Copyright protection is one of the key issues facing an information society, and the question of licensing is taking on major dimensions. Licenses have to protect the interests of authors, while at the same time they must not impede the dissemination and progress of knowledge. Licenses are also undoubtedly a hot topic in the academic community, discussed at every occasion through surveys of academic authors and hundreds of posts and blog entries.
Some of these discussions have shown that licensing issues share common problems of legal nature that are too complicated for non-lawyers, causing anxiety and consternation, with the consequence that scientists tend to underestimate their rights under the terms of a particular license. With a huge number of different licenses in use in the creative sector that confusion is justified.
This is why the recent initiative of the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (commonly referred as STM Association) provoked so much criticism. The STM Association introduced yet another model of Open Access licensing, proposing it as the new option for academic publishers. The criticism led to an open letter signed by more than 60 organizations (publishers, funders and universities) calling for the STM Association to abandon its licensing project, and to promote Creative Commons licenses as a standard for Open Access academic content.
De Gruyter supports Creative Commons
The publishing group De Gruyter, including Open Access imprint De Gruyter Open, added its name to the letter. The statement by Sven Fund, the group’s Managing Director, is a concise recapitulation of the broad criticism of the STM Association: Creative Commons licenses have been developed by a diverse community of stakeholders in science and in publishing – reads the statement. De Gruyter is committed to this framework and does not see any need for alternative licensing terms. As publishing is about standards, we as an industry should focus on proven models that work and not create confusion by adding more models that are not really needed.
It seems questionable for the STM Association to grant “permission” to do things that re-users do not need permission to do – i.e. describing or linking to the licensed work. Thus, the STM license only adds more confusion and uncertainty, since it is not compatible with the international copyright concept.
In the legal Tower of Babel, Creative Commons licenses have become the point of common reference, and a growing number of governmental and private research funders opt for the use of CC licenses for works created with their support. What is more, the language and principals of CC licenses are well understood by the Open Access community.
It is, of course, clear that CC licenses do not encompass ideally all needs of the scientific community, and these needs have to be carefully examined and discussed. Our effort though ought to be directed at a consensus around the Creative Commons framework, which is widely understood due to its simplicity. It is worth mentioning that currently there are seven main Creative Commons licenses, offering a varied range of re-usage rights, and that their frequent updates respond positively to the discussions that take place across the whole of the creative sector.
Read more on Creative Commons licenses here.
Image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Tower of Babel (Vienna) – Google Art Project – edited.jpg