Copyright drains academic productivity and the birth of cyber-science

I am now starting a train of thought that will show how cyber-science (e-science in UK) might be practised. It’s real, and the work that Joe, Nick and I have done will lead to conventional publications in reputable journals. Yet the work depends completely on the access to data in and associated with primary publication. In a few cases the publishers have been helpful but in general the publishers are doing everything they can to stop me and my colleagues accessing this data in the appropriate form for cyber-science. In effect the publishers are actively preventing work being done. I’ll first outline some basics and then sson start showing the science we have done in e-crystallography. We may very well present some of the results before they are formally submitted to a journal so those publishers who forbid this can relax, you won’t have to deal with a paper from us.
I missed the article below when it first came out. It’s a well presented case of the damage that copyright is doing to academia in requiring librarians, other staff and students to spend a lot of time worrying about copyright issues that none of them want. The reason it has been so relevant is that I have just been invited to write two articles on Open Access, in each case for closed access publications. Normally I would simply refuse on tha basis that I cannot be true to my message if I publish in closed access outlets. (I have to fudge this for chemistry as there are no open access journals in my area – yes, I shall publish in Chemistry Central when possible…). But in this case there is a special case to get my message across to a wider community – I am not interested in the academic glory of publishing in these journals – I have no idea what the impact factor is – but it is a useful way of spreading the message.
When I publish in a closed access journal the first thing I worry about is what rights I have to transfer to the publisher. The first thing. Not “what am I going to say?”, “is this article friendly towards text-mining software?” “how shall I attach repository-friendly software”. But “will I or my readers get lawyers’ letters if we get it wrong?” Please accept that this is  an enormous drainon my creativity. I shall show in the next post that it is liekly to take at least a day of my time debating with the publisher what I am allowed to say in my article and what not. Nothing to do with the content of the article, simply whether the publisher wishes to possess my creative work. If I multiply this by the number of closed access publishers I publish with and the hassle that I or my co-author Henry Rzepa has with them we are talking several days a year just worrying about copyright. Wasted time. (Note of course that when Henry and I published with BioMed Cantral we did not have to worry about any of this – only the awful publishing technology we were encouraged to use.)
So, simply, copyright in academic publication – even if we were all in favour of it and thought it the most wonderful thing in the word – is a HUGE drain on academia. Enough of me – here’s Paul Staincliffe – abstract and some snippets…
[Note, ironically, that the article carries no copyright or licence and the eprints engine also gives no licence or copyright. So in principle I have to write to Paul and ask for permission to abstract or hope that my snippets will be interpreted as fair use. In contrast our own repository at Cambridge announces something really helpful like “all items are protected by copyright”. As Paul shows librarians are worrying too hard. Surely the intent of a repository is “we would like you to read and re-use and republish anything in here without our permission unless we say otherwise”. We could fix this tomorrow if we wanted. ePrints, DSpace, Fedora – take note – just add a “default licence = CC-BY unless otherwise”]. Enough of me…

The nonsense of copyright in libraries : digital information and the right to copy
Staincliffe, Paul (2006) The nonsense of copyright in libraries : digital information and the right to copy. In Proceedings LIANZA Conference 2006, Wellington (New Zealand).
The notion of copyright is deeply entrenched in the psyche of librarians, who remain one of the few groups who consistently support or uphold it. Given the growth of digital information and consequential change in the behaviour of information creators and users the paper posits that copyright administration in libraries has become a cumbersome burden whose “time has come”. Changes in information provision by libraries towards delivering more digital information have ironically highlighted the paradox libraries face between providing the best possible service and upholding copyright. The notion that there exists in the digital environment a “right to copy” is put forward. Copyright is legally complicated, controversial, subject to a number of misunderstandings and generally not fully understood even by the librarians whose daily tasks include administering it. To better understand the current status of copyright and its impact on libraries the notion of copyright is briefly outlined, along with what exactly copyright is, its historical roots and its suitability in the current environment. In examining the legislation the paper critiques its aims and how it fails in these; compares arguments in favour and against its retention, investigates how it serves to restrict creativity rather than encourage it and in closing suggests why libraries should abandon the struggle to uphold copyright. Examples from New Zealand, Australia, the US and the UK are used to highlight inconsistencies that support the argument that copyright in the digital environment is a nonsense that no longer works.
… snippets …
The notion of copyright is deeply entrenched in the psyche of librarians, who remain one of the few groups who consistently support or uphold it.
Anybody who has ever watched student behaviour in an information commons or a customer at a photocopier will know that copyright is the last thing on their mind as they download or copy page after page after page of data. If you are a conscientious librarian you will also be faced with a dilemma; should I approach them, should I question or challenge them on their behaviour, should I be the ogre and remind them of the copyright regulations which we have gone to great trouble to display prominently, or should I just pretend I didn’t see them, or just let them get on with their work? After all it’s hard enough being a student without me policing their behaviour and they must need the data anyway….
Some brief facts regarding copyright:
1. It is complex and confusing. A whole legal industry has grown around the notion. Legal journals and texts are printed in large numbers and the discipline now encompasses intellectual property and trademark law. As with all legal disciplines, opinion on the same issue is often at either end of the spectrum.
2. The New Zealand Act itself is lengthy at almost 200 pages (New Zealand Government 1994).
3. For a uniform notion, different rights exist in different countries. There are many similarities but no one single agreement on rights exists universally (including the Berne Convention). For example, Crown works in New Zealand are copyright protected (s. 26). In the US, federal government works are not protected but state or local government works may be protected (Crews 2006).
4. It promotes a monopoly arrangement and trading position.
5. The work must be original. Copyright cannot exist on a copy that has been plagiarised.
6. A distinction must be made between the works themselves and the copyright to the work. The two are separate entities but are intertwined. It is important to understand the notion that it is the “expression” that is protected and not the “idea”.
7. Ownership of an item does not confer any rights of copyright over the item.
8. It encompasses a bundle of rights including the right to copy, make adaptations, perform or broadcast the work and have sole ownership (although true to the illogical nature of copyright, this is not as straightforward as it may appear).

