Is the OJS simple statement of open access the best approach, or should we do away with academic copyright altogether?

Two more thoughts on scholarly communication, copyright and creative commons:

Is the Open Journal Systems default open access policy statement all that is needed for an open access journal? Following is the statement, copied from the SFU Communications Grad Students Journal, Stream. With a statement like this, is any kind of Creative Commons licensing really necessary? Perhaps it is the majority of journals in the DOAJ that do not use CC licensing at all who have this right.

Open Access Policy

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.

Glyn Moody on Techdirt asks the question, Do we really need copyright for academic publishing?  Copyright does not protect the kinds of things that really are important to academics, such as getting credit for ideas, but rather things that don’t matter all that much to most of us, such as precisely how the ideas are expressed. This is a good question! If a researcher solves an important problem, such as finding a cure for a particular kind of cancer, what do they want – recognition, promotion, a Nobel prize – or a legal right to sue anyone who copies the precise wording used in the article describing the research that led to these results?

Just two more thoughts towards Articulating the Commons.

Why require attribution? A Creative Commons license discussion item

When you choose a Creative Commons license, attribution is a given. Why?

One might argue that the notion of the individual author or creator is an invention of the Enlightenment, and one that may be beginning to fall by the wayside as the potential of the web for social creativity is starting to emerge. For example, Wikipedia uses the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license. How does this make sense for a collaboratively produced encyclopedia where individual articles are not signed by authors?

Sometimes we want attribution; other times, however, attribution would slow down the spread of great ideas. The “Occupy” movement advanced so rapidly precisely through such sharing, and the Occupy leaderful approach would not fit well at all with a focus on individual attribution.

In my own area of scholarly communication, attribution through citing is a long-standing tradition, one that makes sense as citations are important to the career as a scholar, and (more importantly) citations are necessary so that the reader can review the cited sources. However, these practices have been in place for centuries without need of legal licensing, so why would this be required through a license now?

In order to have a way of checking for further permissions, a means of contacting the licensor is necessary. This is not the same as attribution.

Noncommercial means noncommercial (creative commons discussion)

To state the obvious, noncommercial means noncommercial. When people choose a noncommercial creative commons license, that’s all that this tells us. It is important to understand that “noncommercial” does not necessarily mean reserving commercial rights for oneself (or one’s organization). For example, a number of open access scholarly journals require authors to use a creative commons license, often one which stipulates noncommercial. It is the journal or the publisher who requires the license,  but it is the authors who retain commercial rights, as I have written about in more detail here.

Another interpretation of “noncommercial” is a statement that the creator does not consider the work to belong to the domain of what can be considered commercial. My understanding is that noncommercial is the most popular element in the Creative Commons suite. Perhaps this is one way for many people to say collectively that we would like to see the sphere of what cannot be considered commercial grow.

Following is one example of how I think “noncommercial”, while seemingly a restriction, if broadly used has the power to grow the commons. 

If medical funders were to require that the published results of the work that they fund be made available for re-use in derivatives works, for example through the CC Attribution-only, Attribution-Sharealike, or Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike license, then derivative works could be made from large sets of medical research articles. Examples of derivatives could include value-added products designed to facilitate further research, or point-of-care tools for physicians. The problem with Attribution-only in this situation is that the value-added tools could be sold in locked-down, commercial versions. The authors, medical research funders, and those for whom the research is funded, for example the tax-paying public, might not be able to afford to purchase the value-added versions. For example, if a medical research funding organization funded research in the developing world, with CC-BY value-added tools could be created that would for practical reasons be exclusively available to the wealthy in the developed world. The sharealike provision would make sure that such products were available to all. However, if all, or a substantial portion, of these research results were available only on a noncommercial basis, this would mean that developing value-added tools would have to be done on a noncommercial basis. This step would tend to help to bring medicine from the sphere of private gain into the realm of the public good. I would argue that the society of the commons of the future that is worth striving for features a strong public health care system, and that “noncommercial” results of scholarly research therefore help to build a stronger commons.  Added Dec. 26: Casey Bergman’s explanation of why he left Faculty 1000 is an illustration of this issue – a toll access service built on top of open access journals.

