Your guide to Open Access publishing and Open Science

Copyright to third-party content and open access: Are all authors equal?

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Recently published Guide to open access monograph publishing by OAPEN UK discuss very important issue for open access publishing in humanities:

In many disciplines images, lyrics and music scores (just a small example of the variety) are critical to and underpin the monograph (in its many forms). Just as in the traditional print format, authors will be required to secure permission from the rights holder for inclusion of the content in the monograph that is to be published open access. Whilst there is no intrinsic reason why permission should be withheld, you may encounter resistance from rights holders due to them not having a policy on how to deal with pricing and licensing for open access. For example, in the print only model, the rights holder would be assured of the print run and therefore the number of copies that would exist of their content. Typically you would agree that after a certain period of time – say five years – you would relicense the content. When we move to open access, however, there is the potential for unlimited copies which could exist in perpetuity. This can make rights holders nervous and unsure of how to price for the permission you seek. Authors may, therefore, find that the fees charged by some rights holders could be unaffordable or that lengthy negotiations are required to agree a fee. It’s not yet clear how new conventions will arise to deal with this, but it’s worth stressing that it’s not a problem of open access per se – it’s a challenge for all electronic books. However, there are options to consider. Creative Commons licences, which have been widely adopted for open access publishing, allow authors to exempt parts of their publication and apply more restrictive licenses such as the ‘all rights reserved’ often preferred by holders of third party rights.

This might be the real problem although as far as I know, we are still lacking the evidence to address it properly. Last year, I was searching for authors with experience in this particular matter, but to no avail. Open access is still a road less travelled in art history, as the subject area is dominated mostly by book publishing (and open access books, as opposed to journals, are not a popular option), and small presses which are less likely to experiment with business models. So when I saw the paragraph in the guide by OAPEN UK I asked its editors about their knowledge on the issue. This is what they told me:

Ernesto later told me an important thing about image copyright in general:

This is important advice. Generally speaking, in most countries it is legitimate to reproduce any work for the purpose of criticism and review, without any permission. It is also always allowed to reproduce Public Domain content for any purpose (and vast majority of old works is in Public Domain). You can also reproduce any image which is licensed under CC license, with no permission, after you meet requirements of this particular license (it might be proper attribution, prohibition of modification, or an obligation to describe all the modifications that was done). These are general rules. And there is no reason to be afraid of using copyright materials in a fair way. But it can happen, that permission of copyright holder is necessary (e.g. when it is all right reserved work, and one wants to re-publish it for different purposes than criticism). We are still lacking first-hand experience from negotiations with rights owners in the context of open access publishing. If any of you have tried to get permission for re-publishing a third-party owned, all rights reserved work in open access, write here in a comment section, please. Or, better, write a blogpost about how it was providing here a link. We need more knowledge about this issue. Anybody?

Painting: Angelika Kauffmann,1774, Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus, Public Domain.

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