BMJ's unacceptable use of CC licences: No sun beds!!

Lest you think this blog is solely concerned with bashing Elsevier, it tries to be impartial. Most of the time I get my targets from the puffing of publishers on Twiiter flaunting their “open access offerings” and it just happens that the worst offender by far is Elsevier. But there are others with completely unacceptable activities. Here I am very grateful to Thomas Munro, who writes (/pmr/2014/03/17/elsevier-admits-it-has-been-mis-selling-open-access-and-will-be-contacting-mis-sold-customers/#comment-152848 ):

Strangely, I’ve just found that BMJ do the same thing, e.g. this “CC BY-NC” article (under “Request Permission”)
links to a Rightslink page that quotes $36.80 for an individual to make 10 photocopies. Furthermore, no-one may “reproduce in full or in part any material that promotes the use of baby milks / infant formula without reflecting current knowledge and responsible opinion and be restricted to scientific fact and not imply that or create a belief that bottle feeding is equivalent to breast feeding” or use a reproduction to promote sunbeds (!)
Shall we call it CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NonXerox-NonInfantFormula-NonSunBed?

Oh dear! Where to begin. Well here’s the screenshot:
BMJ has immediately and grotesquely broken the terms of CC. However much we may wish to outlaw sun beds  or smoking, you CANNOT use CC-BY licences to do this. CC does not discriminate against fields of endeavour.  The software community wrestled with this over thirty years ago and agreed that licences could not discriminate. If you wish to make poison gas using my chemical software I cannot use licences to stop you.  So, BMJ , you will need to find another way. (I use cursing).
And I am delighted to have readers’ contributions – keep them coming.

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4 Responses to BMJ's unacceptable use of CC licences: No sun beds!!

  1. Is there a legal entity, like the EFF, that can raise the concerns, send a legal letter, and mention going to court… it’s insane that we live in a western world where rights are practically, partially decided by legal pocket money and that citizen effectively have less rights than large companies…

    • pm286 says:

      I would have hoped that in the UK JISC or some other HEFCE body would do this and in NL it should be SURF. But it requires money and all our money is poured into publishers.

  2. Phil Johnson says:

    Thank you for highlighting this issue. The BMJ does not charge for non-commercial use and does not expect or require people to request permission for use that falls within the CC-BY-NC licence. However, those who wish to use the articles commercially are required to request permission which, in some circumstances, carries a charge. What appears to have happened here is that Peter Murray-Rust has followed the procedure for requesting commercial use and been presented with a charge. The fact that this misunderstanding has happened suggests that there is a lack of clarity in our permissions journey which we will seek to address. In the meantime I would like to reassure everyone that no charge is or will be levied by The BMJ for non-commercial use of articles published under the CC-BY-NC licence and no permission needs to be sought. The restrictions relating to baby milk and sunbeds are clearly restrictions on commercial rather than non-commercial use.
    Phil Johnson
    Publisher, The BMJ

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