[open-science] Open Science Anthology published

Emanuil Tolev emanuil at cottagelabs.com
Fri Jan 24 19:36:48 UTC 2014

On Friday, 24 January 2014, Heather Morrison <Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca>

> CC-BY makes the RightsLink type of service far more likely by explicitly
> permitting commercial uses.
> As for this being a low-profit enterprise, note that scholarly publishing
> is a multi-billion dollar industry with some of the largest publishers
> bringing in 30-40% profit margins.

> Do companies pursuing profit necessarily care about the approval of
> scholars? Note that "e" in Elsevier has been translated as evil by many
> scholars and the librarians who pay the subscriptions for decades - this
> has had absolutely no impact on the bottom line.  The "cost of knowledge"
> Elsevier boycott got their attention a little (and a bit of change in the
> area of mathematics), but no impact on profits. Ultimately a corporation
> reports to its shareholders, not scholars or readers. All else being equal
> I'm sure they would prefer that we like them too, but when the two values
> are in conflict (scholar approval and maximum profit), they are legally
> required to prioritize profit. That's how publicly traded corporations work.

Indeed, which is why I don't think they're in a good position to be the
caretakers of a good Open Access dissemination mechanism. I do think they
should try to do better with regards to their own OA content, but can
understand why this is proving difficult for them.

We may simple need to avoid the publicly traded model for the time being. I
don't want to imply that this is the best model for the technical and
social solutions that Open Access needs. It could be a non-profit too. Or a
private company, if more suitable (then the values-of-the-creators idea
would really hold true). But we don't know which approach is best. I would
really rather keep options open than just kill any potential commercial
innovation in this area.
(A non-scholarly example: http://tosdr.org/about.html - they manage to do
useful work and get funding. They don't say what kind of legal body they
are and I suspect they may not have one, i.e. just loose collection of
individuals. It doesn't have to be more complex than that, although a
(private) LLC has some advantages in limiting personal liability.)

The fact that people could behave unethically or in a way which we don't
like does not mean all of them will. I don't want to stand in the way of
those who do try to have a wholesome approach for the best interests of
scholars AND the public. And my point is that it doesn't matter that some
*other* people will behave in a way with which we disagree.

The fact they're anti-competitive doesn't mean we should kill any chance of
competition in this field by endorsing -NC or any other downstream usage
restriction and end up in a "no person, no problem"-style situation where
we sit and congratulate each other on the successful prevention of some

There is also the issue that commercial organisations *are* part of the
public (indeed, much of our current society has been built on the back of
commercial innovation). Open scholarship means open to use by the public,
and that includes businesses - private, public, small, big, partnerships
and sole traders. This seems to be the heart of the Open Definition
principle of "does not discriminate against fields of endeavour".

It just isn't open otherwise - and not just theoretically. I do think that
in practice -NC scholarship intentionally limits its beneficial impact on

"Businesses" includes even non-profits (who, albeit non-commercial on paper
or with *ultimate* non-profit goals, obviously need to "conduct business"
in their daily operations). Also I realise that non-profits may be affected
differently by -NC, but I don't think they'll be immune to its chilling
effects in practice.

One last thing - you have a more than excellent grasp of copyright,
licensing and intellectual property. But not everybody does, including
myself, and I feel that way even though I've spent about 8 years trying to
understand copyright, licensing and intellectual property law (such as the
patent system). Obviously this is not full-time, but rather I've always
tried to take a proactive learning stance as far as practically reasonable
in the course of my work.

I feel there is a rather large number of scholars and individual members of
the public who are in a similar position. We need to know "I am allowed to
do the thing I want to do by the author" without having to understand the
precise definition of "commercial" or copyright law (i.e. licensing applies
to the copy, not the intellectual property presented in the copy).
I do not feel that it's worth sacrificing this clarity of indirect
communication between millions of people (scholars and all kinds of
consumers of their outputs) for the asserted ability to potentially stop
somebody from selling scholarly outputs.

