Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Elizabeth Gadd, Research Policy Manager (Publications), Loughborough University.

The recent law suit against ResearchGate brought by Elsevier and the American Chemical Society follows hard upon the $15 million damages awarded to Elsevier in their recent case against Sci-Hub. These are just the latest actions in a long line of scholarly copyright wars. As far back as 2001, Stephen Pinfield found that academics were illegally posting publisher’s copyright content on ArXiv — a practice since dubbed ‘Black Open Access’ (Bjork, 2017). A series of subsequent studies have reported a similar disregard for publisher copyright policies (e.g., Antelmann, 2006; Troll Covey, 2009) culminating in Jamali’s 2017 study that suggested just over half of all papers on ResearchGate were illegally posted publisher PDFs. This has led to a perception that academics just don’t care about or understand copyright and that someone needs to take responsibility for getting those academics a copyright education. There is no doubt some truth in this, but I think the situation is slightly more complex than that. In fact, I think that the keys to resolving this may rest in the hands of publishers, but in using those keys publishers may pay a high price.

Let me explain what I mean by walking through a number of theories I have come to over the years regarding academics’ understanding of copyright.

thinking and questions

Theory 1: Academics occupy a broad spectrum of copyright knowledge, beliefs and confusion

It is no longer fair to say that academics know nothing about copyright. Twenty years ago you may have seen very little variation among academics in terms of their understanding as to who owns copyright. Indeed, a study by the ALPSP in 2002 found that 79% of respondents quite confidently claimed to own the copyright in their research papers (this was unlikely as around 90% of publishers asked for copyright transfer at the time). However the open access (OA) movement has brought with it greater awareness of copyright issues as OA advocates have called for academics to retain their copyright so they can self-archive their work; and funders have demanded increasingly liberal reuse licenses (e.g., CC-BY) which have not been universally supported. However, this has also brought with it higher levels of uncertainty and a greater range of beliefs. A recent survey by Kudos showed a very mixed bag when it came to academics’ views on publisher copyright policies. There were both those who thought they were fair (39%) and unfair (27%), straightforward (48%) and complicated (34%), restrictive (42%) and not restrictive (34%), and both fit (44%) and unfit (23%) for purpose. Only 20% didn’t think it was necessary to check a publisher copyright policy before posting to a Social Networking Site (SNS), suggesting the majority had a greater understanding that copyright may not actually belong to them. There is confusion as there has always been, but not all academics are confused, and the confused ones are not confused in the same way.

Theory 2: Academics display cognitive dissonance in relation to copyright practices

There is no shortage of studies that show that academics believe that copyright is rightfully theirs and they should retain it (Swan, 1999; Swan,2002; Pila,2010; Rahmatian, 2014; Davies, 2015). However, academics do assign copyright to publishers in large numbers, some freely (41%) but more reluctantly (49%) (Gadd et al, 2003a). It has been suggested to me that this is a form of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance describes the practice of believing one thing (e.g., smoking kills) and doing another (e.g., smoking). There are many commentators who put academics’ reluctant copyright transfer activity down to a desperation to get published at any cost. There is no doubt some truth in this. However there are other examples of cognitive dissonance in relation to copyright practices (such as posting a paper on ResearchGate knowing you have assigned copyright to the publisher) which lead me to wondering whether something else is at play. I go on to expound on this in theories 3 and 4.

