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Discussing Open Access with the Linnean Society

March 13th, 2014 | Posted by rmounce in Open Access

I’ve been invited to come in and have an informal chat about open access with the Linnean Society on March 24th this month. Particularly with regard to what is and what is not ‘open access’ in terms of Creative Commons licences. I write this blog post to spur on other advocates to try and encourage their society journals to use proper, open access compliant article licencing that facilitates rather than prevents text & data mining.

I have Tom Simpson at LinnSoc to thank for reaching out to make this happen. Thanks Tom!

It started from some tweets I sent a few days ago about an interesting new Zoo J Linn paper by Martin Brazeau & Matt Friedman. I’d include a pretty figure from this paper if I was allowed to, but unfortunately because it’s licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (CC BY-NC-ND) I can’t. To repost just a figure from the paper would be to create a smaller derivative work which the licence does not allow – I am only allowed to repost the *whole* article with absolutely no changes which is rather impractical for a 43 page article! Wiley in particular have a history of threatening scientist bloggers for reproducing a single figure from an article (read the Shelley Batts story here).

restricted access

It’s not just bloggers, and the outreach possibilities for the paper that are harmed with the use of such restrictive licenses – it also causes problems for RCUK funded researchers. Matt Friedman is based at Oxford at the moment – if the funding for this work came from any of the UK research councils, then the choice of the CC BY-NC-ND license could cause him problems – it is NOT compliant with the RCUK’s policy on open access. Wiley should know better than to offer this license to UK-based authors, but they have a significant conflict of interest in ensuring researchers choose more restrictive licencing options so that they can continue to be the sole proprietor of glossy reprint copies (ensured by the -NC clause). Both the -NC & the -ND clauses incidentally prevent the figures from being re-used on Wikipedia, another sad restriction for the authors who must have put a lot of effort into them.

In the realm of academic science, the application of that particular license to the paper-as-a-whole-work just doesn’t make sense. Many digital research projects need to be able excerpt, transform and translate research outputs such as academic papers, and in some cases create commercial value from this. My current BBSRC-funded research project ‘PLUTo: Phyloinformatic Literature Unlocking Tools. Software for making published phyloinformatic data discoverable, open, and reusable‘ relies on being allowed to transform, excerpt and republish extracted content from scientific papers. With Peter Murray-Rust we’re using text & image mining tools to generate open, re-usable phylogenetic data directly from the published literature, often directly from PDFs.  The Linnean Society have several good quality, well-respected journals which publish phylogenetic content, so they’re very much in the scope of our PLUTo work.

But clauses such as -ND stop us from using this material. It’s clear in the license terms and conditions – we are not allowed to make any derivative works from the original. So any papers using CC BY-NC-ND we will have to avoid. We cannot use them, and therefore they will not be cited by our project which is rather a shame for their authors.

Above all the CC BY-NC-ND license simply isn’t compliant with the very definition of open access as laid down over a decade ago at the Berlin, Budapest, Bethesda meetings. Wiley are knowingly mis-labelling articles using non-compliant licences as ‘open access’ even though they are by definition NOT open access. I hope the Linnean Society can spur Wiley to do something about this as it is not good for the journal, or its authors. Other journals using non-compliant licencing use terms like ‘public access‘ or ‘free access‘ or ‘sponsored access‘. Why can’t Wiley follow this lead? Open access is more than just free access – it enables re-use which is critical for research projects like mine. Please stop the ‘openwashing‘.

 

Further Reading:

Hagedorn, G., Mietchen, D., Morris, R., Agosti, D., Penev, L., Berendsohn, W., and Hobern, D. 2011. Creative commons licenses and the non-commercial condition: Implications for the re-use of biodiversity information. ZooKeys 150:127-149.

Mounce, R. 2012. Life as a palaeontologist: Academia, the internet and creative commons. Palaeontology Online 2:1-10.

Klimpel, P. Consequences, Risks, and side-effects of the license module Non-Commercial – NC [PDF] 1-22.

 


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  • Mike Taylor

    Thanks, Ross, for pursuing this important issue. You may know that a German court recently ruled that the NC clause prohibits all use except the strictly personal, even by a non-profit radio station. These clauses are disasters — yet so superficially tempting.

    • http://bath.academia.edu/RossMounce Ross Mounce

      Yes – that court ruling is an extremely important piece of strong evidence! I had already provided them with a full printed copy of Klimpel’s work but it’s great to have our thoughts evidenced in legal ruling: -NC is far more restrictive than people think!

  • Lamarck

    “they will not be cited by our project which is rather a shame for their authors”

    You could still cite the work, no?

