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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Internet Open Access & Copyright Law In the EU

This is a guest post by Fiona Causer, elaborating on our interesting discussion on Open Access (see this post). Fiona Causer is currently a student pursuing her bachelor's degree in Legal Studies. She enjoys writing and seeks to use it as a vehicle to convey ideas and engage others in discussing relevant issues of our day. We both hope this contribution might be of practical help for academic authors and readers.

Open Access is a necessary augmentation to currently published scientific articles because the free availability of current research benefits all scientists, a statement noted by Jonathan Grey, of the Open Knowledge Foundation, in the EU discussion of the benefits of Open Access. “The results of publicly funded research should be circulated as widely as possible as a matter of principle,” he stated in a webcast broadcast on July 18, 2011. Having established the importance and relevance of Open Access, we now turn to the discussion of publication rights and revision privileges.

Academics and researchers across the European Union and United Kingdom are currently in discussion regarding the properties and ownership rights of Open Access publications. Open Access is the unrestricted right to access, reference and publish any Internet publications, including journal articles and scholarly research. A particular issue is the legality of revisions on any existing web or offline publications: Can a person update an Open Access article at any time? Also, to whom does the copyright belong when an article is published in Open Access? The question of Open Access highlights the importance of holding an on-going dialogue around legal and copyright issues surrounding academic writings and journals provided online. This article will address some of the concerns with the intersection of legal and copyright issues present in today's academic research climate. The importance of the legal aspect cannot be overestimated because in future instances, how an attorney or a paralegal studies and interprets these issues could dictate which academics have their work plagiarized or which get the proper protection as others read and cite their work.

At present, the crucial issue is who has the publication rights. Open Access can be published while being subject to further copyright permission or only with granted permission copyrights, it all depends on how the article is published as to who can reproduce it and under what circumstances. Many times, this depends on reuse of an article for purposes other than the original. For example, if the work is already copyright-approved and published for academic purposes, but is then going to be reused for commercial purposes at a later point in time, then the copyright holder of the original content can express approval or disapproval for its commercial use. It is most often the option by Open Access to allow all reproduction publications, and the copyright is most often held by the publisher, not the author.

Revision privileges would be also limited to the publication copyright holder and not to the recipient of the Open Access article or story. Many publishers include barriers that limit the revision of the articles, but not the publication, resourcing, or distribution for copy, teaching, or instruction. As to whether the article is published off line, on the web, in a journal, or in a reference publication, the rights to revision and updates to the article belong specifically to the copyright holder, which is in most cases, the publisher.

The original copyright holder of all articles is the author. However, in publication, the right of copyright usually transfers directly to the publisher, even in Open Access publications, and is accompanied by a transfer agreement that specifically spells out the rights and privileges of both the author and publisher. The SPARC Author Rights Initiative has an online discussion of which rights the author may want to terminate and under which circumstances the author may wish to retain all ownership of their written work. Utilizing the key points in their information will help future authors determine the best publishing criteria for their specific works, especially in an Open Access landscape where copyright ambiguity is an ever-present reality.

Personally, I enjoyed working on this post with Fiona, since she never refuted discussing any point of it. I hope she will also enjoy engaging in further discussions… try and ask!

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