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April 25, 2012

RSP Webinar – Advocacy on implementing funders' mandates

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[This post was written at the time of the webinar, 27 March 2012, but a glitch (technical term) means that it didn't go live until now.]

In light of some of the continued discussions on various boards and forums about the future of Open Access and the impact of funders mandates on things like Elsevier's policies and the recently shelved Research Works Act, it was interesting to hear Scott Lapinski from Harvard University speak about his experiences.

Some highlights of his talk included:

  • Grants aren't always where you think they are! Harvard found NIH grants all over the University not just in the Medical School.
  • Challenges included; high number of researchers, researchers not being based on campus, issues of corresponding author vs grant holder, version issues, what to do about the 'non-compliance' letters and the coordinating messages to the range of people who need to be involved.
  • Support and advice came from the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communicationwhich has a dialogue will all disciplines and monitors all scholarly communications issues.
  • Range of advocacy options were discussed, from meetings and seminars to drop-ins in the linked hospitals as well as advocacy through new web tools for submission and management.
  • Scott also recommended getting in touch with researchers you know are non-compliant, stating that you might get a better reaction from a letter saying 'something might be wrong here, but the Library can help', rather than waiting for the letter saying 'you have been non-compliant and now your grants are in danger'.

All of which may be useful preparation as RCUK funders look to revise their mandates and strat tracking compliance more closely. Although this piece in the THE makes for further interesting reading on this topic.

[Update]Since this was written Harvard's push for open access has continued with this memorandum to faculty staff on journal pricing.

March 09, 2012

Web 2.0, Creative Commons and Orphan Works

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Today was the RSP's first webinar on 'Web 2.0, Creative Commons and Orphan Works' and as it was on a subject dear to the hearts of many of us here at Warwick we arranged to watch it as a group. Presented by Charles Oppenheim (Emeritus Professor of Information Science at Loughborough University) the webinar covered an array of current topics and concerns around the introduction and ever increasing use of collaborative tools and new licences.

The central theme, as Prof Oppenheim stated, was around the way copyright is affecting the way we use technology but more importantly how our use of technology is affecting copyright.

Discussions covered:

  • Web2.0 as a novel challenges to the existing configuration of copyright law
  • A closer look at 'performance rights' as an integral part of the process of disseminating recorded lectures
  • JISC's excellent Web2Rights toolkitas a single source of guidance and advice on all areas of copyright, but primarily Web2.0 material
  • Managing complaints (quickly take down, investigate, don't forget to apologise and offer credit or reimbursement as appropriate)
  • Basics of Creative Commons Licences
  • An important caveat that people can use creative commons licences when they do not have the rights to do so
  • [One delegate alerted us all to a browser plug-in to help identify CC licenced material OpenAttribute, which I will be investigating]
  • Change is coming, both in the form of the UK's response to the Hargreaves Review and in the EU with a directive on orphan works.
  • Vicarious Liability can be argued so that the institution is liable even if the student is only using equipment provided by the University (a wifi hub for instance) but only if the institution can be proved to have had the "right, ability or duty" to control the actions of the student who violated copyright.
  • Non-commercial is very much not the same as non-profit, a loss-making activity that takes any money at all is still a commercial activity.
  • Creative Commons licences are definitely not just for artworks, but can cover anything and everything (except software with is better with a GNU licence)

A very interesting and thought provoking talk (as all Prof. Oppenheim's are) what this space for the write up of the second RSP copyright webinar on the topic of proposed changes to copyright law.

Thanks again to everyone involved in the webinar!

February 03, 2011

e–Copyright and the Implications of the Digital Economy Act

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"e-Copyright and the Implications of the Digital Economy Act", an NGLIS evening event, Iron Duke, Mayfair, London.

This event, led by Professor Charles Oppenheim, focused on two major challenges of the moment; copyright in the digital environment, particularly web 2.0 applications and the newly passed Digital Economy Act.  The format of the presentation was very much discursive so below I've tried to pull out some of the important points.  It is worth reiterating Prof. Oppenheim's disclaimer; he is not a lawyer (and nor am I!) and thus neither of us can take any responsibility for anything you may choose to do with the information reported here.