CC-BY does not need to prove its benefits. It has profoundly changed the
way humans deal with the written word for the better, especially as far as
reuse is concerned - and has eliminated the need for clarification and
requesting permission from the author, saving an incalculable (literally)
amount of effort. It has also been a band-aid for the copyright and IP
systems due to simplifying the exchange of information so much that
individuals don't have to know legal details in order to get on with their
work. I cannot say the same for -NC, -SA, -ND or any other downstream


> best,
> Heather Morrison
> On 2014-01-24, at 1:04 PM, Emanuil Tolev wrote:
> > Hi Heather,
> >
> > You are completely correct in saying that something like the RightsLink
> mess is not legally preventable if everything is licensed CC-BY en-masse.
> >
> > But then there are 3 issues of practical importance that merit
> consideration:
> >
> > 1/ Can we enforce our legal rights even if we chose a different license
> for our scholarly works?
> > In short, I believe that the answer to this is "no". You're not going to
> sue RightsLink on your own, because you have things which are actually
> worthwhile to focus on, such as the actual work which underlies the outputs
> you produce.
> >
> > A group of people might be able to do it. But this requires significant
> time to be sunk into organisation and even persuading others to back you.
> Again, this is a problem of resources in practice.
> >
> > What actually prevents businesses from doing what RightsLink is doing is
> the immense reputation damage which this will cause. If they are a new
> company (start-up size) in the scholarly or more narrowly, the OA sector,
> they may be destroyed completely! Nobody with enough knowledge about Open
> Access would invest time or money in such a high-risk, low-profit
> enterprise.
> > Also, as this paragraph implies, I do think that RightsLink will either
> be fixed or go down, once the costs of running what's almost a scam outgrow
> the profit.
> >
> > 2/ What else did we just prevent?
> > We've tread on this topic enough in this tread. We don't know what
> downstream restrictions might prevent, regardless of whether they're NC, ND
> or even SA-style (or any other type). I don't really think that scholars
> can enumerate the sensible ways (commercial and otherwise) in which their
> work can be used, or that they would care to try. Research to do, papers to
> write, etc.
> >
> > 3/ Does it matter that things like RightsLink can sell Open Access
> materials for exorbitant sums of money?
> >
> > No, not at all. If we, as a community of people interested in the
> progress of scholarship, dislike what RightsLink are doing we shouldn't
> *just* point a finger and condemn them (though that's also not bad). We
> should come up with an equally good way of distributing OA articles!
> >
> > * * *
> >
> > We have to ask "why are they able to do this?", not "how can we stop
> them from doing this?". Well, why are they able to do this? They have a big
> audience. They have thousands of scholars checking pages on which
> RightsLink is promoted every DAY. Money has been poured into the software
> development, hosting and integration of that service with a variety of
> systems that really large publishers hold. As a consequence, they can do
> whatever they like!
> >
> > But distributing OA articles and making them discoverable costs money
> and time + big publishing houses may be quite unhelpful. Presumably
> RightsLink requires quite a bit of metadata to operate. I don't think
> they'll hand this over to the OA community (just yet) - yet they are doing
> exactly that with RightsLink. So if we want to build this better
> alternative to RightsLink, we may need even MORE resources than them,
> because the publishers will be unhelpful.
> >
> > Where should those resources come from? We could charge readers directly
> .. for OA content .. which would be doing the same as RightsLink.
> > Hmmm. Not very appealing.
> >
> > We could also think about taking a gradual approach:
> > 1/ Think about what such a system will involve.
> > 2/ Think about current sources of data and papers (Open University CORE
> system, institutional repositories and lists of such repositories, the
> DOAJ...).
> > 3/ Build proof of concept tools which perform small parts of the work.
> E.g. http://howopenisit.org/ is kinda like RightsLink in the sense that
> it tries to tell you what the license of an article is, except that PLoS
> funded the initial development and the hosting and now it's free to use,
> though it has severe problems with identifying article licenses. It's
> getting improved next month.
> >
> > We will also need some more parts, like a catalogue, a dissemination
> mechanism, a cheap hosting mechanism and quite a few other bits.
> >
> > But who is going to pay for this? Not the readers. So our best bet are
> organisations interested in OA. The various foundations (Mozilla has strong
> open science involvement now), publishers who would like their content
> distributed to more scholars for less money than it'd take them to do it,
> others I haven't thought of. Maybe even universities (maybe ones that don't
> have an institutional repository and don't want one right now).
> >
> > So there we go, we have a commercial project which builds, maintains and
> expands clean and well-made mechanisms for distributing Open Access
> content. It de
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