PMR: anyone disagree? So we are saying we have a complex C20 byzantine juggernaut that we have to operate in the C21.
… PS: Who wants copyright?

Libraries and universities
Libraries and universities find themselves in an interesting position. Ironically they find it hard to accept the loss of copyright because they are founded on print culture. They are faced with having to open up to a challenge, having to change and having to accept the new. Our profession is not renowned for its willingness to grasp change and the new. Yet as far as the profession is concerned we really have nothing to gain from it. We do not receive royalties or a fee; we are not remunerated for administering the provisions of the legislation or the cost of notices, time, stress and worry about what we are asked to do by customers. A recent example from my own experience is of a music portfolio submitted in fulfilment of a degree which necessitated an inordinate amount of time and correspondence between the student, the faculty, departmental secretaries and library staff. Even though library staff are generally following their organisations’ regulations, they often suffer from the stress, and retain a sense of concern, that they are not held personally liable should someone decide to sue for breach of copyright.
Copyright places a huge financial burden on academic institutions in New Zealand. In 2004, total revenue for copyright licenses paid to Copyright Licensing was $4.8 million ($4 million domestic revenue), up 14% from 2003. 50% of the domestic licensing revenue was paid by universities, amounting to some $2 million. Even the Chief Executive Officer of Copyright Licensing was forced to admit that “licensing in the educational sector has almost reached saturation level” (Sheat 2005).
… and who doesn’t …
In addition to students and creators the following could be said to be in favour of abandoning copyright:
1. Those paying the vast amounts of licensing fees.
2. Universities and other academic institutions who must administer copyright.
3. Those unable to make use of a copyrighted work.
4. Those that blatantly or through ignorance ignore copyright (a conservative 99% of the population?).
5. Faculty members who happily turn their papers over to domains such as institutional repositories or pre-print archives would seem to have little concern for giving up their rights.
6. Those attempting to trace copyright holders to gain permission, or determine if copyright still applies to a work (known as orphan works).
7. Those that see copyright as unworkable in relation to digital data.

PMR: #6 and #7 are the points at issue for me. I’ll show in the next post how restrictive licences from publishers are destroying e-science and cyber-infrastructure.

PS: Conclusion
Copyright legislation is complicated and in many cases either contradictory, illogical and/or completely confusing. In the midst of a new era of information creation and distribution the legislation fails to keep pace with developments. The public and young people in particular, regard copyright as an illogical impediment to their social or work behaviour. The existence of punitive penalties and the lack of prosecutions of library customers contribute to the notion held by customers that copyright can be violated without fear of prosecution. Library staff are generally completely unaware of the breaching of legislation, or hesitate to challenge customers they suspect of breaching legislation.
The digital environment has created new formats of data and the ability to transmit that data instantaneously and with ease. The rational for copyright based on an analogue work and to ensure an economic reward for the creator’s labour to stimulate further works is no longer valid. In the digital environment, creating a work and placing it in the public domain where access and control over the work is practically unenforceable results in the failure of copyright and the right to copy.

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