OASPA – it's about giving up power

Some very welcome news from Peter Suber’s blog. The committed Open Access publishers have got their act together and are systematising their practices, their terminology, their community. Read Peter’s summary – as I shall omit much of it.

19:32 01/06/2008, Peter Suber,
The incipient Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) has released a draft of its bylaws. Excerpt:

…Section 1.02. Purpose & Mission. The mission of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association is to support and represent the interests of Open Access (OA) publishers globally. This mission will be accomplished through six main areas of activity:
[…]

  • Set Standards – Promote a uniform definition of OA publishing, set of best practices for maintaining and disseminating OA scholarly communications and a set of ethical standards.
  • […]

The founding members include: BioMed Central, Copernicus, Co-Action Publishing, Hindawi, Medical Education Online, Journal of Medical Internet Research, PLoS, {Others?}….
To be considered an OA scholarly publisher and eligible for full membership, the journals published by the Publisher must:
[… comply with various statements …]
Appendix II. Statement on Open Access
Full members of the OASPA shall adhere to a common interpretation of Open Access scholarly publishing inspired by the Budapest, Bethesda and Berlin Declarations on Open Access. This interpretation includes the following components:
[….]

b. Requirement that copyright holders allow users to “copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship….” [PMR’s emphasis]

PeterS Comments

  • [… PeterS is (naturally) very supportive of almost everything the organization proposes, offering only a few quibbles and clarifications. Here’s his last comment…
  • Here’s my [PeterS] one question on an important issue. Will OASPA welcome members who differ in their access policies? Subpoint (b) in the Statement on OA effectively requires members to use CC-BY licenses or the equivalent, permitting all uses (or all “responsible” uses) that carry an attribution. While I support the CC-BY license as the best choice for an OA journal, I wonder whether OASPA will refuse to admit members who want to block commercial reuse, for example, or who want to remove price barriers without removing permission barriers.

PMR: I’d like to congratulate the OASPA because what they have done is clear, consistent, and is easy to interpret and the implementation is clear. It makes it clear that nothing less than CC-BY (or equivalent) is acceptable to the organization – as exemplified by the emphasized passage. So far (at least as far as I know) all the publishers have been clear that what they offer is CC-BY and that they are enthusiastic about it. They have the view that it’s simple: CC-BY or non-CC-BY. There’s no suggestion that they are unhappy about using CC-BY; they have developed a philosophy and business models that they believe are right and work.
PeterS suggests that there is a place for OA publishers who have a not-quite-CC-BY philosphy. We’ve been over this on this blog and elsewhere endlessly and I don’t want to resurrect too much. My own position is clear; for the sort of science I want to do there are only two types of access. CC-BY (BBB) and non-CC-BY. Free access is no use to me. Now I may be an oddity, wanting my machines to read the literature rather than me, so I don’t shout too loud. But I reiterate that for data-rich science with machine extraction the decision is between CC-BY and the rest. Lesser forms of OA are of no value.
Why would a publisher argue for less-than-CC-BY? I can see that a closed access publisher might reasonably say – no fee, no see. That’s logical. But why restrict the use of a document that an author has paid to make available? I can only think of the following reasons (remember that the author does not take these decisions – they are set by the publisher)

  • it allows the publisher to charge differential rates (i.e. increase the fee even further for full CC-BY access)
  • the publisher feels that any open access will damage their business model and want to give away as little as possible
  • the publisher wishes to retain control

I think the last is the main reason. The publishers have got used to pushing authors, readers, reviewers and librarians around. Many of them don’t care about some of these constituencies. Making material available is a sign that they are giving up power. So they limit it as much as possible.
Whereas the OASPA have given up power completely. Wisely, and we thank them. They would dilute their messge if members were less than 100% BBB-compliant.

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One Response to OASPA – it's about giving up power

  1. Klaus Graf says:

    I agree with your position. I do not appreciate Suber’s call to include “weak” OA publishers or NC or ND publishers. We need incentives for CC-BY like the SPARC Europe Seal not wrong signals weakening BBB-OA.

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