Last month I was invited to participate in a panel on Open Access at the annual American Historical Association meeting in Denver. One of my colleagues led their presentation with the astute comment that the way most historians react to OA is with apathy. After all, the economics of traditional monograph publishing work pretty well in history and the book is still the coin of the realm in this field. If OA is a solution to an economic crisis, then history should be the last place we need it, right?
This quote is from a 1996 letter written by then-Register of Copyright Marybeth Peters to Senator Orrin Hatch of the Senate Judiciary Committee about why the Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress:
Put simply, copyright differs from industrial property in fundamental respects. Most other countries, like the United States, have recognized this difference, handling copyright issues in their ministries of culture or education, and patent and trademark issues in their ministries of commerce or trade. While copyright, like industrial property, has important commercial value, it also has a unique influence on culture, education, and the dissemination of knowledge. It is this influence that logically connects copyright to the Library of Congress in contributing to the development of our nation’s culture.
This post is co-written by Michael Elliott (Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University), Christopher Long (Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Michigan State University), Mark Saunders (Director, University of Virginia Press), and Charles Watkinson (Director, University of Michigan Press).
As part of an initiative to explore the potential benefits of open access modes for disseminating academic monographs, we have found ourselves returning to basic questions about how we want to measure and understand what it is we do when we send a monograph out into the world. Every book is created from our basic scholarly impulse to enrich some aspect of the complex world we share. Yet when we seek to tell the story of its impact, we too often rely on narrow, dull, and/or inadequate measures — citation counts; print runs; downloads.
Nature announced on December 8 that Elsevier has launched a new journal quality index, called CiteScore, which will be based on Elsevier’s Scopus citation database and will compete with the longstanding and influential Journal Impact Factor (IF).
Conflict of Interest
One can hardly fault Elsevier for producing this metric, which is well positioned to compete with the Impact Factor. But for researchers and librarians, there are serious concerns about CiteScore. Having a for-profit entity that is also a journal publisher in charge of a journal publication metric creates a conflict of interest, and is inherently problematic. The eigenfactor team Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West have done some early analysis of how Elsevier journals tend to rank via CiteScore versus the Impact Factor, and conclude that “Elsevier journals are getting just over a 25% boost relative to what we would expect given their Impact Factor scores.” Looking at journals other than Nature journals – which take quite a hit under the CiteScore because of what Phil Davis refers to as Citescore’s “overt biases against journals that publish a lot of front-matter” — Elsevier journals still get a boost (15%) in comparison with Impact Factor.
This is a guest post written by Devin Soper, Paolo Mangiafico, and Kevin Smith. The letter was originally submitted to Science, which declined to publish it.
In a recent letter to the editor of Science, Ilya Kapovich states that “unsustainable ethical and legal burdens are placed on faculty in schools with Harvard-style open-access policies.” While it is true that the terms of open access (OA) policies are sometimes inconsistent with those of standard publishing contracts, this legal complexity is the result of the unnecessarily restrictive and complicated language used in such contracts, which typically require authors to assign their copyright to a publisher, and which thereby work against the interests of authors, other researchers, and the public. In contrast, Harvard-style OA policies simplify this situation for authors, making it clear that they and their home institutions retain rights in the works they create, and thereby providing a means of redressing the systemic problems caused by restrictive copyright transfer practices. In this sense, and in addition to making thousands of articles available to those who otherwise would not have access, OA policies are designed to give faculty choices, allowing them to retain more rights in their work than they would under standard publishing contracts, giving them access to a range of tools and services to help them make their work OA — and yet also giving them the option to waive application of the policy with no questions asked.
Sci-Hub has received a lot of attention in 2016. From multiple articles in Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education to Sci-Hub focused sessions at professional meetings, lots of folks have weighed in on the pros and cons of Sci-Hub and its undeniable impact on scholarly communication. Over the past six months I’ve attended programs on Sci-Hub at the ALA annual conference, the fall ARL membership meeting, and one here at the University of Arizona during Open Access Week. In reflecting on these experiences I’m struck by how Sci-Hub illustrates the apparent disconnect between authors’ permissive attitudes toward sharing copyrighted materials and their willingness to sign publishing agreements that often make that sharing illegal.
Last week, I attended a symposium on “Publishing Art History Digitally: The Present and Future” that was sponsored in part by the NYU Institute of Fine Arts. One of the symposium organizers is a Ph.D. student with whom I’ve worked to navigate some sticky intellectual property issues related to an international collaborative digital art history project. She asked me to attend the symposium and come back the next day for an invitation-only workshop with several other symposium participants. The main focus of both the symposium and the workshop was to look at the ways art history journals are going digital and stepping into new modes of publishing and scholarship.
Anytime that academic authors sue each other over a journal article, it is worth attention in this space. A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled in such a case, and the ruling raises some interesting points to consider for those of us involved in working with scholarly publications.
Note first that this is a very fact-specific case and a decision by a district court, so it is not a control precedent for anyone other than the parties. A decision would have more weight if this ruling were appealed, but, because the motive behind the lawsuit seems to have been more wrath than reason, I think that is unlikely.
Note to readers: This is the second post in our new series “Building Open” where we interview those who are building tools and services to support scholarship in the open.
