August 2007
The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure
Brian Fitzgerald, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Kylie Pappalardo, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Open Licensing
1. Open Content Licensing

From a legal perspective, one of the most significant responses to the technological advances that have revolutionized the creation and distribution of copyright materials during the last decade has been the development of new systems for licensing (or authorising) others to obtain access to and make use of the protected material. These new forms of licences – usually referred to as “open content” – are founded upon an acknowledgement of the existence of copyright in materials embodying knowledge and information, but differ from licences commonly used before the advent of the digital era in key respects. As well as being relatively short, simple and easy to read, they are standardised, conceptually interoperable with other open content licences, machine (computer) enabled and have the advantage that, since they are automated and do not require negotiation, they eliminate (or at least minimise) transaction costs. Running with the copyright material to which they are attached (thereby avoiding the privity issue where rights are conferred contractually), open content licences identify materials that are available for reuse and grant permissive rights to users, thereby facilitating access and dissemination. 5
The most widely used of the open content licences are the Creative Commons licences.6 These licences attach to the copyright material and provide that anyone can reuse the material subject to giving attribution to the author of the material and subject to any of the optional conditions as selected by the licensor. The optional conditions are:

  • non-commercial use;
  • no derivative materials based on the licensed material are to be made; or
  • share alike – others may distribute derivative materials based on the licensed material, but only under a licence identical to that covering the licensed material.

Creative Commons licences have more commonly been applied to publications than to research data. They have been particularly useful for academic authors depositing their publications in university or scholarly digital repositories or databases. Repositories help to make publications more accessible to the research and general communities. The advantage of a Creative Commons licence is that it tells people accessing the publication what they can and cannot do with the material, without the copyright owner having to deal with permissions on a case-by-case basis.

Below are two examples of scientific research publication projects that promote open access and reuse of material by utilising open content licensing models.

Example One – PLoS ONE

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit, open access, scientific publishing project that aims to create a library of peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals that are made available online without restrictions under open content licences.7 PLoS ONE is a peer-reviewed, scientific literature journal that enables scientific research to be published and disseminated within weeks, avoiding delays associated with traditional means of publication.8

The features of PLoS ONE include:

  • rapid publication – realising that the rapid publication and dissemination of research is one of the highest priorities, PLoS ONE ensures a streamlined electronic production workflow that ensures papers are published within weeks of submission;
  • freedom of use and ownership – in accordance with the CC attribution licence, PLoS ONE enables users to read, copy, distribute and share papers freely without restrictions and formal permission, provided that the original author and source are cited; and
  • high impact – PLoS ONE has been designed in light of the fact that papers published in OA journals are more likely to be read and cited given the lack of barriers to access.

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Reference this article
"The Law as Cyberinfrastructure," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 3, August 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/08/the-law-as-cyberinfrastructure/

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