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August 23, 2012 / playforth

Open and shut?

I recently persuaded my acquisitions colleagues to purchase Peter Suber’s new book on open access (helpfully called Open Access) for the library collection. It’s both an ideal introduction to the topic for the newcomer and a useful distillation of all his previous writings for the more seasoned open access fanatic.

While cataloguing our copy I was somewhat intrigued by the title page verso, which at best proves that we are still in a confusing and transitional phase when it comes to OA publishing (particularly monographs), and at worst is nonsensical.

The elements relating to copyright and access on this page are:

1. a copyright symbol and date identifying SPARC (the open access advocacy organisation that employs Suber) as the copyright holder

2. a Creative Commons CC-BY logo indicating that the content can be freely used and reproduced for any purpose providing the author is acknowledged

3. a  standard statement from MIT Press asserting that any reproduction is only allowed by written permission of the publisher

A few pages later in the preface, Suber writes that ‘this book will itself be OA twelve months after it appears in print’.

What does it all mean!? The CC-BY logo is promising, but is it the author (Suber) that requires attribution or the copyright holder (SPARC)? Employers do often own the copyright to work produced by current employees, but this in itself is highly problematic when it comes to licensing and open access. The MIT Press statement would seem to directly contradict the CC-BY licence anyway, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen standard publisher rights statements which are legally invalid (they could also be referring to their ownership of the typesetting etc, which arguably IS their copyright even if the text is SPARC’s). Finally, Suber seems to be ignoring the CC-BY licence in his later comment that the book will be OA but not until 12 months after publication (an embargo period of the kind applied by most publishers to author self-archiving rights).

If the OA status of a book by the world’s leading open access advocate can be so confusing, then clearly we still have a long way to go! On the other hand, I’m not a copyright expert by any means, and perhaps it will all become clear once I’ve finished reading the book…



Leave a Comment
  1. Peter Suber / Sep 20 2012 8:36 pm

    Hi Rachel. You’re right that the licensing info is inconsistent and confusing. This is an error which the press corrected as soon as it could –unfortunately not in time for the first print edition.

    I’ve created a “book home page” of corrections, updates, and supplements.

    See the correction, plus some explanation, in the entry on the copyright page.


    • playforth / Sep 24 2012 12:07 pm

      Thanks for responding Peter, that is really useful!

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