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Copyright Week: Read-only access is not enough

Elliot Harmon, January 15th, 2014

Today is the third day of Copyright Week, and today, we’re focusing on open access. As EFF put it in the Copyright Week principles:

The results of publicly funded research should be made freely available to the public online, to be fully used by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

This is a principle that Creative Commons has always upheld. It’s crucial that the public has free online access to the research it pays for. It’s important, too, not to forget the second part of the principle: “…to be fully used by anyone.” In CC’s opinion, simply giving the public access isn’t enough. It’s impossible to enable full use without communicating the legal rights available to downstream users of those works. The definition in the seminal Budapest Open Access Initiative makes this point clear:

By “open access” … we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

The open license attached to open access publications has enabled innovations that would have been impossible without it. For example, Daniel Mietchen (co-winner of the Accelerating Science Award Program), developed a software tool to crawl and export multimedia files from openly licensed science articles in PubMed Central. The tool has uploaded over 13,000 files to Wikimedia Commons, where they’ve been subsequently used in more than 135 English Wikipedia articles.

In some ways, 2013 was a great year for open access. In the United States, the White House issued a groundbreaking directive requiring that most publicly funded research be made available to the public, and Congress introduced the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), a bill that would require those federal agencies with yearly external research budgets exceeding $100 million to provide the public with online access to research articles stemming from such funding within 6 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. And several states are considering public access policies of their own. In Europe, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, helped launch a pilot to open up publicly funded research data.

But the march toward open access is long and slow. Open licensing requirements for publicly funded research should really go hand in hand with those for other publicly funded materials, including educational resources and cultural works. Creative Commons recently formed the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership to equip advocates for open policy across disciplines.

A few months ago, we published these infographics to help make the economic case for open access to publicly funded research:

The point is obvious: the fewer restrictions are put on the public’s use of materials, the more swiftly scientific progress, the more efficiently those research grants can achieve their purpose of advancing knowledge.

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2 Responses to “Copyright Week: Read-only access is not enough”

  1. Ewout ter Haar says:

    The BOAI continues: “The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work […]”

    This part speaks to the “moral rights” of authors. CC, being inspired by Common Law traditions is not comfortable with moral rights. Still, the “control over the integrity of their work” is something very dear to scientists heart (perhaps more so in the Humanities) and should be addressed by OA policies in some way.

  2. THE BEST VS. THE BETTER

    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!
    But we don’t even have free online access yet…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But free online access is part of free online access with re-use rights…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But free online access is already within immediate reach and free online access with re-use rights is not…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But free online access today will pave the way for free online access with re-use rights tomorrow…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But re-use rights to only a fragment of the research in a field are near-useless…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But publishers allowing authors to provide free online access and re-use rights can immediately be undercut by free-riding rival publishers; publishers allowing authors to provide free online access alone cannot…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But publishers will sooner allow authors to provide free online access than allow them to provide free online access with re-use rights…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But institutions and funders can sooner mandate free online access than free online access with re-use rights…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But all non-subscribing users need free online access; not all or even most or many users need re-use rights…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But all authors already want all non-subscribing users to have immediate free online access; not all or even most or many authors know or care about re-use rights yet…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But free online access with re-use rights today entails paying publishers even more, over and above uncancellable subscriptions, out of scarce research funds, whereas free online access entails no extra cost…
    “I don’t want free online access: I want free online access with re-use rights!”
    But free online access is better, even if free online access with re-use rights is best…
    “I don’t want the better: I want the best!”
    But the better will pave the way for the best…
    “I don’t want the better: I want the best!”
    But the better is already within reach and the best is not: why not grasp it?
    “I don’t want the better: I want the best!”
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1092-.html