Open Access Policies: Count ‘Em Up

Last week I reported with envy on the University of California’s new open access policy and the sample policy recommended (and employed!) by Harvard.  Those are two strong open access policies by two of the most influential academic institutions in the country.  But what’s the bigger picture?  How many universities have such policies?  Are Harvard and UC outliers, or is there a real trend developing?

Thanks to ROARMAP — the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies — we can answer these questions.  According to ROARMAP, there are 120 open access policies in the United States.  Some of those are funder policies (e.g., NIH), and some are specific to a certain college or university department (e.g., Stanford University School of Education), but many are college- or university-wide policies that apply to all faculty at that institution.

lion roar medium
Thanks, ROARMAP!
Photo is © 2011 Eric Kilby, used under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

The institution-wide policies range in strength from urgings (e.g., Case Western Reserve University, Cornell University, and University of Pennsylvania) to automatic license-granting policies — i.e., the style of policy made famous by Harvard and now in effect across the entire University of California system.  These Harvard-style policies are the effective ones, the ones that work at making a very large percentage of faculty’s scholarly articles open access.  Faculty can opt out of these policies for specific articles, but if they don’t, the policy is in effect. This is what I dream of for CUNY. So let’s look at who else has a policy like this (click a link for more information about the policy):

  1. Amherst College
  2. Bucknell University
  3. Duke University
  4. Emory University
  5. Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences (and a bunch of other Harvard schools, too)
  6. Lafayette College
  7. MIT
  8. Oberlin College
  9. Oregon State University
  10. Princeton University
  11. Rice University
  12. Rollins College
  13. Rutgers University
  14. The College of Wooster
  15. Trinity University
  16. University of California (all 10 UC universities)
  17. University of Hawaii-Manoa
  18. University of Kansas
  19. University of Massachusetts Medical School
  20. University of North Texas
  21. University of Rhode Island
  22. Utah State University
  23. Wellesley College

I may have missed some, and there may be some mandatory policies that aren’t listed in ROARMAP, but that’s already 23 colleges and universities with institution-wide Harvard-style policies.

If we look beyond the United States, the list gets longer: Concordia University, Trinity College Dublin, University of Lisbon, and many, many others.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 4,599 degree-granting institutions of higher education in the U.S., so clearly Harvard-style open access policies are not yet the norm.  But that list of 23 is impressive.  Any time a cluster of schools that includes Harvard, MIT, University of California, Duke, Emory, Princeton, Rice, and Rutgers embraces something, it’s probably worth paying attention to that thing.

They’re embracing open access, and doing so with strong policies to make sure faculty articles become open access.  CUNY, let’s pay attention.

What Does a License Do? Opening up to CC-BY and Ruminating over Share-Alike

Earlier this summer, Jill brought up a question about one component of this blog to the admins of this site: she was wondering about the Creative Commons license we use to share (and provide guidelines for the use of) our work that gets posted here. If you’re reading this on our site, you’ll see over on the lower right that the license in question is the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA) license. Jill was wondering if we wanted to migrate to what she sees as a less restrictive license, Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY), which she feels is becoming the industry standard for open access coalitions and advocates.

Both the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) and the Wellcome Trust prefer CC-BY as the least restrictive license for publishing openly (while still requiring attribution, which would not be necessary under the most open license such as CC-0, or the public domain).

With those recommendations to consider, we went back and forth via email, talking about what would this change would mean. How could/would we implement a license change? (i.e. we have a license for this whole site, not individual posts. If the license ia altered, how does that affect each blog post–even the ones written before we decided on CC-BY?) What does a change in license mean for the ways that our work could be used? Do we have any idea of how people have been using our content, and what the real ramifications would be upon use and users?

I remember arguing for CC-BY-SA at the time we started this blog, probably due to conversations I’d been thinking about surrounding the impact of Noncommercial Creative Commons licenses. I agree with the OASPA that Noncommercial (NC) licenses are intensely restrictive and confusing:

Why is CC-BY preferable to CC-BY-NC?

