[open-science] Should scientific text be put in the public domain rather than licensed with CC-BY?

Marius Kempe m.kempe at qmul.ac.uk
Wed Jan 12 16:56:04 UTC 2011

Thanks for all the feedback. A few points:

Lance: I think the issue is to settle what the correct legal distribution
mechanism is for 'normal' or 'baseline' science; that is, studies which are
wholly publicly funded and do not involve sensitive data or data with
ethical ramifications. For these studies, I think the consensus is that all
of the restrictions except for the first, 'Attribution', depicted in your
diagram are inappropriate (at least for taxpayers of the country that funded
the research). There also seems to be consensus that for data generated from
these studies, Attribution should not be compelled legally (cf. the Panton
Principles). What I am proposing is that the texts describing the studies
themselves - ie. papers, articles - be treated the same way. Attribution can
and should still be compelled through traditional means - community
standards and norms, with censure, loss of tenure, etc, for offenders - as
Puneet pointed out, but, I suggest, not legally.

Angus and Claudia: According to Wikipedia, moral rights are not necessarily
always assigned; in various countries authors can agree not to enforce them
(some European countries) or waive them (Canada), and in some countries they
are not assigned unless the author 'asserts' them (eg. the UK) (

Angus: Yes, I am suggesting that it would be in the public interest for
researchers to give up their legal rights to attribution. The arguments are
set out in the Quora page, but they boil down to the fact that researchers
don't use those rights today (cf. the lack of copyright infringement
lawsuits by open science academics), that publicly funded science should be
a public 'good' subject to no restrictions, and that it would help with
future technical challenges in knowledge processing.

Puneer: I agree with almost everything you say, but I think it would be
optimal for the open science community to advocate one legal tool, rather
than many, both for interoperability and for simplicity in disseminating
open science practices. If the community chooses the public domain, I would
envision a website, say www.publicscience.org, that gave a rationale and
easy-to-follow instructions (eg. use CC0 on everything you do) for would-be
open scientists, similar to the Panton Principles but for all products of
scientific research (papers, code, etc) rather than just data.

Angus: I will post it on the JISC repositories list; thanks for the
suggestion. I'm interested to hear what they say.

Best wishes,

On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 4:22 PM, <koltzenburg at w4w.net> wrote:

>  *> *
> Even if they could legally give up their moral right
> hm, this holds true for legal traditions in countries that have a copyright
> law similar to the UK or the USA
> in the legal traditions of continental Europe, authors will always keep
> their moral right (unless they publish anonymously) - as far as I know, this
> is certainly also an issue to be addressed in the Panton Papers: legal
> traditons may be different and we can possible gain some interesting ideas
> for, e.g., Open Data, from each if these traditions :-)
> Claudia
> *
> On Wed, 12 Jan 2011 16:15:54 +0000, Angus Whyte wrote*
> > It may be worth posting on this to the JISC repositories list. The
> argument I've seen put forward by open access advocates there is that
> authors should retain copyright rather than comply with publisher requests
> to hand it over. Even if they could legally give up their moral right, are
> you saying it is in the public interest for researchers to give up their
> right to be attributed?
> >
> > Angus Whyte
> >
> >
> --
> Dr Angus
> Whyte
> Curation Research
> Officer
> Digital Curation
> Centre
> University of
> Edinburgh
> Crichton St, Edinburgh EH8
> 9LE
> +44-131-650-9986
> >
> > On 12/01/2011 15:38, Marius Kempe wrote:
> 1) You said it yourself - "a few dozen lines of code can pull in data from
> a large number of source, potentially making it tricky to keep track of all
> the attributions". One day not very far from today, scientific texts will be
> the raw data of natural language science knowledge engines, and then the
> situation for text will be exactly the same as that for data. Using CC0
> today will make this easier in the future, for all the same reasons that you
> support CC0 for data.
> >
> > 2) Using CC0 simplifies the science IP landscape; it would allow us to
> tell unconverted scientists to simply use the public domain for all works,
> rather than a hodgepodge of CC0 for data, CC-BY for PLoS One, CC-BY-NC for
> Nature's Scientific Reports, etc etc. Much simpler to say: publicly funded
> science belongs in the public domain.
> >
> > Best,
> > Marius
> >
> > A footnote: Google did not provide snippets of copyrighted books "without
> much trouble" - they fought a long, protracted legal battle that cost them
> more than $100 million (
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Book_Search_Settlement_Agreement).
> >
> > On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM, Thomas Kluyver <takowl at gmail.com>wrote:
> >
>> I'm having trouble seeing the advantage of CC0 over CC-BY for writing. For
>> data, a few dozen lines of code can pull in data from a large number of
>> sources, potentially making it tricky to keep track of all the attributions.
>> Writing is generally done by humans, so it's hardly onerous to point to
>> sources.
>> >
>> > The scientific search engine example you give (on Quora) would most
>> likely be exempt under 'fair use' or equivalent provisions, and in any case,
>> I would consider the links it provides to be attribution. After all, Google
>> provides 'snippets' of all-rights-reserved works without much trouble. Even
>> if we can produce software intelligent enough to read free text, and
>> synthesise interesting summaries from it, we'll undoubtedly want links to
>> the originals (would automatic summaries actually infringe copyright?).
>> >
>> > What could we do if all scientific writing was CC0, that couldn't be
>> done if it was all CC-BY?
>> >
>> > Thomas
>> >
>> > On 12 January 2011 13:51, Marius Kempe <m.kempe at qmul.ac.uk> wrote:
>> >
>>> The other point that I feel is worth making is that many of the reasons
>>> that the Panton Principles and Open Biblio give for using the public domain
>>> apply equally to scientific texts - why should open scientists advocate a
>>> confusing two-tiered system of public domain for data and bibliographic
>>> records but copyright licensing for papers and books?
> >
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