Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Using self-archived articles in South African classrooms

Philipp Schmidt, Problems using self-archived articles in South African universities, Sharing Nicely, November 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

The open access movement has had tremendous success increasing the amount of self-archived journal articles. Self-archiving means that authors can negotiate with publishers the right to keep a copy of their peer-reviewed article on a personal (or institutional) web-site for public download. Self-archived journal articles are usually covered by copyright, but users are allowed to download and print them.

This is great, because one would think it meant that the paper can be used in a class without having to worry about copyright clearance and fees. Unfortunately, copyright law and regulation in South Africa is murky on the issue of electronic distribution since it was drafted in 1978 when electronic information was not a huge issue yet....

As a result there is uncertainty if a lecturer would be allowed to act as an “agent” on behalf of the students and make copies for all of them, or if the students would need to make individual copies themselves to avoid infringement. Andrew recommended that from the point of view of an institution, it is safer and advised to ask students to make their own copies.

Of course, this is a bit silly. First, it means that the students have to pay for the copies individually, which is likely to increase the per page cost (and the cost of education) since bulk discounts are not possible. Secondly, the end-result is exactly the same, all students have a printed copy of the paper to work with....

Comment.  I don't know South African copyright law.  But if it blocks printing and redistribution of self-archived articles, or printing of multiple copies by teachers rather than single copies by students, then there are two solutions short of statutory reform.  First, distribute links instead of copies.  This depends on good connectivity for students, however, which cannot always be assumed.  Second, get the author to put a CC-BY license or equivalent on the self-archived article.  BTW, I don't skip over statutory reform because I think it would be radical or ineffective.  On the contrary.  I only skip over it because it's a very long, uphill climb and we don't have to wait for it.