Friday, December 09, 2011

Dissension in the open access ranks on CC licenses and strategy tips for scholarly publishers

Following are my tips for scholarly publishers facing pressure to adopt CC-BY licenses. I think that there are important issues here for libraries to consider. Comments, anyone?

Scholarly publishers are increasingly taking advantage of creative commons licenses. Like most open access advocates, this is something that I recommend, as it greatly facilitates understanding of permissions by readers.

However, in my opinion scholarly publishers should be aware that there are differences of opinion about mapping of open access and creative commons among advocates. There are some OA advocates who believe, very strongly, that open access is equal to the creative commons - attribution only (CC-BY) license. There are strong and valid arguments for why CC-BY is the license that most closely fits that BOAI definition of open access. However, I would argue that there are flaws in CC-BY that make it incompatible with the larger definition and aims of BOAI. For this reason, I would advocate that CC-BY-NC-SA is actually the strongest open access license, as this ensures open access downstream.

Following are some arguments that might be useful to scholarly publishers facing pressure to adopt CC-BY licenses:

Data mining is a fine thing to advance science. Allowing commercial applications means that authors and publishers that have given away their own work as OA, may not be able to afford the value-added version created through data mining. If data mining is the leap ahead that I think this is, this means that the less affluent scholars, libraries and publishers end up relatively further behind. That is, one step ahead in gaining the advantages of OA per se, and two steps behind if they cannot afford the value-add built on their work. For this reason, I strongly recommend that OA publishers in the third world use CC-NC licenses.

To survive and thrive into the future, OA publishing needs resources. For most publishers, this means money. If advocates want OA publishers to be able to provide the stronger forms of libre OA, in my opinion the solution is to find means to provide them with the financial support that would make it possible for them to do so.  How? Tell advocates pushing for strong OA CC licenses to ask their libraries to join the Compact on Open Access Publishing Equity

If the problem is the definition of noncommercial under CC, I would suggest that the answer is clarifying the definition. READING is not a commercial activity, regardless of who the reader is. SELLING the article - that's commercial. Data mining services is a different matter, and one that I think needs more thought before any recommendations are made.

The purpose of Creative Commons licenses is to facilitate choices for creators. I would argue that this is authors, and that what publishers should do is offer authors the full range of CC license choices. Journal-based CC licensing is not fully compatible with author's rights.

Comments and discussion are most welcome!

This message was posted today, with slight variations, to the Open Science, Society for Scholarly Publishers, and SCHOLCOMM lists.

Update December 10, 2011: for discussion on this topic, see the Open Science list archives under the subject "Open Access publications under CC-NC licenses".

Update December 17, 2011: see Cameron Neylon's post for his comments (pro defining OA as CC-BY).