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CC-BY: What Open Access Can Learn From Open Source

ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - If you are worried about commercial exploitation, you're doing it wrong.

Here on the Open Enterprise blog I've often written about ways in which the underlying ideas of open source have been applied to other domains. One of the first areas to do so was in what is now called open access - the movement to make academic papers freely available, particularly those that have been funded by the taxpayer through government research grants. Open access is making great strides, but a recent article in the Library Journal suggested that there is discontent festering among certain academics:

they don’t typically object to OA itself, and in my experience many of them say so very explicitly in the context of voicing their concerns and frustration. What they object to is a particular parameter of OA as it is currently defined by a large and dominant segment of the OA community: the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, which is enshrined in what is now the closest thing to a canonical definition that OA has: the Berlin Declaration on Open Access. The declaration does not use the term “Creative Commons” (CC licensing was a relatively new thing when it was being formulated) but it defines acceptable reuse licensing in terms that align exactly with those of CC BY


What this means is that, according to the Berlin Declaration, what makes an article OA is not the fact that it can be accessed and read by everyone at no charge. In order to be considered OA, the article’s content (and “all supplemental materials”) must also be made publicly available for any kind of reuse, including commercial reuse, without the author’s permission.

It's that commercial re-use that seems to stick in the craw of some. People have problems with seeing their work re-used for profit. Of course, exactly the same concerns were raised in the early years of commercial use of free software released under the GNU GPL: some people were unhappy at the thought of their code being adapted and sold by companies that gave little or nothing back to the community. And yet today, we practically never hear that argument at all. So what happened?