In a reply to a post of mine, Jan Velterop of Springer writes, and I comment, I hope, constructively.
PMR: we clearly have a major problem in communicating our views here. Copyright is, by default, restrictive. If I have a film copyrighted by Disney I am restricted in what I can do with it. If I have a book by J K Rowling I am restricted as to what I can do with it. If this blog simply said “Copyright P. Murray-Rust” you would be restricted as to what you could do with it. By default the world assumes that IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY OTHER INFORMATION copyright on a scientific article restricts its use. There are recent cases where publishers have taken action against scientists who they believe have broken their copyright.
Scientists and other scholars are trained to observe and honour copyright. There are limits to what we can do with photocopying, multiple copies, etc. We can be audited. We normally have to ask permission.
So I cannot see how you can assert that a document carrying a copyright is not restricted.
Please also note that most scientists do not have the time to spend working their way through complex arguments on copyright. They simply note “this is copyright – I have no other information – therefore I cannot re-use it”.
It is, in fact, precisely because copyright is so ineffective at asserting the rights of the user that publishers have resorted to using licenses (such as CC or GPDL).
PMR: “Any copyright holder can attach an open access licence”. Exactly. What could be simpler? Yet Springer have failed to do so, and by failing to do so have implied that they do not regard the document as having the same level of open access that other publishers assert by attaching licences.
By default your articles are Open Access (rather than freely viewable) by reason of the complex structure of your web pages. The only argument I can make for the document being open access runs something like this (forgive me if I have missed some part of the trail):
- Springer have asserted on their publisher site that SOME (not all) of their articles have “full open access”. It goes on to list the conditions which, though not a licence, might be reasonably read as such. So far, so good. (I disagree with the NC phrase – below – but that is a separate argument at present). So with that caveat I would accept (reinforced by your statement on this blog) that Springer intends certain articles are “full open access”.
- Any particle article – divorced from the web site environment – carries NO INDICATION of the fact that it is “full open access”. It carries the standard copyright applied to all other articles. So if I were shown two Springer articles – one closed access, one full open access – on someone’s web page or in a repository I would have NO idea what rights I had. By default I would assume none.
- A scientist visiting your site through a DOI (one of the most common ways) is presented with an abstract page which carries the following:
- A page about rights (all pertaining to the publisher)
- A option to pay for the article (which would presumably be enforceded)
- A small black icon called “Open Choice”. This icon gives no indication of its purpose and has no links. While Springer staff and regular vistors might know what “Open Choice” means, the average scientist has no clue. Given we already have “Online Open”, “Free Access”, “Author Choice” from other publishers, some of which are severaly restricted, the author cannot be blamed for regarding the article as closed or partially restricted access. There is no indication that the author has to refer publishers home page to find out what it means
PMR: I may come back to this later – it seems to be the only reason for preferring NC over BY. It only occurs in one statement – I am sure there was a good reason at the time but it hasn’t been seen as important by many other OA publishers.
PMR: The real point – and to me it seems obvious – is that copyright per se is inadequate to indiacte anything other than the denial of an unspecified set of rights. The simple way to tackle this is to add a licence. I do this for my software, PLoS/BMC and many others do it for their papers. If the licence is located IN THE ARTICLE there is no confusion. I see the paper, I know what the rules are. It takes 10 seconds.
I would have no problem with a “Springer Open Access Licence” – indeed I would encourage it. There are many organization-based licences in Open Source – Mozilla, Apache, Eclipse as well as the more widely used BSD, GPL, Artistic (which I use). SOAL would solve all the problems (assuming it read as your home page). I’d prefer CC-BY and I suspect the authors would as well. So the simple question is:
“Why doesn’t Springer simply adopt a CC license and add it to the text of its OA publications?” I cannot think of any reason.