  • Copyright law has not kept up with the development of the internet and is in many cases arcane and not 'fit for purpose'.  However people are either very risk averse or far too free, a law that is either viewed with contempt and/or ignored by a whole generation is obviously not working.  There are two reviews of copyright law under way; the Hargreaves Committee set up by David Cameron following discussions with Google and a House of Commons Select Committee.  However very little can be done to amend copyright law in this country as we are subject to EU directives in this area.
  • Crucial thing that distinguishes Web2.0 is the fact that it includes an element of participation/interaction, this is where it causes issues in terms of copyright.  In copyright law any item that is authored by multiple people (and it is impossible to distinguish who has written what) and you wish to copy it you must clear the copyright will all authors.  In the case of Web2.0 just identifying the authors can be a struggle and if even one of the authors refuses permission you can not use the item.  Wikipedia gets round this by asking all contributors to sign up to T&Cs that means that they assign copyright to Wikipedia and thus copyright is cleared through a single source.  Worth considering if you are planning to create a wiki!
  • When asking for permission to copy; No means no, Yes means yes and No reply means no!  In law you cannot just say "Unless I hear otherwise I'll go ahead...", hence the problem people have had with the Google Books project.  The issue of orphan works is also important here, this was meant to be addressed in the Digital Economy Act but that section was cut.  This is an increasing problem due to the rising number of digitisation projects under way and with the desire to make archive material publicly available.
  • The area  where the internet gets people in trouble with copyright law is the protection copyright gives from the 'communication to the public', which means electronic communication to two or more people.  Copyright also does not allow for 'format shifting', an essential area in terms of digital preservation, another indication it is not fit for purpose.
  • The Digital Economy Act (DEA), which was passed in wash-up, has some very concerning provisions for Libraries and other services that offer free wi-fi access.  The idea is for there to be a 'three-strikes' rule on the infringement of copyright, on the third infringement a persons internet access is stopped.  Obviously this is more of a problem when it does not target individuals but libraries or local authorities!  The Act has been passed but not currently implemented.  The current government has made a commitment to maintain the law but when Nick Clegg asked people for the list of the laws they would most like to see repealed the DEA came top.  The Act is currently undergoing a judicial review, bought by two of the country's top ISPs, to verify if the Act is even legal in its current form.
  • 'Cloud computing' was another area discussed, in this case more in the terms of the Data Protection Act.  While is very useful and valuable development in terms of technology if you are planning to take advantage of it to hold personal data you need to be aware that this could cause you to violate data protection.  This is because under data protection you make the commitment to ensure that anyone you contract to or sub-contract to also have adequate data protection provisions/laws.  Therefore as the US is not deemed to have good enough data protection laws if you contract an American cloud service to hold anything to do with personal information you have violated data protection.  This is a problem with a number of countries and the fact that if you start trying to limit the geographical location of your data you are no longer getting the advantage of hosting it in the cloud in for first place.

All this was covered and much more, a very interesting evening and much food for thought!  Although it was nice to hear that I'm not the only person who thinks that the current copyright law we have needs throwing out and people need to start again with a blank sheet of paper rather than constantly trying to amend a broken law.  But in the light of the issues with the internet and the kind of global information flows we are currently seeing any new law has to be agreed and applied globally, focussing on the needs of everyone trying to use the information rather than just protecting commercial interests.

December 14, 2009

What does repository deposit mean?

Follow-up to Theses and early draft deposit in repositories: is that publication? from WRAP repository blog

Last week I attended a meeting with some publishers and it seems to me that there is considerable potential for confusion amongst those not involved in repository management, about what repository deposit actually means. The two main areas of confusion seem to be:

1) Not all content in all repositories is necessarily open access. Some repositories have metadata-only records along with some records which also have full text items available on open access. Some also have full text items that are locked such that only repository staff and the author can see them, or such that only members of the institution can see them. Some repositories add a "request a copy" button to their records so that those who can't see the locked full text can request it from the author. Sometimes the locked access is in order to meet a publisher's requirement or sometimes it is because the author prefers that requests are sent to him/herself so that s/he can know who is reading his/her work.

