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

Michael Nielsen mn at michaelnielsen.org
Wed Jan 12 18:25:36 UTC 2011

Hi Tania,

Thanks for the clarifications.  I'm not referring to FRPAA.  As least as 
far back as 1995, I've frequently seen journals ask authors to transfer 
copyright in their papers to the journal, UNLESS the author works for the 
US Government.  In 1997 and 1998 I worked for the US Government, and it 
was explained to me that the reason for the exemption was because those 
works were in the public domain.  (An editor at a journal later confirmed 
this explanation.)  However, I'm certainly not an expert on copyright, and 
it's possible I misunderstood.


On Wed, 12 Jan 2011, Bubela, Tania wrote:

> 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
> http://www.ualberta.ca/~tbubela
> ________________________________________
> 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
> observations:
> (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.
> Michael
> http://michaelnielsen.org
> _______________________________________________
> open-science mailing list
> open-science at lists.okfn.org
> http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-science

More information about the open-science mailing list