    • Mike Taylor

      No: Ross’s work cites the works that it uses; and he can’t use NC-encumbered papers. So they remain unused, and don’t get cited.

      • http://bath.academia.edu/RossMounce Ross Mounce

        Precisely. It’d be absurd to cite work I didn’t use. I’d have to cite >48 million papers then. Citations are only given to those works that are relevant to and used in the work at hand.

  • pete carroll

    Ross writes:
    ” I’d include a pretty figure from this paper if I was allowed to, but unfortunately because it’s licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License (CC BY-NC-ND) I can’t. To repost just a figure from the paper would be to create a smaller derivative work which the licence does not allow – I am only allowed to repost the *whole* article with absolutely no changes…”

    My question is what will be the future situation for UK researchers, assuming the new UK copyright exception for “quotations” comes in to force on June 1st? See:
    http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/hargreaves/hargreaves-copyright/hargreaves-copyright-techreview.htm for more info.
    My reading of the exception is that the figure would be allowed as a lawful quotation extracted from the work provided that it was “fair dealing” with the work. The new exception includes a clause:
    “(1B) To the extent that a term of a contract purports to prevent or restrict the doing of any act which, by virtue of sub-paragraph (1ZA), would not infringe any right conferred by this Chapter, that term is unenforceable.”

    Wouldn’t this new clause over-ride the restriction of the CC BY-NC-ND licence?

    • Mike Taylor

      To be pedantic about it, this exception wouldn’t exactly override CC By-NC-ND. But what the clause would do would be to allow you to re-use the figure as a fair-dealing quotation irrespective of the terms under which it was originally furnished: that is, not as part of the rights granted to you by the licence, but as part of the more fundamental licence that the law itself grants you. The same would apply if it was All Rights Reserved.

    • http://bath.academia.edu/RossMounce Ross Mounce

      …and what about researchers who do not live in the UK? Even if the UK will soon allow some exceptions for non-commercial research purposes (only!), what about my colleagues in France & Germany & elsewhere in the world? The easiest solution is to not use the CC-BY-NC-ND licence in the first place – it’s anti-science. CC-BY is a licence that conforms globally for research needs, we should use this instead.

  • http://biochemistri.es/ biochemistri.es

    Thanks for posting this, it’s something I’ve thought about and fretted over when writing and using paper excerpts and relevant figures for academic/educational use.

    I think the ke here is to be imparting enough pressure through the presence of blogs and science communication such so as to stretch the ‘norm’ in educational/news use (as permitted in UK law).

    Despite the best of intentions it won’t be possible in the near future for all research to be OA, but there still shouldn’t be this restriction to discussing only (genuinely) OA materials for fear of breaking fair use (/ND) on others. For better or worse there needs be commentary on the literature, and since we’ve all only got so much time to read then excerpts by way of evidence are necessary to convey whatever point it is you’re making, repeating or refuting.

    Totally separate from the much more serious matter of actual academic projects such as this, I think for discussion of science there’s more of a tacit community agreement, exemplified by the JSFA director’s apologetic reply to Batts. This does really amount to granting permission, so there’s still that suggestion that it should’ve been requested in the first place… But well, that was seven years ago. The only similar thing I’ve heard of recently is the Elsevier takedowns for actual author-instigated self-archiving against the publisher’s interests.

    I think the worst thing the online science community could do though would be to just cite papers and say “sorry, this is behind a paywall” if it’s not OA – that’d arguably just increase publisher’s sense of entitlement to enforce restrictive policies, and is itself a hindrance to communicating science (as well as documenting problems in it).

    Reuse for projects like Wikipedia is clearly a separate matter and I agree the ND clause ought be highlighted as plain contrary to OA’s ethos.

    Congrats on the project by the way, just fantastic.

  • The Corresponding Author

    First of all, why do you assume it was Matt Friedman who chose the license? Secondly, why don’t you contact the corresponding author of the paper to ask about this?

    • http://www.rossmounce.co.uk Ross Mounce

      Hi Martin,

      I have read through my entire post again – but could not find where I implied Matt Friedman chose the license. Where did you get that from?

      I wrote:
      “then the choice of the CC BY-NC-ND license could cause him problems – it is NOT compliant with the RCUK’s policy on open access”

      Note in the above quote I wrote ” *the* choice ” not ‘his choice’. The only inference I could safely draw was that someone made a choice to choose this licence – I do not know who, when, or how.

      Perhaps you could enlighten us on that one? Was it your choice alone, or did both of you agree, or was there no choice given to you at all? I’d be really interested to know more.

      Best,

      Ross