Publishers' agreements with authors and their information about what can and can't be done usually refer to whether repository deposit is allowed or not. I suspect that more of them would allow repository deposit if the article were locked to be accessible only within the institution or only to the author and repository staff.

2) Just because an item is available on open access, that does not mean that it is available for further copying by anyone! Publishers might also be more inclined to allow repository deposit and open access availability if they knew that allowing this is not granting permission for others to on-copy from the repository. Some repositories do also ask authors to grant a Creative Commons (CC) licence for the use of the article they deposit, and when this is the case then the article will also be available for further copying. Authors can do this when it is clear that they own the copyright themselves. Those repositories which do use the CC licence don't all expect every single item they hold to be deposited with such a licence, although perhaps that would be an ideal scenario. WRAP isn't one of those repositories which asks authors to sign a CC licence, for now. It would just be another hurdle to deposit and our main aim is to make the works available without subscription barrier.

Publishers' agreements with authors who have paid for their article to be made available on open access on the publishers' site do not state that repository deposit is also allowed, although it seems that (some, at least) do expect that to be the case without their stating it. Perhaps their agreements with the authors do grant copyright back to the authors and that's why they expect it, but it's not always clear to repository managers that this is the case.

We don't put open access articles into the WRAP repository unless permission is expressly granted by the publisher or clearly owned and granted by the author. Open access seems to have been conflated with waiving of copyright, but copyright still exists in open access works. BioMed Central are very clear that their open access articles can be further copied, and they state how, etc, so they're an example of how open access should be handled by publishers, in my opinion. This is another reason that I wouldn't consider deposit in WRAP to be a form of publication. WRAP has no copyright owndership over the works it holds: that still rests with the rights owners.

For WRAP, we are clear that we want full text, to be made available on open access for all journal articles and for as many PhD theses as possible. We don't have metadata-only records for journal articles but we do for theses, and we also allow theses to be deposited but locked to repository staff only. The works in WRAP are not made available with any particular licence and rights owners would still need to be consulted before further copying could be done.

It seems to me that there are so many different flavours of repository, all with ever so slightly different aims and purposes and so we're all doing slightly different things with them. No wonder there is so much potential for confusion! In any case, I was very glad to begin speaking to publishers as I did last week with some representatives from the Highwire publishers, in my role as Chair of the UK Council of Research Repositories.

October 05, 2009

Theses and early draft deposit in repositories: is that publication?

Does repository deposit of a work constitute publication and as such jeopardise the chances of publication by a more prestigious/established/profitable method and another agent?

It's not really a question that I can answer yet. I am certain that repository deposit ought not to cause any problems with regard to publication elsewhere, and I have not come across evidence to prove that it would cause a problem except in one particular instance that I investigated and which I describe below. But I'd like to gather more evidence on the topic because I can't prove that it isn't a problem either!

I do not usually like authors to deposit unpublished papers to WRAP. Part of my reason for that is that we want the highest quality content we can get: if the article has been accepted for publication, then that is some measure of quality. PhD theses are obviously of high quality and a separate case in their own right from this point of view: these are added to WRAP.

Quality issues aside, if an author were to write a paper with the intention of submitting it to a journal but wanted to make it available on OA as soon as possible through repository deposit (never happened yet although we've had some that have been accepted and are forthcoming), I would advise that author to look at the journal publisher's copyright agreement that s/he would be asked to sign. I know of at least one publisher who would consider repository deposit of the paper to constitute a prior publication, thus preventing the author from being able to sign the copyright form stating that it had not previously been published elsewhere: this was the British Psychological Society, who I investigated over a year ago.

