As the Director of the University of Adelaide Press, I am participating in the Humanities and Social Sciences session in the OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association) conference in Latvia, Riga later this month.
OASPA was initially set up to group together Open Access journal publishers, and now is keen to include book publishers, in all disciplines.
At present, which is why I am speaking, OASPA require that their members not only have published at least one Open Access book, but also that it is published with a licence that allows the “broadest re-use of published material possible”.
Their preference is the ‘CC-BY’ licence, now required by the United Kingdom funding bodies if they fund research, the European Union, and increasingly other funding bodies around the world.
I do not believe this licence is automatically appropriate for Humanities and Social Sciences which generally publish in books.
‘Open Access’ as a term was formally adopted in the Budapest Open Access Initiative in December 2001, with the aim of assisting faster advances in Sciences, Medicine and Health.
Subsequently, the six Creative Commons licences were created, to provide globally coherent copyright licences.
I do not have a quibble with the most open licence of all, the CC-BY licence, when it is used in Sciences, Medicine and Health. Or for that matter, if any author in the Humanities and Social Sciences wishes to use it.
My quibble is when it is mandated to all of us to use. I disagree flatly and categorically that when there are six different Creative Commons licences that only one must be used.
The CC-BY licence not only allows all readers the free, open access to the text, and to share it and quote it, but also to adapt it and create what they call, mysteriously, “derivative works”.
There is no requirement for these derivative works to be subjected to the same rigorous peer-reviewing before publishing that the original work had to pass.
It also allows them to commercialise their derivative work, without needing to share the profits with the original author, the only condition being that they attribute the original work.
No one yet has explained what a derivative work is to me, and even in the legal language of the licence itself, it remains a vague term.
This licence is undoubtedly perfect when applied to the results of fast-moving medical research, for example in genetics.
But it could equally allow an unscrupulous publisher to patch together a very good textbook and make a killing, probably selling it back to the same institutions that produced the original scholarly texts.
We already are more than aware of the way institutions are forced to buy back their own research in journal packages, in which they did not pay for the content, indeed charged a fee to publish it, then took ownership of the copyright, and also receive subsequent copyright use payments – like through the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL).
As an author of books myself, I am concerned about a licence allowing someone to take the results of years of original research, largely written in donated time, reword it, change it, and then turn a profit from it.
Of the people I have talked to who insist on the single use of the CC-BY licence, I wonder how many of them have published a book?
On the other hand, I believe that the Creative Commons licences are essential for Open Access publishing to work efficiently and effectively. The University of Adelaide Press will be introducing them in future titles, but will allow authors to choose which one suits their work.
Director, University of Adelaide Press