Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, May 01, 2008

British Academy and Publishers Association report on copyright and research

Copyright and Academic Research:  Guidelines for Researchers and Publishers in the Humanities and Social Sciences, a joint report from the British Academy and the Publishers Association, April 2008.  Excerpt:

13.2.  In the digital era various ‘open-access’ or ‘creative commons’ licences have been developed for use with works whose authors wish to see them distributed more freely in electronic or digital form, often via the Internet, with models along such lines as -

(a) Attribution licence - ‘all usage allowed including reuse for commercial purposes so long as the source is identified’

(b) Commercial use limited licence - ‘all usage allowed except for commercial purposes’

(c) Licence under which the author keeps exclusive commercial exploitation rights - ‘all rights reserved (by the author) apart from those specifically granted’.

Publishers, and the Publishers Association, have significant reservations about any general use of such licences, particularly if they affect normal use or re-use of the work for commercial purposes. They may have their place for creators who wish to disseminate their work widely but completely non-commercially, but should only be entered into on a fully informed basis, particularly if the licence purports to be irrevocable....


  • It's notable that the British Academy and the Publishers Association could agree on copyright guidelines.  On the other hand, it's also notable that this section (13.2) only refers to the concerns of publishers and does not say that the British Academy shares those concerns.  It's the only section in the report addressing OA issues.
  • It looks like the academy and the publishers couldn't agree on this section and reached a kind of compromise:  the section was included in the report but with an annotation suggesting that it is only endorsed by the publishers. 
  • In August 2005, the British Academy publicly supported the OA principles expressed in the draft RCUK policy.  It even wanted to extend them to the social sciences and humanities. However, it did defend the copyright loophole in that draft of the policy (mandating repository deposit "subject to copyright and licensing arrangements").  In September 2006 it released a report on Copyright and research in the humanities and social sciences recommending that "authors...should understand that their interests in copyright are not necessarily identical with those of publishers and should not rely on publishers to protect them" and that "the law should be clarified - statutorily if necessary – to make clear that the use of copyright material in the normal course of scholarly research in universities and other public research institutions is covered by the exemptions from the copyright act" (such as fair use or fair dealing).  If the British Academy shares the publisher concerns expressed in 13.2, then it would appear to have changed its position since its September 2006 report and should explain why.