Theory 3: Scholarly culture is different to copyright culture

When academics are asked about how they want to protect their OA papers, and use others’ OA papers, they do not demand the full range of protection or usage rights offered by copyright law or e-journal license agreements (Gadd et al, 2003b,c; Rowley et al, 2017). However, they are principally concerned to protect what copyright wonks would call their “moral rights”, i.e., their right to author attribution (paternity right) and the right to object to derogatory treatment of their works (integrity right) (Gadd, et al, 2003b; Gadd et al, 2007; Rowley et al, 2017). Unfortunately, depending on your circumstances and where you are in the world, moral rights may or may not apply to scholarly works. Interestingly, recent demands by funders to make journal articles available under CC-BY licenses have met with objections for entirely the same reason: CC-BY promises authors’ attribution, but not the right to prevent unauthorized derivative works, some of which they might consider derogatory. What we see at work here is the tension between what I would call ‘copyright culture’ and scholarly culture. I use the term ‘copyright culture’ to refer to the range of copyright legislation, licenses, policies and practices that impact on scholarly activity. I believe the two cultures exist in a sort of Venn diagram relationship with areas of overlap and areas of distinct separateness.

venn diagram
Venn Diagram – scholarly and copyright culture.

Thus, you have: 1) practices that are legal under copyright but are contrary to scholarly culture; 2) practices that are accepted scholarly culture, but are not supported by copyright; and 3) practices in the middle where copyright supports or overlaps with scholarly culture. An example of 1) might be the taking of a CC-BY licensed work and selling it: definitely legal but definitely contrary to accepted scholarly norms. An example of 2) might be attributing 500 authors on a journal paper. Copyright law has clear guidelines as to what constitutes authorship and you’d struggle to argue that 500 individuals were joint authors (and therefore copyright owners) of 5,000 words. However, it is accepted scholarly culture to attribute large research groups on research papers. An example of 3) might be where a work is plagiarized (infringement of accepted scholarly culture) and copyright law allows the copyright owner to bring a court case based on infringement of copyright.

Theory 4: For academics, scholarly culture takes priority over copyright culture

So, going back to our cognitive dissonance theory, the way that individuals ease the tension caused by cognitive dissonance is to either change their practices (stop smoking) or change their beliefs (perhaps the ‘smoking kills’ evidence is wrong?). It would appear that academics deal with their copyright cognitive dissonance through giving priority to the beliefs and practices of scholarly culture, over and above that of copyright culture. We see this at work in the Kudos survey where 83% of academics felt that copyright policies should be respected, but at the same time 63% felt that despite such policies, academics should be allowed to post their papers on SNS. From recent evidence, it looks like that for the majority of academics, given the choice of aligning themselves with scholarly culture (sharing papers with their peers) or copyright culture (adhering to copyright policies) the former wins.

Theory 5: Academics believe there is greater overlap between copyright culture and scholarly culture than there actually is

This leads me on to my most important theory, and one which I think throws the most light on academics’ copyright practices. I would suggest that one of the key reasons that academics allow themselves to give greater priority to scholarly culture over copyright culture is that they believe that copyright supports (overlaps with) scholarly culture to a greater extent than it actually does. Thus, academics continue to assign copyright to publishers despite preferring not to because they see copyright assignment as an integral part of scholarly culture — the scholarly publication process — and it is to scholarly culture that academics are the most loyal. So, how have academics come to the conclusion that copyright culture supports scholarly culture, when open access advocates and librarians have been saying that it does not, and have been calling on them to retain copyright for so long? Well, to a large extent I think these beliefs have their roots in publisher’s efforts to convince academics that they both share the same commitment to scholarly culture and have developed a copyright framework that will support scholarly activity.

Thus, an analysis of publisher copyright transfer agreements in 2003 found that the primary justification for such agreements was to enable the publication of, and greater copyright protection for, the resulting work (Gadd et al, 2003d). In some cases copyright transfer was presented as a legal requirement. Certainly, most manuscript submission systems now make copyright transfer or exclusive license agreements an integral and unavoidable step in the publication process. However, when academics started objecting to the idea of copyright transfer, in the mid-2000’s many larger commercial publishers moved away from copyright transfer agreements and instead started introducing ‘exclusive licenses’ (Inger & Gardner,2013). These have almost exactly the same effect as copyright transfer agreements (they are an exclusive transfer of all rights under copyright) but they are more palatable to academic authors as they think they are retaining “copyright” and thereby all the rights that copyright bestows. Thus on exclusive licenses you will see phrases such as “copyright remains mine as the author…” (Sage). This blurring of the facts can leave academics with the view that they have more rights than they really do.

