Journal Authors’ Rights: Perceptions and Reality

Must read this when I get a chance…


The copyright iceberg

I have found that one of the characteristics of repository development and, well, life in general for that matter (repository development is like the travails of life in microcosm – discuss) is that, though you may be aware of the full gamut of issues (or think you are) they only become actually real when they are actually present; until then, 9/10ths of their misshapen form is concealed from view.  So it has been that throughout our start-up that I have blithely referred folk to SHERPA/RoMEO whenever the tip of the copyright iceberg appeared on the horizon, busying myself with carefully steering the good ship repository through the icefloe of overall functionality and metadata pack(age) ice.  Ok, I’ll kill this metaphor now before it really gets out of hand – it’s just that I’m taking a break from writing up the final project report!

However, now that we finally have a functional infrastructure to support Open Access to research I am naturally keen to populate the repository with full text material (as well as citations I’m afraid, for any OA purists out there).  Given the university’s recent success in the RAE along with its inherent high profile and  implicit quality I have been focussing on this material and recently liaised with the University Research Office to email, en masse, those academics whose work was submitted to the RAE, drawing their attention to citation information for their work in the repository and requesting author produced copies of the full text.  I tried to make the copyright issue as clear as possible and included links to SHERPA/RoMEO while emphasising that I would undertake all necessary copyright investigations.  The response has been reasonably positive but includes:

  • Publishers PDFs – which, of course, generally speaking I’m unable to use
  • Instructions to the URO to supply me with PDFs – which are generally publishers PDFs and which, generally speaking, I’m unable to use
  • Instructions to the URO NOT to supply me with PDFs under any circumstances as Publisher x owns the copyright
  • Statements from individual academics that they are unwilling to make unedited drafts openly available
  • Statements from individual academics that they do not have appropriate versions of their papers to put in the repository and/or the observation that it will entail extra work to find them and send them to me

Add to this my own work load associated with the task of looking up individual journals/academic publishers on SHERPA/RoMEO and the fact that RoMEO, though a truly indispensible resource, is not, by any means comprehensive and I’m really beginning to get a sense of the iceberg’s sub-marine mass as I hesitantly trace its contours.

One academic who expressed his willingness to include his RAE submission in the repository happens to be published by John Wiley & Son so I duly visited SHERPA/RoMEO to discover that they are a RoMEO ‘green’ which I naively assumed meant that I would be able to archive an author produced version in the repository…until I read the conditions which explicitely state “Not allowed on institutional repository”.  As many of my fellow repository managers around the country are considerably more experienced than me and further on with developing and populating their IRs  I decided to post to JISC-REPOSITORIES in the hope of some clarification.

I’m now even more confused – which is absolutely no reflection on my colleagues on the list who responded with their usual enthusiasm and expertise – its just that the issue is inherently complex and, as the Open Access publishing  paradigm continues to evolve, we, the repository community are necessarily reliant on (interpretation) of individual Publishers’ copyright policies which vary in both their restrictiveness and their clarity.

I’m hoping that, like many things in repository development (and life) problems that seem difficult and confusing today appear clearer tomorrow, next week or next year…

Discussion in JISC-REPOSITORIES archive here

Access to Learning Objects

The Edspace projec at Southampton asking similar questions to us about who will have access to RLOs:

PowerLink to X-stream and CLA copies

One of the selling points of intraLibrary was the PowerLink to X-stream (Blackboard Vista) which, as I understand it, will enable a tutor to link directly to an object stored in the repository without the need to upload it to the X-stream module.

We hope to be able to use the repository to store and make available digitised books in line with the CLA licence. Our copyright officer has outlined her ideal requirements from the combined system as follows:

• Closed, secure storage space for digitised files (“Digital Copies”)
• Tutor is provided with a link to a Digital Copy stored within the repository
• The link can be added to an X-stream module (to connect between VLE & Intralibrary)
• Student doesn’t need to login to access Digital Copy when already logged into X-stream
• The Digital Copy remains within the repository
• Library maintains control over the Digital Copies; the Digital Copies can be removed after end of course

She points out that there may well be copyright implications associated with using the repository in this way:

The CLA licence states:

Digital Copies may not be stored, or systematically indexed, with the intention of creating an electronic library or similar educational learning resource

On the face of it this seems to preclude the use of a repository but might it be allowed if the storage is entirely secure i.e. it cannot be accessed by students (or unauthorised staff) without a PowerLink to the VLE which will only make the digital copy available in accordance with the licence – that is, as though it had simply been uploaded to the VLE?

I suppose it would be an indexed, electronic library of sorts but purely for archival purposes – for authorised library staff to have a centralised, searchable store of digital copies that can be linked to directly from X-stream without needing to email the actual resource to an individual tutor so he can upload it to X-stream. Given the flexible nature of intraLibrary (another selling point) it should be straightforward to federate access to a particular collection (digitised books) and a particular user group (librarians) in this way but is the PowerLink secure? Will staff be able to share the link (which is ok but only if we know about it and can record it)? Will tutors just be linking to the resource and not actually copying the file from the repository into X-stream?

I need to learn more about how the PowerLink actually works – and X-stream itself for that matter. Not to mention the CLA licence and copyright!

What is the actual proportion of journal publishers in the SHERPA RoMEO database?

This is a question that was raised at the recent CRI seminar and as promised I’ve done a bit of digging. Well, anyway, I emailed the fellow at SHERPA so thank you to Bill Hubbard who I paraphrase/quote here.

First of all there are 386 academic publishers accounted for in the SHERPA RoMEO database but it is very difficult to establish what proportion of the worlds’ publishers this figure actually represents. Moreover, having Elsevier in the database is obviously more significant than some obscure specialist publisher that may only publish a single title a year; such publishers, of course, come and go all the time.

It is similarly difficult to give a meaningful figure for the actual number of acedemic journals published by those 330+ publishers and estimates vary (wildly!) between 14,000-28,000 but many of those will be extremely limited circulation specific to a country etc.

It is currently estimated that there are 8-9,000 journals covered by RoMEO although this does vary. It is based on a combination of British Library holdings and publishers outputs. And of course publishers acquire new titles, take over other companies, sell off titles, new ones start, etc every week.

So what, then, is Bill’s conclusion?

“I don’t think you can get better than saying the majority – and the vast majority of titles that are of interest to UK researchers.”