There are two key problems with a no commercial use restriction. The first is that the definition of what constitutes commercial use is necessarily fuzzy, and so any license which restricts commercial use creates a haze of doubt around various uses that may or may not be at risk of being considered commercial, and in doing so acts as a general discouragement to reuse ( 

See also: NC considered harmful; Why Full Open Access Matters.

But even ignoring the Noncommercial aspects, given the choice between CC-BY and CC-BY-SA, there hasn’t been a clear way to decide how we should license this site. Even as three OA-activist librarians who have a tremendous amount of interest in scholarly communication issues, we’ve struggled over the full implication of what it means to use a Share-Alike license.

I personally cling to the SA portions of CC licenses because of conversations about software and copyleft issues, and thinking about the GNU Public License (GPL) as the penultimate license. And yet even the staunchest free software techies have inconsistencies when it comes to licensing works beyond software.

I have been thinking a lot lately about scholarly and creative works and their relationship to licensing; and how a license speaks to the relationships that we imagine others might have with our work after we publish it, or after we decide it’s complete in some sense. (And this also assumes, regardless of the law, that we should even begin to think that we could have any control over our work after it leaves our hands…)

On this blog, as OA supporters, we want our work to be read and used and remixed and adapted and we would like to have very little say in any limitations of what other people would do with the work after we’ve shared it.

At the same time I know that once we’re talking about licenses, we’ve entered a legal landscape that isn’t really a realm that we (as non-lawyers) live within or know how to navigate; i.e. we’re not ultimately interested in following up on every use and re-use of our work and making sure that folks stick to the parameters of whatever license we choose. Thus, if we’re not willing to use the license in litigation (i.e. I doubt that we would sue anyone over a violation of our license–and perhaps particularly just the SA portion), then what does a license really do? Is it a legal aid after the fact that could be wielded in a lawsuit, or a set of guidelines that hopefully makes our preferences known before anyone shares, uses or adapts the work?

Jill had been thinking about this issue because she wanted to write a post advocating for the use of CC-BY and wondered how that might look on a blog that uses CC-BY-SA. What do you all think? How do you choose a license for your work? How does licensing affect ongoing projects such as this blog, which might change over time? And can we advocate for one license while employing another? Or should we change the whole blog to better suit what we see coming up ahead?

I’m Having Open Access Policy Envy

University_of_California_Seal.svgSummer tends to be slow at universities, but not this summer at the University of California! UC’s academic senate just passed an open access policy that covers over 8,000 faculty at the 10 UC campuses and could make as many as 40,000 publications per year open access in eScholarship, UC’s institutional repository.

Like many other “green” open access policies (that is, policies that say nothing about where faculty should publish but require that copies of journal articles be made open access in a repository), the UC policy says that faculty automatically grant a non-exclusive license to their articles before entering any contractual arrangements with journal publishers.

The “before” is key: it means that journal publishers can’t take the copyright away from the authors, since the university will already have a license.  (And step back for a second: how crazy is it that publishers have ever been able to take full copyright away from authors?!)

And, like other green open access policies, the UC policy allows faculty to request a waiver for any article they would like not to fall under the policy.  These waivers are also key: they ensure that faculty whose works (or beliefs) are not compatible with the policy for some reason or another do not have to relinquish any control or choice.

As many around CUNY know, I (and many others) very much want CUNY to adopt a similar policy.  We’ve been agitating for a university-wide institutional repository, but a repository is only so useful in the absence of a strong policy.  Harvard has created a guide to good practices for university open access policies and has released a model policy, carefully worded and helpfully annotated.

Let’s daydream for a minute, shall we? Imagine a CUNY version of the Harvard policy:

Begin daydream:

The Faculty of the City University of New York (CUNY) is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to CUNY permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. More specifically, each Faculty member grants to CUNY a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy applies to all scholarly articles authored or co-authored while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Provost or Provost’s designate will waive application of the license for a particular article or delay access for a specified period of time upon express direction by a Faculty member.

End daydream.

Ah, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?  That combined with a CUNY repository would lead to thousands upon thousands of open access articles every year.  For the benefit of our students and all students.  For the benefit of our faculty and all faculty.  For the benefit of the taxpayers who fund CUNY and all people everywhere.  (And remember, these are articles that faculty were never going to earn any money for anyway, so no faculty would lose income!)