This is a part of what I tend to mean when I use the term noncommercial, or by using the “not for sale” picture that I generally use as my Facebook picture. It would be more accurate to say that what I usually mean by noncommercial is something like “this work is not for the commercial sphere, but in the event that I need money, I wish to reserve commercial rights for myself”. That is the reason why The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics is licensed as noncommercial.

Research would be needed to understand what exactly people think that a commons is, might or should be. This is not as simple as conducting a survey, from my perspective, because first of all we need to think this through.  That’s why I recommend Articulating the Commons.

Journals with good creative commons models

As reported by Suber & Sutton in the December 2011 SPARC Open Access Newsletter, only a small minority (15%) of society-owned fully open access journals use Creative Commons licenses, and as Shieber found in 2009, of all the journals listed in DOAJ, only 24% use CC licensing. To encourage more journals to use CC licenses, this post presents 4 journals or publishers, some from the scholarly society community and others from the commercial community, with what I consider to be good Creative Commons models. Note that I am not covering the CC Attribution only license (CC-BY), as I assume that this license is commonly understood to represent good practice for open access. In brief, in all cases the Creative Commons license is that of the author, not the journal or publisher. Cellular Therapy and Transplantation allows authors the full range of CC license choices; this model, from my perspective, is the best fit with my vision of Articulating the Commons. Co-Action Publishing and Bone & Joint Research both insist on libre open access with a CC Attribution-Noncommercial (CC-BY-NC) license which allows for re-use; both have interesting indications or clarifications on their website telling us a bit about what is meant by reserving commercial rights. Nature’s Scientific Reports offers authors two choices of license, CC-BY-NC-ND (noderivatives) or CC-BY-NC-SA (sharealike), and shows responsibility by committing to donate to Creative Commons at a rate of $20 per article.


Cellular Therapy and Transplantation: author choice
Thanks to Claudia Klotzenburg of Cellular Therapy and Transplantation for pointing to CTT’s policies on the open science list. CTT practices what I consider to be the optimal policy for an open access journal for CC licensing, requiring authors to use a CC license, but leaving copyright with the authors and allowing the author to select the CC license of their choice from among the full set of CC license options.  This is a policy that fits best with my vision of a project of involving as many of us around the planet, for years to come, in a conversation on Articulating the Commons.

The CTT Copyright Notice says (from the CTT Author Guidelines page) says:

E. Copyright Notice for Authors and Sponsors

With CTT, Authors retain the copyright of their contributions. This means that Author(s) are free to decide what they wish to do with their contribution. CTT Authors choose a Creative Commons Licence for their contribution so that every reader can see what rights are going along with this specific article. 

If an article is published in CTT, the Authors of an article have granted CTT the right to publish it. By agreeing to have the final version published, Authors declare that, in their contribution, rights of third parties have not been infringed on anywhere in the document, including tables and graphics. If Authors wish to republish the article, they are kindly asked to mention CTT as the place of first publication. 

Sponsors who wish to solve copyright issues concerning a CTT article: please talk to the Authors since it is them who are the copyright holders of their contributions.
Co-Action Publishing: noncommercial libre open access, author retains copyright

Integrity: Under a Creative Commons license authors retain the full non-commercial copyright on their work, allowing you control over how you wish to you use the work in the future.

This model leaves copyright with the author, but does not provide the full range of CC license options. The Co-Action commercial page gives us some clues as to why Co-Action would want to restrict commercial rights. One of Co-Action’s services to publishing partners is providing print copies of journals. Another is selling advertising, both online and in print. If Co-Action were to use the CC Attribution online license (CC-BY), this would mean that another company could offer exactly the same services with the material Co-Action has worked on – without having to contribute a penny to the actual work of producing the journal. This is a good model reflecting libre open access (re-use allowed), while restricting rights that are likely necessary to sustain the publisher. A healthy open access scholarly communication system for the future needs open access publishers like Co-Action!
One suggestion for improvement: Co-Action could make it a little bit clearer as to which rights are being retained through the use of noncommercial. Here is where a statement along the lines of Education is a public good, not a commercial activity would be helpful. Or a statement along these lines: these materials are free for you to read, download, and print; however you may not sell print or other value-added copies of the journal or sell advertising on a copy of the journal that you create. For these rights, please contact Co-Action Publishing and/or the author of a specific article. 

