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A Scientist and the Web


Resale of #openaccess CC-BY papers is fully acceptable

Roderic Page @rdmpage tweets:

Why the outrage at people repackaging #oa papers and charging for them? :
Don’t like it? Do it better and cheaper!

I fully agree with him and analyse in more detail: The original post included:

Dear Colleagues,

I’ve recently discovered that some commercial publishers are re-editing articles from open-access journals and publishing them as multi-author books, without the authors’ knowledge (example here).  Although most authors I’ve spoken with find this objectionable it’s quite legal, since open-access articles are usually published under Creative Commons attribution-only (CC-BY) licenses.  

Before pressing for any changes I’d like to get a broad survey of researchers’ opinions on this, so I’ve prepared a short (3 question) survey.  Here’s the link:&n bsp; Please feel free to pass this survey link on to other researchers or scientific email lists.

p.s.  If you’d like more information I’ve also discussed this issue on my blog: 

Dr. Rosemary J. Redfield     Professor, Dept. of Zoology    Univ. of British Columbia                              

In the blog posts above RJR highlights the commercial republishing of CC-BY Open articles. Links 1,3,4 relate to “Apple Academic Press ” [about whom I know nothing]. From the second link above:

But, as the previous post and a related post describe, the CC-BY license creates new problems for authors, because some for-profit publishers have begun aggregating CC-BY papers into high-priced edited books without the authors’ knowledge.  The authors I’ve discussed this with are quite upset.  They trusted the journals to offer licensing arrangements that were in the authors’ best interests, but now they feel that they have relinquished control of their scientific reputations.  (Note that these weren’t predatory publishers, but PLOS One and BioMed Central.)

Most of the discussions of open access licenses haven’t considered the exploitation of these licenses by for-profit publishers, probably because this niche opened only very recently, once open-access papers became widely available.  I and others discovered this problem by accident.  I don’t know how widespread it is, but I expect it will only grow.  (I’d like to do a survey of its prevalence, but I can’t figure out any way to distinguish between such repackaged books and traditional multi-author volumes without having to contact individual authors – any suggestions?)

So far, open access publishing has been presented as both a public and a private good.  Science benefits from barrier-free dissemination and reuse, and authors benefit from wider readership. The only cost under discussion has been the transfer of publication expenses from the reader to the authors or their institution.  Opposition has come mainly from the publishers of subscription-access journals whose profits are threatened. – See more at:

Anyone who writes Free/Open Source software knows about re-use and resale and has accepted it as a public good (for about 20 years). I write OSS and I have had companies take my software, repackage and resell it. I am perfectly happy about this. My only concern is that I am attributed. I have seen “reputable” companies in cheminformatics bundle software and claim they wrote it and I have attempted to highlight the inequity and illegality of this. But as long as they acknowledge me that’s fine and they can charge what they like.

And it means my software gets used! Which is what I want.

Note that is a non-rivalrous activity. *I* can still sell my software if I want and so can anyone else. The critical problem is monopoly, not an increased market.

Assuming Apple Academic Press do a reasonable job of acknowledging authors and the book is technically competent what’s the problem? The authors get MORE readers which is surely what they want? The problem for RJR and her authors who object seems to be “profit envy”. “Why should AAP make money out of my work?”

I ask “why not?” If it produces something valuable (at least measured by people buying the book) it adds to common value. If the price is too high people won’t buy it. And remember we’he had over 100 years of commercial organizations abstracting the scientific literature and reselling it.

One reason why AAP think they have a market is that journals are such a poor way of aggregating information. The time is overdue for secondary derived products, in this case aggregation. It’s one of the main virtues of CC-BY that we can aggregate, filter, reformat and compute the literature. CC-NC prevents this.

I suspect that products like AAP’s reaggregation will have a short shelf life and short market. The real market will be one that uses modern technologies and ideas to add massive value to the literature. And when this new generation of derivatives arrives (and I hope my Open Software will be involved) then we shall make conventional closed journals obsolete.




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