In terms of the future, I think we still have a long way to go in determining sustainable models. APCs aren’t it, especially outside of big science and North America and Europe. Our research into open access publishing cooperatives, which brings together the major stakeholders — researchers, societies, journals, libraries, funders — is showing that this can be an important alternative model.
Project MUSE announced over the summer a $938,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to integrate OA university press (UP) monographs into their platform. *
Digital aggregations of UP books are becoming a key discoverability mechanism. The possibility of using linked data tools to discover content within a much larger body of humanities and social science scholarship is one of the few very clear and bright developments for UPs. After years of our printed books being relegated to the ever-dustier library stacks, our digital content is now feeding a significant corpus of highly usable humanities research and being made available in a growing number of library collections. With this grant, MUSE wants to ensure that OA content is seamlessly discoverable within these collections, rather than isolated in some segregated position.
A few years ago, I was asked by the U.S. State Department to give a presentation on copyright for librarians in India. I spoke via web conferencing to a group of Indian librarians gathered in an auditorium at the U.S. Embassy, and the session was moderated by an IP professor from Delhi University. This moderator began the session by asking me a very challenging question; pointing out that the standard textbook that he would like to use for his class in trademark law cost more than a month’s salary for the average Indian, he asked me how the copyright balance between rights holders and the public could be calibrated in such economic conditions. I don’t think I provided a very good answer at the time, but last week the High Court in Delhi took on that question and offered an amazing response.
This is a guest post written by Jennifer Chan of UCLA
On June 1, 2016, UCLA’s Westwood campus was suddenly thrust into the media spotlight across the world when a shooter entered a campus building and fatally shot one of our engineering faculty. I was just days shy of my one-month anniversary as UCLA Library’s Scholarly Communication Librarian. What I knew, and what most of us on campus knew that June morning, was that “police activity” had been reported at the other end of campus. Far, but not far enough. Soon, the details began trickling in.
Catherine Fisk’s Working Knowledge:Employee Knowledge and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800 – 1930 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) has been around for a few years, but I only became aware of it recently, after a colleague mentioned it in conversation. So my recommendation — it is a fascinating read — is belated, but I hope these reflections based on the book are still useful.
Note to readers: This is the first post in our new series “Building Open” where we interview those who are building tools and services to support scholarship in the open. For our first installment, we talk to Philip Cohen of SocArXiv.
Ultimately, I do think we need to leave the old system behind, but it can work incrementally. For example, we need people to donate fewer free hours of labor (reviewing, editing, moderation, publishing) to for-profit, paywall publishers and more to open access institutions. But they can do that without completely boycotting all for-profit journals, if we build our institutions in an open and inclusive way.
Readers of “In the Open” are familiar with the ongoing machinations of Elsevier and other major commercial publishers as they seek to tighten their grip on elements of the scholarly communication system. As Mike Taylor points out, these developments bring to mind the underlying issue of who controls OA infrastructure, and the notion that resistance to commercial domination should be largely based on the academy establishing its own dissemination infrastructure, ideally with substantial investments from funding agencies. Recently, a new funder-supported open dissemination platform, Wellcome Open Research, has emerged as an alternative to vehicles controlled by commercial publishers, and in a separate development, the SocArXiv repository has been released as an alternative to Elsevier’s newly acquired Social Science Research Network. Wellcome Open Research in particular offers an intriguing model that raises the question of how funder and university-supported elements of OA infrastructure can coalesce into a more integrated system in the future.
In theory, the idea of a small claims board that could adjudicate copyrights claims where the monetary value is not too high seems sensible. Federal litigation is very expensive and intimidating, so a small claims mechanism could make it easier for independent artists and small businesses to defend their rights.
Nevertheless, I have never been very enthusiastic about the idea, in large part because the devil is definitely in the details of any proposed scheme. The fear is that a small claims board could become, in the words of this 2012 article about the topic from Techdirt, just “a new venue for porn companies to coerce settlements out of internet subscribers.” If such a board appeared to be nothing other than a mechanism to make it easier not just for trolls but for Big Content in general to bully individual users and avoid the high costs of litigation, it would ultimately be harmful to the copyright balance that is already so out of whack in the U.S.
I recently went out on a limb to help a group of scholars who were trying to do a good thing but going about it in a not-so-good manner.
They wanted to curate a list of articles on a topic relating to current events and social justice. Unfortunately, they were determined to post the materials to the open web using full-text PDFs from licensed, published content.
Yes, cue the collective copyright librarian shudder.
Last month university presses came together for their annual convention in Philadelphia. This was only my fifth meeting so I lack the deep perspective that many of my colleagues in the UP world have, but I perceived signs of a shift in the center of gravity around conversations of open access. It’s a somewhat wobbly, but directionally clear migration toward engaging deeply with how OA might apply toward monographs.
“Cute Little Tiny Baby Pig” by Michael Kappel CC-BY-NC
Last week, a district court judge upheld a jury’s decision that Google’s use of Java declaring code in the Android operating system was protected by fair use. If terms like “declaring code” and “application programming interface” aren’t common parlance for you, don’t worry, you’re in very good company (and may be eligible for a seat on the Federal Circuit). No matter how familiar you are with the technical details of the case, however, it offers a fascinating example of how fair use has evolved in recent years. It also suggests we take a closer look at one generally-overlooked aspect of the law: the second fair use factor.