I believe it is for this reason we see academics posting their research papers onto SNS. Yes, academics are confused about copyright. However, their commitment to scholarly culture is the dominant force, and their belief that copyright supports this culture is shored up by publisher messages. So, on publisher web pages you will see statements such as authors retain significant rights to use and share their own published articles. Elsevier supports the need for authors to share, disseminate and maximize the impact of their research or Where possible, Emerald seeks to obtain copyright for the material it publishes, without authors giving up their moral or scholarly rights to reuse their work.” When academics are being sent such messages, it is not surprising that they believe they have the necessary rights to engage with scholarly culture in whatever way they see fit.  To accuse academics of copyright ignorance or infringement in such circumstances is tantamount to tripping someone up and then telling them off for falling over.

To accuse academics of copyright ignorance or infringement in such circumstances is tantamount to tripping someone up and then telling them off for falling over.

So why don’t publishers send stronger and clearer messages to individual academics around what constitutes copyright infringement? Well, it would seem that by doing so, they would also be sending a message to academics that their interests don’t align: that when it comes down to it, publishers are primarily supportive of copyright culture and the exclusive rights it gives them, rather than scholarly culture which is something quite different. Indeed when the American Psychological Association recently issued take-down notices to various sites — including 80 university websites — which hosted ‘illegal’ copies of their papers, such was the outcry from academics that they quickly re-focused their attention onto ‘commercial piracy sites’ instead. However, it is not the sites that post these papers, it is academics themselves. By focusing on the sites as infringing rather than individual academics it further obfuscates the fact that academics’ copyright practices are not in line with publishers’ copyright policies. As a result academics are insulated from the sting in the tail of copyright culture and they can continue in their belief that copyright culture supports their scholarly practice.

I am not defending copyright infringement. I seek only to offer an explanation for it. And to suggest publishers may actually be contributing to the problem that they believe is affecting them so badly. Until academics recognize that the current copyright culture is not in alignment with their preferred scholarly communication practices, they will not change their copyright infringing behaviors. However, there is a risk with copyright education of this nature. If academics become aware that publisher interests do not align with their own, and the term ‘illegal sharing’ is not an oxymoron, but an actual possibility, they may not only change their copyright infringing behavior, but their copyright assignment behavior. This is what librarians and OA advocates have been calling for all along as they believe it would leave academics in a much stronger position to engage with scholarly culture — the sharing of their research papers — on their own terms.

In actual fact, relying on academics to retain copyright may no longer be necessary to achieve this end with the increase in ‘Harvard-style’ licenses. These are non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual license grants from an author to their institution to enable them to make their journal articles and conference papers available on Institutional Repositories, often under a Creative Commons license. There are currently about 70 institutions in the US (Fruin & Sutton, 2016) with such a license, and the UK, led by Imperial College London, is developing a version of their own called the UK Scholarly Communication Licence (UK-SCL) (Banks, 2016).  On the face of it, this will align copyright culture with scholarly communication culture to a far greater extent and will allow academics to share their papers on SNS as well as using them in other ways. However, there is clearly confusion among some academics around this and significant concerns from publishers. Whatever the outcome of this initiative, the UK-SCL is at least forcing some of these issues to the surface and seems to be resulting in an open (if tense) dialogue regarding the overlap and differences between copyright culture and scholarly practice.


The author is grateful to Rick Anderson, Charlie Rapple, Charles Oppenheim, Jane Secker and Chris Morrison for useful discussions around earlier drafts of this piece, and to the editorial team at Learned Publishing.

This post is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.


27 Thoughts on "Guest Post — Academics and Copyright Ownership: Ignorant, Confused or Misled?"

A readable and useful summary thanks Elizabeth. Have you had any feedback from publishers on ‘So why don’t publishers send stronger and clearer messages to individual academics around what constitutes copyright infringement?’ I am interested in how we can all work together better and recognise the complexity whilst still thinking we can surely improve on how we do things now.

