Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mike Carroll on OA, copyright, and the NIH and Harvard policies

Mike Carroll has written a cluster of three related posts on OA, copyright, and the NIH and Harvard policies (February 20, 2008).  Mike is a professor at Villanova University School of Law and a member of the Board of Creative Commons.

(1) NIH and Harvard - It's About Values

...[The NIH and Harvard] policies require that faculty authors treat that moment when they are about to sign a journal publisher's copyright transfer agreement as an Aretha Franklin moment. The author has to hear the members of the underserved audience who will be denied access if that form is signed. The author has to hear, "You better think (think) think about what you're trying to do to me."

We should expect that under the NIH and FAS policies, some faculty will chafe when they can't just sign the publisher's form and have have to start using a contractual addendum or some other legal notice in response....

The key point is that this really is not a technical conversation. It's a conversation about values....

(2) Harvard policy - Response to Stevan Harnad

Stevan Harnad is a forceful advocate for open access, and I agree with most of what he advocates. I do have a different view than he does about the connection between open access and copyright and his analysis of the Harvard policy calls this to the fore.

My response is essentially the same as Peter Suber's. I'll add that Stevan characterizes the policy as reservation of rights. I think that's mistaken. Under the policy, the author continues to own all of the exclusive rights under copyright and remains free to transfer all of them to a journal publisher....

All that the FAS have done is agreed that they have granted Harvard permission to post their work in the repository and that Harvard may grant others similar permission so long as copies are not being sold for a profit.

(3) Copyright and OA - Response to Stevan Harnad

Prompted by differences of opinion about the Harvard FAS policy, I want to clarify where Stevan Harnad and I agree and disagree about the relationship between copyright and open access.

I understand Stevan's position to be:

1. Open Access policies should conceptually separate a requirement to deposit an electronic copy of a post-peer-review manuscript in a repository from a requirement that the repository make that copy publicly accessible on the Web.

2. Deposit at the time the manuscript is accepted for publication should be unconditionally required.

3. Public access should be allowed any time the publisher's agreement says it may be.

4. If the publication agreement does not permit posting of the manuscript, a repository may still distribute copies by email whenever requested to do so by a user.

5. The combination of 3 and 4 effectively provide open access.

6. Those who argue that open access should also include an explicit public copyright license giving the public more than the right to read (e.g., the rights to republish or to translate or otherwise adapt the work) are mistaken. Either (a) these rights have already been implicitly granted by the public posting of the work; (b) they are not necessary to effective scholarly communication; or (c) even if they would marginally improve scholarly communication, the costs of negotiating copyright with publishers is not worth this benefit.

My response:

Points 1 and 2 are exactly right. Under U.S. copyright law, it is a fair use for an author to send, and for a repository to make, an archival copy of the post-peer-review manuscript. I think it's also a fair use to make an archival copy of the published version of the article. Copyright law in many other parts of the world also would deem this to be legal.

Deposit mandates are highly desirable. Please note that under the Harvard policy, even if a faculty author feels it necessary to seek a waiver of the copyright license to Harvard, there is no reason that author couldn't and shouldn't deposit a copy of the manuscript in the repository.

With respect to public access, I disagree that faculty authors should simply adapt themselves to the arrangements that publishers offer/demand. Moreover, I have have a different view about what those arrangements permit.

So, on point 3, I agree insofar as authors should use all legal rights they have to make their work freely accessible on the Internet....

However, I don't think that the starting point for the analysis should be what the publisher's form says. I think authors have an obligation to consider whether signing the publisher's form is ethical behavior.

Copyright is an author's right granted to the author by the public to achieve a public purpose - the promotion of science and useful arts....Authors of scholarly journal articles do not need the promise of a royalty to have an incentive to perform research or report the results and their analysis of that research....

[J]ournal article authors have a duty to consider whether they are making proper use of the copyrights that the public has given them when they agree to the terms of a publisher's agreement that limit how, when or where the author may provide free access to their work on the Internet.

I have a different understanding about the legal consequences of number 4, and therefore I also do not agree with number 5.

As for number 6, clarifying re-use rights through public licensing is desirable. If his view is (a) or (b) I disagree. If his view is (c), however, I agree that the effort necessary to achieve this goal should be subject to cost-benefit analysis. Under current circumstances, where subscription-funded publishers have shown some willingness to permit free access to post-peer-review manuscripts but have not been willing to agree to public licensing, I think an author could responsibly decide to be satisfied with a copyright agreement that permits free access but does not provide for re-use licensing.

PS:  If Stevan responds, I'll blog an excerpt and link.  If Mike and Stevan continue the conversation after that, I'll blog links only.  The best way to follow the full dialogue is to follow their two blogs (Mike, Stevan).