Bone & Joint Research: libre open access, noncommercial, good definition of noncommercial

Authors retain the copyright of their material when publishing in Bone & Joint Research. If the paper is accepted for publication the content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License. This permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is noncommercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. The licence can be found at

Definition of noncommercial: You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation. The exchange of the Work for other copyrighted works by means of digital file-sharing or otherwise shall not be considered to be intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation, provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in connection with the exchange of copyrighted works.

Nature Publishing Group Scientific Reports: noncommercial, author choice, and support for Creative Commons
Nature Publishing Group offers authors two options for CC licenses: CC-Attribution-Noncommerical-Noderivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) and CC-Attribution-Noncommerical-Sharealike (CC-BY-NC-SA). In either case, it is clear that the CC license is the author’s, not Nature’s; in other words, Nature Publishing Group is not retaining any commercial rights to articles in this journal, but rather vesting them in the author. From my perspective, this is wise as it provides some important protection for the journal (no competitor can take the contents wholesale and use them for commercial purposes that could compete with Nature), while keeping limitations on rights to a minimum. Giving authors two choices is a better fit with my vision of articulating the commons discussed above, albeit less of a full invitation to participate than offering the full range of options. While allowing for the creation of derivatives offers some clear benefits to scholarship, from my perspective no one at present has completely thought out whether or not the benefits outweigh potential disadvantages of allowing derivatives, such as misunderstandings that could come from poor translations. Providing the option allows for a natural type of experiment, in that over time we will see which option is preferred by authors. Nature is unique in this group for offering financial support to Creative Commons, at $20 per license used. From my perspective, this is very responsible on the part of Nature, and does not appear to come with any expectations of control over Creative Commons (which would be a matter of concern), but rather is a straightforward donation.

Who retains copyright of the openaccess articles?
Content that an author has decided to make open access can be licensed under one of two Creative Commons licenses. The author can choose to opt for the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivs 3.0 Unported License. The author will thereby permit dissemination and reuse of the article, and so will enable the sharing and reuse of scientific material. It does not, however, permit commercial exploitation or the creation of derivative works without specific permission. To view a copy of this license visit

The other choice is the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License, which allows readers to alter, transform, or build upon the article and then distribute the resulting work under the same or similar license to this one. The work must be attributed back to the original author and commercial use is not permitted. To view a copy of this license visit
Why does NPG give money to Creative Commons and can I decide not to give a donation?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. To support their efforts, and hence the open access community, Nature Publishing Group will make a donation to Creative Commons. This is not a portion of an individual APC, rather the donation is proportional to the total number of research papers published using the creative commons licences.

This post is a part of the Articulating the Commons and Transitioning to Open Access series, and is intended to inform the Creative Commons Version 4.0 discussion.

Latest Article Alert from Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology

The latest articles from Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, published between 11-Dec-2011 and 25-Dec-2011For articles which have only just been published, you will see a ‘provisional PDF’ corresponding to the accepted manuscript.A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.Case reportComplications and management of acute copper sulphate poisoning; A

Latest Article Alert from BMC Infectious Diseases

The latest articles from BMC Infectious Diseases, published between 25-Nov-2011 and 25-Dec-2011For articles which have only just been published, you will see a ‘provisional PDF’ corresponding to the accepted manuscript.A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.Case reportEncephalitis temporally associated with live attenuated Japanese encephalitis vaccine:

Latest Article Alert from BMC Medical Research Methodology

The latest articles from BMC Medical Research Methodology, published between 25-Nov-2011 and 25-Dec-2011For articles which have only just been published, you will see a ‘provisional PDF’ corresponding to the accepted manuscript.A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.Research articleConducting Online Expert Panels: A Feasibility and Experimental

Three pictures, one small gift to everyone, with love

This holiday season dedicated to peace and joy, I wish to share with everyone around the world one very small gift, of three of my prettiest pictures, dedicated to everyone with love, under the public domain. There are strings attached, but these are the bonds of love, the glue that binds together families and communities, not the bonds of law.

This is my first attempt to use a Creative Commons public domain license, something that I asked for from Creative Commons Canada many years ago. Note that while this one post on IJPE is licensed under the CC public domain license, the overall blog license is CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike.

