or licensing restrictions preventing mining (such as the use of norobots.txt or locked-down PDF files) can be used for text or data mining. This is how search engines work!

Why CC-BY is not sufficient for text or data mining: a CC-BY license can be used for a work that is technically not fit for text or data mining. There is nothing in the CC-BY license that says the licensor cannot use norobots.txt on the same webpage, for example. A CC-BY license can be used with image files that are useless for text or data mining.

Why CC-BY is not desirable for text or data mining: the attribution element is problematic for data and text-mining involving large numbers of files. Public domain – or perhaps no CC license at all, just relying on fair use – may be better.

Myth: once a work is released under a CC-BY license, it will remain open access for all time.

Fact: it is correct that a CC-BY licensed copy will remain CC-BY licensed, even if the licensor changes the license downstream. However, this is only useful for scholarship if the CC-BY licensed copy is retained in a location where future scholars can access it, such as an open access archive. Otherwise, a CC-BY licensed copy may be on someone’s computer somewhere, but for someone who does not have access, this is not helpful. An open access publisher can change their mind and change all of their works from open to toll access, with no notice requirement. This could easily happen if one publishing company is sold to another.  

Myth: there is an emerging consensus on the adoption of CC-BY.  

Fact: as of summer 2012, only 28% of journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals used any kind of CC license, and only 11% used CC-BY (Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter 164). Outside of the fully open access journals listed in DOAJ, CC-BY is even less common. All faculty OA permissions policies specify that works are not to be sold for a profit, strongly suggesting that faculty themselves do not support giving away their work for others to sell, as CC-BY licenses do.

This post is a very brief summary of select points from my dissertation Freedom for scholarship in in the internet age section, Open Access and Creative Commons, downloadable from here – see p. 49 – 63. 

This post is part of the Creative Commons and open access critique series

Respectful comments and questions are welcome and encouraged.

flickr and Creative Commons: the popularity of noncommercial

Congratulations to Creative Commons, celebrating its 10th birthday from December 7 to 16th! As of December 11, 2012, flickr contains close to a quarter of a billion CC licensed photos! flickr posts a list with the number of photos per license, which provides an opportunity to see which CC licenses are the most popular with flickr users. The two most popular licenses, accounting for more than half of the photos, are Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike (BY-NC-SA) (29%) and Attribution-Noncommercial-Noderivatives (BY-NC-ND) (28%). Of the CC license elements, the most popular by far is Noncommercial (NC). Over 173 million flickr photos – 70% of the flickr CC set – use NC.

flickr CC licenses, in descending order based on use

Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike: 71,564,474 photos (29% of total)
Attribution-Noncommerical-Noderivatives: 68,929,900 photos (28% of total)
Attribution: 37,419,759 photos (15% of total)
Attribution-Noncommercial: 32,853,005 photos (13% of total)
Attribution – Sharealike: 22,281,007 (9% of total)

Attribution-Noderivatives: 13,443,522 photos (6% of total)

The most popular CC license elements

Noncommercial: 173,347,379 photos (70% of total)
Sharealike: 93,845,481 photos (38% of total)
Noderivatives: 82,373,422 photos (33% of total)

For a description of the Creative Commons license elements, see the CC Licenses page.

Comment: this is particularly remarkable considering that the default CC license is CC-BY, and the CC license chooser deliberately tries to steer people away from NC and ND by labelling these as “not free culture” licenses. In other words, it takes effort to use these elements. If Creative Commons is meant to be a democracy, and if other communities using CC licenses show similar results, then NC should be the default. From my perspective, NC IS the free culture choice. This is the element that gives us a chance to share things and say that they do not belong to the realm of commerce.

This post is part of the Creative Commons and open access critique series.

CC-BY reflects a small subset of open access. Claims of "emerging consensus" on CC-BY are premature

The Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association’s “Why CC-BY page” refers to an “emerging consensus on the adoption of CC-BY”. My comment:

Re: CC-BY – emerging consensus. OASPA refers to an “emerging consensus” that CC-BY is the best license for open access. I argue that the evidence suggests that CC-BY is a peripheral phenomenon and very far from consensus.

From Peter Suber’s SPARC Open Access Newsletter, June 2012 – in brief only 11% of the journals listed in DOAJ use CC-BY, and outside of full gold OA publishing as illustrated by the journals in DOAJ, the proportion of OA that is CC-BY is lower still.

“Libre OA through repositories has been rare because most repositories are not in a position to demand it or even to authorize it. Hence, you might think that libre OA through journals would be common because all journals are in a position to do both. But unfortunately that would be wrong. The power of journals to demand and authorize libre OA means that libre gold could be common, and should be common. But scandalously, it doesn’t mean that libre gold is already common…Only 917 journals in the DOAJ have the SPARC Europe Seal of Approval, which requires CC-BY. That’s only 11.8% of the full set”.

Suber, Peter. SPARC Open Access Newsletter, June 2012