Inability to sign the standard copyright form might mean that the work could never be published in that journal or by that publisher, but alternatively the form might be amended. I expect that the publisher's position would depend upon the precise circumstances. 

It occurs to me that the matter of an early version of a paper is probably different than that of a thesis from which a book or article might be published: after all, the content would have to be substantially re-written from a thesis, whilst different versions of papers might be very similar, so a publisher might be more concerned about repository deposit of papers but not as worried about thesis deposit.

Of course, our students can opt out of their thesis being made available in WRAP, even though they do have to submit it. So, if a student was hoping to be published and was unsure of the publisher's policy then s/he could always embargo the repository version from being made available anyway.

This is a big issue, and one that needs more thought and investigation, I believe. Because I would like to be able to advise students to allow repository availability of their theses, knowing more about how publishers would react.

March 06, 2009

Copyright policies up to date?

The SherpaRomeo tool is great and I know that there are some development plans in the offing. Here are my thoughts on what would make a real difference!

1) Publishers don't keep Sherpa up to date about changes in their policies... or even their policy in the first place. Wouldn't it be great if all publishers kept us all informed through Sherpa? Some publishers are better than others, of course!

2) Sherpa don't attempt to include detailed publisher statement texts. These vary more often than the policies themselves, so it is sensible of Sherpa to link us to publisher websites. I don't think there's much that Sherpa can do on this score.

3) Data at the level of each journal title: this is even more complex to manage and maintain than the publishers' policies, so its entirely understandable why Sherpa haven't attempted to do this. It is irritating to find out the publishers' policy on Sherpa and then have to double check which collection the journal title is a part of, to see how long the embargo period is. It is doubly irritating to find the general policy on SherpaRomeo which allows repository deposit, but when you check the publisher's website and then finally find the actual journal's copyright information page, you find that this title is an exception to the general policy!

Policy variations at individual journal title level mean that we have to do checks anyway. Again, I think that this is not so much a weakness of SherpaRomeo as of the data they are presenting to us...

4) It would be great if Sherpa could track previous publisher policies for each journal title: titles change hands between publishers and publishers change policies. Being able to check the policy at journal title level, and for a specific year/date would be a real benefit if we are trying to be as accurate as possible in what we allow into the repository.

Of course, none of this would be quite as necessary if our authors kept copies of the agreements that they signed and submitted those along with their articles. Then we could refer to the actual source, and at the same time drive home the importance of the copyright agreement to our authors. But it's hard enough to get them to submit even the paper, never mind the copyright agreement as well... :-)

July 08, 2008

Negotiating with publishers

There's a very interesting example on the lis-copyseek jiscmail list that a law academic has posted, of a letter he has sent to explain that he wishes to retain copyright in his post print and not to sign the agreement as sent by his publisher.

Publishers' copyright transfer agreements and licences to publish are bamboozling. There are plenty of examples on their websites. It is very difficult to work out whether, as an author, you are retaining the right to do all the things you might want to do with your own article. Like sharing it with colleagues, re-publishing the content elsewhere, putting your own version into your institutional repository.

So, there are some tactics that academics can try, to retain these rights:

1) Ignore any such agreements unless and until chased to respond. The publisher might publish your article without you needing to sign the agreement!

2) When chased, explain that you do not wish to sign their form, but would like your work to be published without that requirement. If the agreement is still an issue, seek clarification on anything that is not plainly stated. Write back with your own agreement rather than using their form (as with the example sent to lis-copyseek).

3) If you must use their form, read it and amend it as you see fit.

4) Or else offer to withdraw your article from their journal. Charles Oppenheim of Loughborough did this with Elsevier and his work was published anyway.

It would be great if all authors were aware of what rights they were signing away, and chose to negotiate with publishers rather than signing whatever they are sent without ever keeping even a record for themselves of what they have signed... but perhaps such advice is likely to be for the keen few only.