Even when I desire to waive my rights under copyright laws, it is not easy! This set of photos began as a flickr set however in flickr the photos are licensed as Creative Commons – Attribution – Sharealike, because public domain is not an option, and I prefer CC-BY-SA over CC-BY.

Creative Commons Canada does give me the tools to create a public domain license, and Google’s blogger has the flexibility so that I can add license to this particular post. However, I had to do some manipulating of the CC Canada public domain text as the default copy-and-paste resulted in a warning! html broken message, and some rather funny-looking text on my blog. This is cleaned up now, but perhaps only to an extent.

Also the Creative Commons Canada Public Domain license did not give me a chance to add a “more permissions” URL, which is a little bit less than optimal,  because I wrote the post to everyone, with love especially for this purpose.

This small critique is also intended with love, in the hopes of helping those who are helping us to build the commons through such means as Creative Commons licensing, and free tools for all to use (thanks, google and flickr).

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful holiday season and great New Year. One of the 7 billion humans on this planet at this time, Heather Morrison

This post is written as part of a small project I am working on at the moment, Articulating the Commons. All are welcome to join in this project, over the next many, many years.


To the extent possible under law, Heather Morrison has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this one blogpost, Three pictures, one small gift, noting that the overall creative commons license for The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics remain Creative Commons – Attribution – Noncommercial – Sharealike,  This work is published from:
Three Pictures One Small Gift.  Public domain, Creative Commons Canada.

To everyone, with love

This work is hereby dedicated to the public domain, with love. You are free to reuse the work as you will. Attribution, link-backs and thank yous are all appreciated, but not legally required. You are bound, not by law by the ties of love and the sense of ethics, fairness, moral or spiritual duty that bind us all to use this work with love, respect and care for all of humankind and all of the living creature that are part of the world that we all share.

This post is intended to create a more permissions URL to use with Creative Commons licenses. It is a part of a small project that I am working on which I call Articulating the Commons. Everyone – the whole world – is invited to join me in this project, over the next many, many years.

Integrating Institutional and Funder Open Access Mandates: Belgian Model

On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 Professor Bernard Rentier — Rector of the Université de Liège, Vice-President of the FRS-FNRS and Chairman of Enabling Open Scholarship (EOS)announced on the Global Open Access List (GOAL):

“It is my pleasure to announce that the Board of Administrators of the FRS-FNRS (Fund for Scientific Research in French-speaking Belgium) has officially decided to use exclusively Institutional Repositories as sources of bibliographic data in support of grant or fellowship submission (except for foreign applicants) starting in 2013 (strongly encouraged in 2012). (FRS-FNRS is by far the main funder for basic research in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.) “

I am sure that many readers will not quite realize the significance of this development in Belgium, so I would like to spell it out:

This represents the first instance of extending one of the key features of Professor Rentier’s “Liege model” research institution repository deposit (ID/OA) mandate to a research funder.

The Liege model institutional mandate is

(i) to require deposit

and, in order to ensure compliance,

(ii) to designate institutional repository deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting publications for institutional performance review.

The FRS-FNRS is the research funding council for French-speaking Belgium. Its Flemish-speaking counterpart, FWO, mandated OA deposit in 2007, but, like most funder mandates, FWO did not specify where to deposit, and did not provide any system for monitoring and ensuring compliance:

FRS-FNRS has has now designated institutional repository deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting publications in support of a research funding application.

This one stipulation has six major knock-on benefits: It not only:

(1) extends the Liege institutional mandate’s compliance/monitoring clause to funder mandates,

but it also

(2) helps integrate institutional and funder mandates,

(3) ensuring that deposit is made,

(4) ensuring that deposit is made in the author’s institutional repository (rather than in diverse institution-external repositories),

(5) encouraging institutions that have not yet done so to adopt deposit mandates, so as to complement funder mandates for all institutional research output, funded and unfunded, and

(6) ensuring that institutional and funder mandates are convergent and mutually reinforcing rather than divergent and competitive, with deposits for both mandates being made institutionally, and with institutions hence monitoring and ensuring compliance with funder mandates.

Bravo FRS-FNRS! Let us hope other research funders world-wde will adopt (or upgrade to) the Belgian model.

How to Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates

Optimize the NIH Mandate Now: Deposit Institutionally, Harvest Centrally

Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?

Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?

Stevan Harnad