[open-science] Licence, Ownership and Copyright in scholarly publishing

Nick Barnes nb at climatecode.org
Wed Dec 14 14:15:39 UTC 2011

On Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 13:39, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 10:09 AM, Nick Barnes <nb at climatecode.org> wrote:
>> On Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 06:48, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
>> > I have (what I hope is) a clearly formulated question and I'd like
>> > authoritative answers. Please don't offer guesses or logical solutions.
>> >
>> > In a scholarly publication we can, in principle, identify some
>> > interested
>> > parties:
>> > * the author/s of the publication
>> > * the owner of the intellectual property
>> > * the copyright holder
>> > * the licensor
>> >
>> > I can imagine cases where all four are different, e.g.
>> > * me
>> > * my employer
>> > * someone I have transferred the copyright to
>> > * someone who publishes a journal
>> >
>> > I am particularly interested in who licences the publication as this is
>> > the
>> > legal entity that may challenge someone's use of the material. Is it
>> > always
>> > clear? Where it is clear is it always the publisher?
>> What do you mean by "intellectual property".  It's a vague term, best
>> avoided.  It is generally taken as an umbrella term for copyrights,
>> patents, and trademarks.
> Agreed. But it's a term often used by academic employers. They may own the
> work but allow others to licence it.

"Own the work" meaning "own the copyrights"?  Or is there something
else to own?  My point is that, in any specific circumstance,
"intellectual property" means something specific, and so when
discussing specific circumstances it is better to be explicit about
the specific property in question.  For instance, the copyright on a
scientific paper.

I'm not surprised if many academic employers assert ownership of such
copyrights: most employers assert ownership of copyright on work
products, either explicitly in an employment contract, or implicitly
by custom, or under a 'work for hire' rule.  But then what happens
when a publisher requests an author for copyright assignment?  In the
simple three-party case (institution, author, publisher)?  Does the
author pass the form up to some institutional office, where it is then
exercised on behalf of the institution?  That is, are the copyrights
assigned by the institution to the publisher?  Or does the author fill
in the assignment form himself (which he is presumably not entitled to
do, and which therefore invalidates the assignment, so copyright
remains with the institution and the publisher actually gets nothing
and could probably sue the academic for fraud)?  Or maybe the
copyright remains with the institution and what the publisher gets is
a license?  Maybe academics are implicitly or explicitly empowered to
grant such licenses on behalf of their institution?
Nick Barnes, Climate Code Foundation, http://climatecode.org/

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