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

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Thu Jan 13 08:25:30 UTC 2011

First of all I support this completely from the fundamental point of view. I
have some comments (concerns?) about the pragmatics

On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 11:15 PM, Marius Kempe <m.kempe at qmul.ac.uk> wrote:

>  On 12 January 2011 11:12, Marius Kempe <m.kempe at qmul.ac.uk> wrote:
>> Hence why I'm bringing up the public domain vs CC-BY - if the community
>> agrees that the public domain is as appropriate for writing as for data,
>> such a website should advise scientists to use the public domain in the
>> first instance and fall back on copyright licenses which meet the Open
>> Definition if they can't or won't use the public domain.
> Sorry, and I should clarify - if the community agrees that the public
> domain is as appropriate for writing as for data _in the case of publicly
> funded science_ (as Rufus pointed out above).
> Personally I don't think this matters but I'm not strongly bothered. I
would see that the key thing was that the work was gifted to the
world/community with no intention of monetary reward (i.e. unlike a book -
there can still be publicly funded books which are sold and copyrighted).

The argument in the 1970s  (and I remember it) from some publishers is that
they *wanted* to protect authors from misuse of their work - they wanted
copyright transfer so they could act on the authors' behalf when others
starting ripping authors off. This IMO was either completely naive or
deliberately specious. However some publishers will claim that it is because
of their continued protection of authors (for which authors and readers pay)
that there is currently no rip-off - remove copyright and all hell breaks
out. This, of course, is rubbish but I expect this to be wheeled out to
policy-makers and we have to anticipate it.

The major problem is author apathy. Most hand their rights over without
thinking. They jump through absurd hoops to publish in the chosen brand.
This is an additonal requirement that they will not understand and will not
try to understand.

So if this is to happen it has to be through a funder-academia
collaboration. Given the low level of effective action by universities it is
down to funders at present. They are making progress in Open Access. We
would need to convince them that PD/CC0 was better than CC-BY. I'm not quite
sure how that will play. What is the single message I would give to a funder
to insist on CC0? (My position is that *if* we had CC0 I would be as happy
as with CC-By but it wouldn't make a lot of difference either way). I just
expect it to be difficult to sell for not very much additional benefit.

The academic/library/publishing system is besotted with copyright. We have a
huge culture to overcome.


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