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

Bubela, Tania tania.bubela at ualberta.ca
Wed Jan 12 17:46:22 UTC 2011

A few clarificiations....

Copyright protects works that are fixed and independently generated. That 2 paragraphs are identical is evidence of copyright infringement if it can be shown that one author had access to the other work, for example. Two works may be virtually identical but independently generated (the longer the text, the far less likely this is) in which case both are protected by copyright.

Coyright arises automatically (registration aids in litigation, but that is all), in which case as soon as your write the paper, even a draft manuscript it is protected by copyright. No formalities are required under international treaties. If there is no waiver, then all rights granted under copyright exist for the copyright holder (here need to be careful as this may be the employer in some contexts--employers generally require waiver of moral rights in employment contracts, it is also variable by jurisdiction as has already been stated, in sme jurisdictions it is not possible to wiave moral rights).

The US law you are referring to is called FRPAA which has been introduced in the US House of Representatives-- for information on this see http://www.arl.org/sparc/publications/articles/FRPAA-introduced-US-House-of-Representatives.shtml

My personal view is that while CCO or other waiver mechanisms are useful for data, especially on the issue of inter-operability of databases, but that the norm of attribution within the scientific community makes something similar to CC_By more appropriate for publications databases. Legal rules should ideally reflect or encode community norms. What is more important is public access. This may be negotiated with even non open access journals, say within 6 months, and this should be the focus of the debate, I think.

Tania Bubela,  BSc (Hons), PhD, LLB
Assistant Professor
Department of Public Health Sciences
School of Public Health
University of Alberta
3030 Research Transition Facility
Edmonton Alberta
Canada T6G 2V2
email: tbubela at ualberta.ca
Tel: +1 780 492 9335
Fax: +1 780 248 1546
From: open-science-bounces at lists.okfn.org [open-science-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Michael Nielsen [mn at michaelnielsen.org]
Sent: January-12-11 10:29 AM
To: Thomas Kluyver
Cc: open-science at lists.okfn.org
Subject: Re: [open-science] Should scientific text be put in the public domain rather than licensed with CC-BY?

On Wed, 12 Jan 2011, Thomas Kluyver wrote:

> What could we do if all scientific writing was CC0, that couldn't be done if it was
> all CC-BY?

I don't have especially strong feelings about this, but a few

(1) Attribution amongst scientists is currently enforced normatively, not
legally.  Those norms aren't perfect, but they are very, very strong: as a
scientist one of the worst accusations that can be made against you is one
of plagiarism.

The implication is that it's perfectly possible to (normatively) require
attribution, but to release things into the public domain, where
attribution is not legally required.

My understanding is that a large number of written scientific works from
the US Government are already released into the public domain.  Yet this
hasn't caused an outbreak of people copying them without attribution.  So
I think it's a mistake to think that adopting CC0 means not requiring
attribution.  It merely means not LEGALLY requiring attribution, which is
quite different.

(2) I can easily imagine a future in which a thousand-word piece of text
has (a) tens or hundreds of thousands of authors; and (b) goes through
hundreds or even thousands of public iterations, possibly involving many
quite different sets of authors.  I don't know of a case where both these
things have already happened, but point (a) has arguably already happened
in the case of Galaxy Zoo and Foldit, where tens or hundreds of thousands
of people contributed to the analysis.  And point (b) is seen in projects
such as the Matlab programming competition.  I like a term I've heard John
Wilbanks use to describe the problem with attribution that arises in this
kind of situation: it creates an attribution stacking problem. (I've heard
John mostly use it for data, and don't intend to imply that he agrees with
what I'm saying here.)  Personally, I'd be in favour of developing tools
to handle the attribution stacking problem in these kinds of situations.
But I am a bit uncomfortable with the notion of legally requiring
attribution.  What happens as the community fragments?  Maybe some authors
will disagree with later versions of "their" paper, and want to rescind
authorship?  Or they'll agree with only parts of the paper?  Perhaps
managing authorship legally in such a complex environment will turn out to
be more trouble than it's worth, and it would be better instead to focus
on coming up with flexible normative solutions.


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