Hi Valerie, Thanks for your kind comments. I’ve not received any feedback from publishers on this yet – I’m watching this space! I agree that we need to work together to achieve a better future for scholarly communication and I believe that copyright ownership is one of the key issues that needs to be addressed in order to get us there.

I wonder though if it might be the case that there is scholarly copyright culture and there is publisher copyright culture that overlap … copyright itself doesn’t seem to me to be a culture but rather legal framework (or, really, multiple legal frameworks overlapping globally)?

Dear Elizabeth

I find much of what you write very acute. I buy into it as a researcher. However when you get to the end and to the UK SCL I look at your link and I cannot see the licence just some text saying how wonderful it is. I have heard various different stories from different people about whether or not a waiver has to be granted if I ask for it. Actually I personally do not have to do that as I no longer have a paid faculty post – but others do. I can see what the Harvard says. Why is UK SCL so shy? As I see you it are calling for transparency.

Hi Anthony, Thanks for your feedback! If you click on the UK-SCL link (http://ukscl.ac.uk/) it will take you to the newly launched UK-SCL website. Once there, if you click on the Policy tab you will see the full text of the policy along with plenty of guidance. I don’t have a mandate to speak for the UK-SCL but if you contact info@ukscl.ac.uk I’m sure you will get all the support you need. Hope that helps?

AUTHORSHIP and OWNERSHIP: A simpler, less ambiguous model?

Instead of explaining the disconnect in terms of clashing cultures and cognitive dissonance, would it be easier to state that there is a disconnect between the concepts of AUTHORSHIP and OWNERSHIP?

For most creative processes, authorship implies ownership. However, academic publishing often involves an exception to this general rule (esp. when ownership is transferred), hence the disconnect.

While your theory may be a good fit for explaining why academics behave the way they do, it is complex and nuanced. It may be far easier to explain the problem in terms that most people understand, avoid problematic and ambiguous concepts, and standardize language that is more apt to be adopted by publishers, libraries, and archives.

Dear Elizabeth,
Many thanks indeed. Very helpful and thoughtful, and I am sure many readers will recognise lots of truths in what you say. At the same would it be fair to say that ‘copyright’ in this context is really ‘copyright as applied to articles’, and that equally complex and equally misunderstood questions of ‘copyright in book-length works, and in their contents’ fall outside your scope? The external surveys cited would seem to suggest that. It’s perhaps not surprising that some of the more vocal questioning of the UK-SCL (as seen on this site recently) is emerging from disciplines (like history) in which books enjoy equal, if not greater scholarly prestige, and where views about the status of the research object per se are not necessarily the same as in the STEM disciplines.

Hi Richard, You make some excellent points – thank you. Yes I am referring to copyright in the ‘give-away’ literature such as journal articles and conference papers, and yes, there are equally complex issues relating to monographs which have not received the same level of attention in the literature. As you know, the UK-SCL exclusively covers articles and conference papers as these are the output types on which funder OA policies currently focus. I think the earlier SK piece on the UK-SCL contained some misunderstandings about what it was seeking to achieve and how it sought to achieve it. However, I agree that when trying to theorise about scholarly communication, we should be alert to disciplinary differences.

Hi Phil, Thanks for your thoughts! I think you are right – copyright law bestows ownership rights on authors (mainly) and the currently scholarly publishing system asks authors to part with ownership whilst retaining authorship. I don’t think this on its own explains why authors then go on to exercise rights that they have given away. My blog post attempts to offers a theory for this. I’d argue that the theory is complex because the situation is complex?

Thank you for your response. Consider your Venn diagram. Now, put AUTHORSHIP in the left circle and OWNERSHIP in the right. One may create a text but not own it (left circle). One may own a text but not create it (right circle), and one may create AND own a text (intersection).

