[okfn-discuss] Temporary CC license

P Kishor punk.kish at gmail.com
Fri Apr 25 14:53:44 UTC 2014

On Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 7:36 AM, John Levin <john at technolalia.org> wrote:

> Dear list,
> I came across a curious academic publishing gambit I'd like to ask the
> list about.
> In short, two articles in Society and Space Volume 32 Number 2 have been
> made open access.
> The cc-by-nc button and the text 'Open Access" mark these 2 articles on
> the journal issue page:
> http://www.envplan.com/contents.cgi?journal=D&volume=32&issue=2
> And the two articles are announced as open access until June 18th
> http://societyandspace.com/2014/04/24/discussion-forum-
> on-henri-lefebvre-dissolving-city-planetary-metamorphosis-
> paper-and-intro-open-access-and-four-online-commentaries/
> However, the PDFs of the articles have (c) Pion and Licensors at the
> bottom.

This is definitely not helpful. More below.

> In the comments on the announcement page, I asked what happens after June
> 18th. The reply was: "I think Pion will simply revert to the previous
> status on that date."
> Can this be done?

Yes. The licensor can change the license at will, but licenses already
applied can't be revoked. So is this advisable? Not in my view. See below.

> Does this revoke previously granted rights? If I republished the articles
> on a blog, would I be obliged to take them down on June 18th?

No, if you already downloaded an article marked with a CC license, you
forever have that article under the said license. That means, you can do
everything with that article that the license permits, including republish
that article under the same license, make derivative works and offer the
derivatives under whatever license you choose.

The reason the original licensor's action of changing the license is not
advisable is because it is tremendously difficult to prove who downloaded
the article while it was offered under a CC license and who took it after
the license was changed to something else, perhaps even all rights reserved.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, putting the CC badge only on the web
site and not on the downloaded PDF also ensures even more confusion. If you
download the article when the web site said the article was licensed under
CC, you have the right to do what you want with that article as long as you
comply with the license. And that means being able to republish the article
or give it to someone else. However, the article, in the form of the PDF,
doesn't say anywhere that it is under a CC license. This creates all around
confusion. Good marking is essential to good licensing.

> Or - as I suspect - does a publisher not understand open access and CC
> licenses?
> ..

My sense is they understand it, but their heart is not in the right place.
I personally would say that use a CC license because you *want* your work
to be shared. And, if you *want* your work to be shared, don't do it
half-heartedly, and don't do anything that in anyway casts a shadow of
doubt on your intent.

The purpose of a license is to convey certainty about its use rights. By
changing licenses, or offering an open license for a period of time and
then reverting to a more restrictive license thereafter is not conveying
any certainty. If I download the article, I have no guarantee that I won't
be asked to conform to more restrictive terms at a later time. I personally
would not want to deal with such works, and those who offer such works.

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