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

Heather Morrison heatherm at eln.bc.ca
Wed Dec 14 16:49:26 UTC 2011

The concept of "intellectual property" is a recent invention, and a concept that should be challenged moreso than clarified, for example through the counter-concept of the commons. See some of the works by Lessig, Boyle, Vaidhyanathan, Ostrom, Bollier, among others.

SFU recognizes intellectual property rights as belonging to the scholar, a good model in my opinion which others should emulate. Adopting a Harvard-style mandate can help us to move in this direction, from my perspective.

To summarize, I don't think we should be pinning down intellectual property rights at this point in time, but rather opening up discussion about whether this is a useful concept at all, and if so, how it should be defined.

In Latourian terms, much as we love our black boxes that conceal so much of the world's complexity for us, it is not time to close this particular black box just yet.


Heather Morrison

On 2011-12-14, at 6:45 AM, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> 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
> CB2 1EW, UK
> +44-1223-763069
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