Academia should not wait for publishers to make the rules; WE should make them.

[I shall be arguing at SePublica that WE have to take control of OUR scholarship, and that semantics are one of our tools to help us.]

A recent post ( from the The Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG) laments the complexity of managing publisher “agreements”. I’ll quote first and then argue that we are capitulating to publishers rather than asserting OUR rights.

Walking in quicksand – keeping up with copyright agreements


As any repository manager will tell you, one of the biggest headaches for providing open access to research materials is complying with publisher agreements.

Most publishers will allow some form of an article published in their journals to be made open access.

One problem repository managers face is that publishers sometimes change their position on open access. Often there is no public announcement from the publisher; especially when the change imposes more restrictions on ‘green’ open access. This is where the blogosphere and discussion lists (such as the CAIRSS List in Australia) are invaluable in keeping practitioners on top of new issues in the area.

Some recent cases where publishers set more restrictions on ‘green’ open access include Springer and IEEE.

Then on 1 January 2011 IEEE changed the rules and said people could no longer put up the Published Version. They were still allowed to put up the Submitted Version (preprint) or the Accepted Version (postprint). The policy is on the IEEE website here. While this still allows IEEE works to be made available in compliance with the recent Australian mandates, a recent blog  argues that the re-use restrictions on the Accepted Version of IEEE publications imposed by IEEE means that the works are not open access in compliance with many overseas mandate requirements.

According to [Springer’s] Self-Archiving Policy: “Authors may self-archive the author’s accepted manuscript of their articles on their own websites. Authors may also deposit this version of the article in any repository, provided it is only made publicly available 12 months after official publication or later. …”

So now there is a 12 month embargo on making the Accepted Version available.

These changing copyright arrangements mean that the process of making research openly accessible through a repository is becoming less and less able to be undertaken by individuals. By necessity, repository deposit is becoming solely the responsibility of the institution.

Dr Danny Kingsley
Executive Officer
Australian Open Access Support Group

PMR: I’ve chosen this because it was blogged yesterday but we are seeing this everywhere. Universities (I use this instead of the L-word) do not make “agreements” with publishers – they try to operate the “rules” that the publishers make up whenever they feel like it. If a publisher (such as Elsevier) “offers” an “agreement” forbidding content mining the University does not challenge it – they sign it and work to make sure it’s enforced. The Universities are effectively doing acting as enforcers for the publishers rather than asserting their own rights.

When was the last time a University challenged a publisher agreement in public? And won any concession. If you can show me 10 separate examples I shall be less critical of the L-Universities.

The management of this and politics of this is also absurd. WE create the content. We review it. WE pay the publishers 10,000,000,000 USD every year. And then we wait for the publishers to create restrictions on what WE can do with OUR content.

It’s incredibly inefficient. Taking 100 major publishers that a library has to “negotiate” an “agreement” with (i.e. sign the publisher’s diktat) and 1000 universities, then 100,000 “agreements” are signed per year (with no public scrutiny and certainly not with MY knowledge). That’s hugely inefficient. And I have no doubt that many publishers are deliberately obfuscating.

Turn it round. Suppose we had an academic re-use licence and WE asked the publishers to agree to it. We would work out what WE (the purchasers) were prepared to accept for OUR reprocessed content. And if the publishers didn’t like it they would lose a customer. That’s how the rest of the world works. (Horror! Academics have the absolute right to use public money to publish where they want and buy whatever journals they want and pay publishers whatever they demand. Sorry, I forgot that).

We have seen an unedifying public fight between the green evangelists and others in the open Access community. There is now no agreement on what “green” is. Sometimes it means hidden in a dark archive for years where no-one can read it (see above). If a publisher calls it “green” who challenges them?

Very simply. The Open Access movement needs a formal body that can make the rules and challenge publishers. Why should it be left to a few activists (including me) to fight for content-mining? The funders are doing a good job here, but the Universities are making it increasingly difficult by giving in to the publishers. If we spent 0.1% of library subscriptions on fighting for our rights it would not only be the right thing to do but actually save money.

Oh, I had a private communication yesterday saying that one major publisher was now going to charge for text-mining its content.

Will the universities challenge that? If they did they might save the money. Or will they simply pay up yet again?