Venn diagrams work when there is clear and separate concepts with hard boundaries. Cultures don’t operate that way, unfortunately. They are fuzzy, multidimensional constructs. So, either you move away from using Venn OR you use a clearer, succinct model. Unlike the intersection of the Venn, you can’t have it both ways. 🙂

Hi Phil, I guess I’d go back to my earlier response. Whatever we put in the Venn diagram – or indeed whether we use a Venn diagram at all – the bigger question for me is why academics are exercising rights they don’t have, and whether publishers are playing a part in obfuscating the reality around either authorship/ownership or scholarly culture/copyright culture?

Hi Elizabeth

Your use of the terms copyright culture and scholarly culture certainly resonated with me. I agree that the higher level concepts of authorship and ownership are fundamental to this discussion, but I think the focus on the ‘fuzzier’ notions of culture is helpful. On the face of it both copyright and scholarship are processes and/or frameworks, but in reality they are experienced by people with different motivations who respond both individually and collectively to the incentives and penalties inherent in those systems. The way that people negotiate those systems, either in harmony or in conflict, constitute a particular culture. From my own experience there is a clear difference between the two which is evident every time I have a conversation with an academic about copyright (which is pretty much every day I’m at work).

Dear Elizabeth

I did find the Licence though it still looks more like an explanation of what will be in the licence and not the licence itself. If I look at the waiver “clause” it does suggest that the author can apply for a waiver but it does not guarantee that they will get this. The Harvard contract is explicit. If you want a waiver you will get it. The note about what publishers are being offered is not sufficient especially as it is for two years, it is a library (university) arrangement with publishers and not with authors and involves no guarantee for the future. Why is the key Harvard requirement taken up by others using the licence as a base not taken up by this licence. It does not seem very transparent to me. It looks tricky. I know you probably cannot answer this question but you do make the claim or repeat the claim that this essentially the Harvard licence


Hi Anthony,

As Elizabeth notes, the UK-SCL is based closely on the Harvard model, but is set in the UK copyright and OA policy context. The funder policy situation is complex and nuanced so we’ve brought together the relevant policy statements in one place – http://ukscl.ac.uk/funder-policy-statements/ – to help everyone understand that context.

We have offered publishers blanket waivers for the first two years (initially) of adoption of the policy by institutions. We are waiting to hear from the Publishers’ Association on this proposal. In offering this, it should be noted that for those US institutions who have adopted the policy, publisher-initiated waivers are requested less than 5% of the time.

Academics, too, may ask for a waiver. The reason institutions are reluctant at this stage to grant an automatic waiver relates to the HEFCE REF eligibility criteria – both academic and their institution might not want to render an article ineligible for the REF (or to be submitted under one of the “exceptions” allowed – institutions are very wary of over-using those).

The key aims of the UK-Scholarly Communications Licence – http://ukscl.ac.uk/policy-development/ – and model policy are:
* To facilitate the retention of re-use rights by academics not only as desired by academics but also as encouraged by funders of UK research
* To provide a one-step deposit action by which researchers can comply with multiple funder policies and remain eligible for the REF2021 and go beyond funder minimum compliance (e.g. HEFCE, see below). Particularly:
** By using a CC-BY-NC licence. This licence is compliant with the RCUK policy and above the minimum compliance for REF eligibility. It is a licence which permits text and data mining, and re-use of all or parts of the work by the academic in ways other than as part of the original publication
** The policy embargo default is zero months (earlier if publisher policies allow). This default is in line with institutions that have adopted the Harvard model since 2008
**Automatic granting of a waiver with 6/12 month embargo for those publishers requesting it:
compliant with RCUK, Horizon 2020 etc
***Above REF OA minimum eligibility
***Allows for accidental 12 month waiver granting of an output which might subsequently be allocated to a Science Panel (= 6 month) embargo, and consequently ensures all outputs deposited under the terms of the model policy are eligible for inclusion in REF2021.

