CC licensing and open access

Here’s an example of how lim­it­a­tions through CC licences can change what you do with a paper.

I’m look­ing at an image. At first I thought to use it in a blog post about organic bat­ter­ies. I thought I could do that because the paper is open access, but the licence of the paper is BY-NC-ND. Taking an image from the paper and blog­ging about it is pretty much mak­ing a D of it. The ND for­bids deriv­at­ives, even if the point of the deriv­at­ive is to say “Hey go look at this paper!” The page for the image itself has no CC licence inform­a­tion, so it looks like the copy­right in the footer applies.

I can see why there’s the NC clause. This has its own prob­lems, like mak­ing it unus­able for things like Wikipedia, but I can see sense in it. But ND seems an odd clause for sci­entific papers. Surely (properly-credited) deriv­at­ive works are a good thing for sci­ent­ists? I can see there’s a reason for ND in artistic pro­tec­tion, but sci­ence papers gen­er­ally aren’t works of art. Are there good reas­ons for Nature to have the ND clause?

I’ve trimmed the image thumb­nail and descrip­tion from the link because they would be deriv­at­ive from ori­ginal paper.

#blog   #pub­lish­ing   #aca­demia  

Embedded Link

Lithium stor­age mech­an­isms in pur­purin based organic lith­ium ion bat­tery elec­trodes : Scientific Reports : Nature Publishing Group

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When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

9 Responses

  1. The no-derivatives thing arises from a wish for things not to be mis-used, either by people who don’t know what they’re do-ing or in some views mali­ciously to mis­rep­res­ent the ori­ginal work. Obviously I think this is mis­guided firstly, because as you point out, the (small) risk of mis-use is less than the (very great) risk of no use. But also because the CC licenses expli­citly include pro­tec­tion against mis­rep­res­ent­a­tion and try­ing to con­nect the down­stream user with the upstream brand or credibility.

    In this case the NC is very simple. It’s to pro­tect NPG’s reprint income. For all that I dis­agree with them doing it, I’ll give them credit for being upfront about why they prefer it that way.

  2. Alun Salt says:

    Thanks, that’s help­ful. I couldn’t see why ND appear desir­able. I can see why someone like an anthro­po­lo­gist might find that attract­ive then, because papers can be mis­rep­res­en­ted. Though in all the cases where work has been mis­rep­res­en­ted that imme­di­ately come to mind, the mis­rep­res­ent­a­tion works because the ori­ginal isn’t quoted and isn’t linked to.

  3. Thats kind of my point. If you’re want­ing to avoid dam­age from that sort of thing then licens­ing can’t really offer very much pro­tec­tion, and CC BY is as good as any­thing else. Of course, the only way to safely avoid being mis­rep­res­en­ted is to never make any work avail­able to any one :-)

  4. Even copy­righted stuff can be used under “fair use”, which does include brief quotes in a review. 

    I don’t think that quot­ing sec­tions of it ver­batum with proper cita­tion con­sti­tutes mak­ing a “deriv­at­ive work.”

  5. Toma Susi says:

    Why should we care about such restric­tions in the con­text of writ­ing a blog post about an art­icle and includ­ing an image?

    Do you ser­i­ously think that NPG will go after a blog­ger for a copy­right viol­a­tion? What a PR clusterf*ck that would be.

  6. Alun Salt says:

    Wiley has gone after blog­gers. http://​pan​dasthumb​.org/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​s​/​2​0​0​7​/​0​4​/​w​i​l​e​y​-​i​n​t​e​r​s​c​i​e​.​h​tml It wasn’t a PR success.

    In this case I’ll be post­ing to AoB Blog, which is asso­ci­ated with Annals of Botany and AoB PLANTS. That would reduce the PR prob­lem, because it could be painted as one pub­lisher versus another. I don’t see NPG as a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem, but sooner or later you’ll meet a ran­dom nut­ter and I’m not keen to get a non-profit com­pany caught in unne­ces­sary costs, which in the UK can be massively expensive.

    In the case of an image, using a pho­to­graph to report news is expli­citly excluded from Fair Dealing in UK copy­right law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, section 30 sub­sec­tion 2 http://​www​.legis​la​tion​.gov​.uk/​u​k​p​g​a​/​1​9​8​8​/​4​8​/​s​e​c​t​i​o​n​/30 )

    This is the same coun­try that the Daily Mail’s online oper­a­tion is based (http://​tabloid​-watch​.blog​spot​.co​.uk/​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​l​a​b​e​l​/​p​l​a​g​i​a​r​ism). I’m not claim­ing the law is effect­ive, simply that I don’t want to be in the way if it does start working. 😉

  7. +Toma Susi yeh, its ok for a one off or a private blog but as John Wilbanks says, break­ing the law doesn’t scale. If we see this as an import­ant part of sci­entific dis­course (which I do) then we want to make sure it can be pre­served and isn’t sub­ject to ran­dom law­yer attacks down the line.

    Now civil dis­obe­di­ance is a dif­fer­ent order of things I guess as is push­ing the envel­ope on what people can get away with but we always risk los­ing those things because of a DMCA take­down or some­thing along those lines.

  8. Toma Susi says:

    Good points. I do of course agree that this doesn’t scale, and more com­pre­hens­ive changes are def­in­itely called for.

    But if many enough people exer­cise civil dis­obedi­ence AND e.g. NPG sees the influx of link-ins (surely no-one thinks they don’t fol­low these), it will surely won’t hurt in swinging their opin­ion “our” way.

    What’s the worst thing that can hap­pen, really?

  9. I agree. The worst thing from my view, is that we start some­thing up with lots of “grey” stuff, it becomes really valu­able and import­ant to the wider com­munity and then some law­yer comes along (say NPG gets sold to a copy­right troll) and either demands it comes down or demands money. No money avail­able so we’d lose the resource…that kind of thing. All up for civil dis­obedi­ence where appro­pri­ate — but for stuff we want to keep long term I think we need to be a bit careful. 

    Obviously Alun’s situ­ation is a little more del­ic­ate as well because he’s doing stuff for a pub­lisher (Full dis­clos­ure: I work for PLOS, so I work for a pub­lisher as well).

    But I do hope that research pub­lish­ers do start to get the idea that incom­ing links are valu­able and leg­ally enable that. It’s part of my argu­ment why we need clear licens­ing. It means you can do this kind of thing without wor­ries, but also you can do any­thing else cool that you might ima­gine, also without any worries.