Your guide to Open Access publishing and Open Science

Do scholars prefer to apply restrictive licenses to Open Access articles?

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A researcher who decides to publish in Open Access, not only chooses a publishing model, but he also needs to choose one of the available copyright licenses for a published article/book. The question of copyright licenses is inseparable from Open Access publishing and it is discussed repeatedly in the scientific community.

Generally speaking, authors of OA publications have a choice of three Creative Commons licenses: CC-BY (the liberal one), CC-BY-NC-SA (non-commercial, share-alike) and, CC-BY-NC-ND (no derivative works). By choosing CC-BY, an author makes his work truly open for everyone, and this type of license is promoted by Open Access advocates; for example, the Wellcome Trust requires its own researchers to publish their works under this license.

However, do authors in fact want their papers to be open? The recent data from the Nature Publishing Group says otherwise. Between 8 November 2012 and 21 January 2013 the publisher accepted 273 papers. Only 5% of articles were under CC-BY license. The rest, 95%, were published under more restrictive regimens. What is surprising, 83% of these were CC BY-NC-ND. A similar proportion was recorded in previous years. Between 1 July 2012 and 7 November 2012, 412 articles were accepted, but only 5% were CC-BY and 58% were CC BY-NC-ND.

Does this mean that scholars are not willing to share their works with everyone, even when they publish in OA? In some cases this may be true. The CC-BY license can be seen as an open door for copyright infringement. Not all researchers agree to the use of their work commercially. However, CC-BY requires informing the author if anyone wants to make use of their research work. Choosing a more restrictive license may also be a result of unawareness of the legal consequences of a particular type of license. Publishers very often opt for more restrictive licenses in fear of foregoing profits.

Whatever the reasons, the data from the Nature Publishing Group shows that the liberal and open approach to the copyright license is still very rare. Researchers, at least in the light of this information, are still reluctant to allow completely free use of their work. A question remains unanswered: are the results of publicly–funded research the exclusive property of scholars?

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