Copyright law is complicated to understand, publishers don't make it any clearer, and I'm quite sure that academics have other concerns that are more pressing on their time than entering into such negotiations, which will require them to be clued up about their rights in order to stand their ground. Not least of which is boosting their number of publications and citations...

May 28, 2008

cover sheets in repositories?

My latest concern is whether or not to include a cover sheet on the files we put into the repository. After asking what others do on the jisc-repositories list my thoughts are currently that we should include one for some files:

It need not appear on every file ever in the repository (burden of work/processes, difficulties with multiple files, etc), but since it is possible to do at present for journal articles at least, our cover sheet will include the following elements, for the following reasons:

1) Heading: "University of Warwick institutional repository" (A simple heading with no branding, not referring to the name of the repository in case of re-branding exercises!)

2) A link to the repository home page. At the time we add the coversheet to the file we won't have a record in the repository in order to link to the item record in the repository, but that would be preferable in the long term.

3) A statement relating to copyright & further information:

"This paper is made available online in accordance with publisher policies. Please refer to the repository record for this item and our policy information available from the repository home page for further information."

which is to warn others that they will need to be respectful of rights holders, and to make it clear that we have made appropriate checks.

4) Some basic reference information to allow others to trace the published version. This is important in raising citations of our authors for the published papers. Our authors are concerned that people should read and cite the published versions. Although the detailed information is in the repository record, people may well come across the full text item through search engine results and not see the repository record. It is true that anyone planning to cite the repository version ought to have the resources to source the published version for themselves anyway. But I think that if we can help them to make that citation then we should. I am planning to include the following elements:


Article title

Year of publication

Link (to the published version/journal home page)

These elements are chosen and will appear in a table for workflow reasons rather than out of preference. I do like the example of Birkbeck who put the full citation of the repository version and of the published version on their coversheets.

5) Referring to the published version: "To see the final version of this paper please visit the publisher’s website. Access to the published version may require a subscription."

There will be some version information relating to the pdf file itself in the metadata record, where we have been supplied with it, but I'm not convinced that we have a definitive version vocabulary to use, nor that we will get enough specific version information from our authors in enough cases to include this on the cover sheet.

That is my current thinking at least...

February 15, 2008

Harvard mandating open access

Writing about web page

The world of repositories is very much full of the news that Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences have mandated open access deposit for its academics. There is an "opt out" that they can use, though, if they can't get the publisher's permission.

So it remains to be seen whether this will actually cause any changes in the scholarly communication model, in favour of open access and IR deposit as a standard procedure. Authors might simply call upon the option to opt out, rather than negotiate with their publishers. After all, no academic would want to miss out on getting an article published in a prestigious journal, just because their institution wants a copy of the text for their open access repository!

But it does seem that so much of what can go into a repository is actually dependent on the authors themselves, so pressure from funder mandates and institutional mandates is what is needed to populate open access repositories. It is my impression that authors don't feel comfortable with sharing early versions of their work, and they would prefer that someone from the library just harvested everything they ever wrote for them, from the final versions. But in order for the library to do that, we would have to have permission from the copyright holders. Since the authors themselves usually sign copyright in their work over to publishers under the current publishing model, we can't do what the authors would prefer.

So, Harvard academics will presumably be putting pressure on publishers to use a licence to publish rather than signing copyright agreements, in order that they can deposit the final version into their IR. This might make it easier for academics from other institutions to carry out similar negotiations. The news of the mandate itself might highlight to the academic authors that they can ask for a licence to publish in preference to a copyright agreement. Taylor and Francis' website mentions that they have such a licence already, but I doubt that many authors know about it or request to use it.

It seems to me that we could do with a list of which publishers and/or journal titles will use such a licence to publish, enabling authors to share the text of their final version in an open access repository. Such a list would help authors to have the confidence to ask for a licence, after the (sometimes) months of negotiations that take place prior to their article being accepted. I can appreciate that the academic author will perhaps be willing to sign anything at the end of such a protracted process, just to get their work into publication, with all the pressure that is on them to get published, and to get published in particular prestigious titles.

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