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

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Wed Dec 14 14:45:51 UTC 2011

On Wed, Dec 14, 2011 at 2:15 PM, Nick Barnes <nb at climatecode.org> wrote:

> 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:
> >>
> >>
> >> 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.

In many universities to copyright resides with the employer. In some
countries there is a concept of authors'-moral-rights which I think resides
with the person who actually wrote it (unless it was a work for hire).  So
it's complex before we start

> 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?

I think all of these amay be true in some places and false in others...

This sort of problem hasn't been tested because most authors don't care.But
I bet the legal ground is shaky in places.
*I don't have anything authoritative to add. I was hoping that others could.

> --
> Nick Barnes, Climate Code Foundation, http://climatecode.org/

Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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