Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Public domain v. open licenses

Tom Worthington, EU Project Missing the Point on Open Access to Publications, Net Traveller, October 12, 2008.  Excerpt:

The European Commission has a project looking at the use of public domain content. Those involved in higher education in the EU can take part in a Survey on the Use of public domain works in higher education....However, a flaw in the design of the study by Rightscom may result in it harming open access projects in Europe. The problem seems to be that the EU project assumes that free material is mostly about dusty old books where the copyright has expired. There is a danger this will be a self fulfilling prophecy: the surveys will find little new material because the survey specifically exclude such material and the conclusion will be that open access material is of little value.

One problem I can see with the survey is the definition used: "By public domain we mean material that is not or is no longer protected by intellectual property rights and includes resources which can be freely accessed and used and re-used by all." (from the survey preface). This definition would exclude all creative commons materials and most other open source licences. It would exclude the GNU Free Documentation Licence, of the Wikipedia, and the Wikiversity. It would exclude the training materials I provide free online from my ANU courses, the materials provided now by MIT Open Courseware and Standford University. Also the new research papers from the Australian Computer Society Digital Library and the International Federation for Information Processing Digital Library. All of these provide some form of free use, but are still protected by intellectual property rights....

[B]eing able to access the latest research and educational material through open access licences is likely to be of more value for most areas of research and education. The EU should revise the project definition to place the priority on new work [under open licenses]....

PS:  Also see our past posts on the EU project.