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A Scientist and the Web


Elsevier are still charging THOUSANDS of pounds for CC-BY articles. IMMORAL, UNETHICAL , maybe even ILLEGAL

SEVEN MONTHS ago I showed that Elsevier “open access” CC-BY papers were incompetently labelled (see and following blog posts), and under “Rights and Permissions” charging huge amounts of money.

THEY ARE STILL DOING IT. Here’s an Open Access CC-BY article labeled as “All rights reserved” and where you ask permissions they charge 8000 GBP for 100 reprints.

That’s right


Why doesn’t someone take them to the Trading Standards Office?  They are getting money for something they have no right to. They are IMO breaking the contracts with the authors, who have paid thousands of pounds to have the CC-BY licence added.

It’s IMMORAL, UNETHICAL and my guess is ILLEGAL.

NOTE: Various commenters have suggested that Elsevier is allowed to charge for CC-BY articles. That is legally true. What they are NOT allowed to do is:

  • print “Copyright Elsevier” over the RightsLink page. CC-BY does NOT allow Elsevier to claim copyright over the article and my guess is that this could be upheld in court.
  • write “This service provides permission for reuse only.” in the Rightslink
     rent this contentpurchase this contentorder reprintsorder reprints (with translations by Elsevier)order reprints (with translations by customer)order e-printsreuse in a book/textbookreuse in a journal/magazinereuse in a presentation/slide kitreuse in promotional materials/pamphletreuse in CME Materialsreuse in a thesis/dissertationreuse in coursepack/classroom materialsreuse in a CD-ROM/DVDreuse in a newspaper/newslettermake photocopiesreuse in conference proceedingsreuse in a government reportreuse in training materialspost on a websitereuse in a posterreuse in a TV programme/documentary/moviereuse in a mobile applicationreuse in a manner not listed here

This is a highly misleading phrase. It is clear that the payment is for “permission” to re use the material.  It is very close to demanding a monopoly on access to the material.

I also believe that if one has paid for “CC-BY” to have “Elsevier – all rights reserved ” stamped over the product is to provide seriously substandard goods. Remember that the authors may have paid 3000 USD simply to have the CC-BY added to the article and to have the paywall removed. They are not getting what the thought they had paid for.




There is NO indication of rights in this document, other than “All rights reserved” as shown here. “Open Access” is legally meaningless.





So the only way to find the rights is to follow:



to  (





Where we see “Copyright (C) 2014 Elsevier” and “This service provides permission for reuse only”. 

All you are buying (albeit for huge amounts) is PERMISSION. Permission which is not Elsevier’s to give.

This is why it is morally, ethically and probably legally unacceptable. Elsevier have asserted copyright over a document that the have no right to. They know they are doing it – I highlighted it seven months ago in great detail. They continue to do it. I find that unacceptable and I expect everyone outside Elsevier to find the same. No doubt Elsevier representatives will tell us how hard they are working to solve the problem. That they take this very seriously. But they continue to charge for PERMISSION — something that they have no right to charge for.

So, I assume they are making money by means where they have no legal basis to do so. I shall not impute motive, but since they know they are doing it they are culpable in my eyes.

If they were an airline their planes would have been grounded. They’ve had seven months to take action. A simple solution would be to supplement “Open Access” with “CC-BY” and disable the link to Rightslink. It would take minutes to alter the code. This would ensure that readers knew immediately what the status of the document is. Yes, they might lose some of their “CC-NC” revenue, but at the moment it’s the readers who are losing money.


and the PDF which shows that it’s labelled CC-BY.


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