Monday, December 26, 2011

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 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 open-access 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.

Update January 20, 2012. Note that Nature Publishing Group has clarified that NPG does not support SOPA, PIPA, or the anti-OA lobbying effort called the Research Works Act. On January 2nd, I had retracted my recommendation of NPG's license on the understanding that a subsidiary of the parent company was listed as a supporter of SOPA. Thanks to the clarification from NPG, I am delighted to retract my retraction, or to in the positive, to wholeheartedly support the CC license used by NPG's Scientific Reports.