Sunday, February 17, 2013

Creative Commons and Open Access to Scholarly Works

Forthcoming paper accepted for the Canadian Communication Association conference in Victoria, BC, June 2013 - Technology and Emerging Media stream.
Title: Creative Commons and Open Access to Scholarly Works
This paper explores the question of the use of Creative Commons (CC) licenses in scholarly works, focusing on journals and books and the intersection between Creative Commons and open access to scholarly works. The CC license suite offers a powerful set of tools to facilitate scholarly sharing. At a superficial level, the CC-Attribution only license appears to embody the spirit of libre or strong open access as defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI):

By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.
In spite of the superficial similarity between the BOAI definition and CC-BY, there are important distinctions. For example, “free of charge” is basic to any definition of open access, but no CC licenses are specific to works that are free of charge. Drawing from scholarly research and recent discussions with open access and creative commons experts in a variety of venues (including original contributions by the author), for example the CC version 4.0 licensing forum and the GOAL open access list, the author analyzes the impact of CC licenses that are either beneficial or negative for scholarship.
CC licenses provide a means for creators to waive rights that are otherwise automatic under copyright. The CC licenses offer many benefits for scholarship, such as the ability to re-use works such as graphs and charts of other scholars without having to seek permission. Each element of the CC licenses adds restrictions that can either unnecessarily restrict scholarly re-use, or provide essential protection for scholars, depending on one’s perspective. For example, CC-BY allows for commercial use and the creation of derivatives by any third party without permission seeking. This expands the usefulness of scholarly works, and introduces conveniences for researchers, teachers, and publishers, but may not be compatible with ethical treatment of research subjects.
Other considerations are scholarly integrity, long-term preservation and access of scholarship, and the financial considerations of scholar-led publishing. This research adds critical and holistic perspective to an overall tendency to an unreflective, celebratory adoption of CC that is often technocratic in nature, and introduces a number of areas worthy of further research. This research forms a portion of the author’s overall research in the area of freedom for scholarship in the internet age, specifically articulating what a knowledge commons might mean for scholarship and how it could be sustainably achieved.