Sunday, February 10, 2013

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.


  1. How do you publish an open access work ~without~ deciding on a license?

  2. Many works are simply posted to the internet without any specific license. In this case, the works are free-to-read for anyone with an internet connection. This is the most critical element of any definition of open access. The creator is protected by automatic copyright. There may be additional restrictions imposed by technical protection measures or through metadata such as use of the norobots.txt to prevent web crawling. These options are also available to anyone who uses any of the creative commons licenses. You can use a CC-BY license for a work that is behind a toll wall, full of DRM that prevents local downloading and printing, posted a web page that uses norobots.txt to prevent web crawling.

    Another approach is a simple statement such as the default statement that comes with OJS journals: "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 doesn't nail down every possible rights question, but rather leaves things more open, which allows for discussion and experimentation which I argue is needed.


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