The UK-SCL enables outputs to comply with the OA deposit requirements of the funders listed on this page: http://ukscl.ac.uk/funders/

Thanks Chris.
I thought you might answer
I can understand the reason but I am only too pleased not to be in the situation that you describe.
My simple view is that researchers should be able to publish where they want to publish.
A few years ago this would not have seemed an odd view.

Hi Elizabeth,

thank you for this insightful article, I really enjoyed reading your analysis!

I guess that there’s nothing to discuss from a legal perspective – every researcher should know what she/he is signing. But considering different cultures like you do is really interesting and hopefully allows us to have a meaningful debate where both the researcher and the publisher perspectives are properly reflected.

From my research experience I can confirm that sharing your own works became kind of a best practice that is endorsed by libraries, funding organizations, and senior academics – a scholarly culture just as you describe it. And there’s an enormous amount of confusion about what can actually be shared and where. Can I share the manuscript? The version of record? On arxiv? In the institution’s repository? On my blog? On ResearchGate? But if everyone – including the publishers as you point out – is suggesting that sharing is fine then it’s understandable that a lot of researchers just share whatever version they have at hand. The version of record is the latest and most prestigious one so they use this one. I also think that working in a research group at a university gives researchers a lot of confidence and perceived security; you hear statements à la “I don’t know if I’m allowed to share this but everyone does it and they can’t sue the entire university, right?”.

Since the article was focused on US and UK, I also wanted to add a perspective from Germany. German copyright law (Urheberrecht) is a bit special because it does not allow the transfer of copyright – your work will always be yours and you can only grant licences. Technically, it doesn’t make a huge difference but it may be perceived differently. I can imagine that it makes some researchers think that they can decide more freely than they are actually allowed after signing an agreement with a publisher. So this may further support your theory 5. It would be interesting to see if the discrepancy between scholarly culture and copyright culture is larger in Germany than elsewhere – do you know about studies or data that could be useful for analysing this?


Hi Andre,
Thanks for your feedback. I think you raise a very interesting question. There have been a lot of studies looking at interdisciplinary differences in self-archiving practice (e.g., the PEER project, Jamali’s analysis of papers on Researchgate) however none immediately come to mind that have looked at national differences. (Although Kudos may have collected country data as part of their study?) The Science-Metrix studies (Archambault et al) looked at different OA policies and practices by country, and the ALPSP (Inger & Gardner, 2013) and STM (Mabe & Ware) reports look broadly at differing scholarly publishing approaches by region. However, I don’t think any of these would answer your specific question about author practices. What you might be more familiar with than me is local studies of self-archiving and sharing activity amongst German academics, some of which may have taken place by institutions and remain unpublished? However, these wouldn’t provide the comparative data you’re looking for. Of course now Germans have a legal right to secondary publication for publicly funded research, this adds another good reason to study Germany’s approach to self-archiving and sharing. An interesting project for someone?

Hello Elizabeth,

I agree with André’s perspective that culture varies from country to country too, and I really like your venn diagram which helps us to think about culture. It explains exactly the problems I’ve always had with describing overlap and differences between copyright and plagiarism concepts.

I’m not sure that Phil’s Authorship and Ownership is complex enough, although it is certainly a quick way to explain the tip of the issue. There is more to the problem, however. As I see it, copyright is about more than ownership: it is the right to make an income from published works. Publishers have traditionally been a quality filter precisely because they have had to ascertain whether money can be made from content, before publishing it, and that has also been an important part of where scholarly culture has overlapped with copyright culture. This is changing in the digital and OA world, and leaves many of us disorientated: publishers as well as scholars.

Defining cultural overlaps and differences could really help in explaining the issues to early career researchers, but it could also really help publishers, libraries and scholars to understand each other (and thus viable business models / communication channels) better. I think that libraries often sit across the copyright and scholarly cultures and at the moment it’s not a comfortable place to be!

Hi Jenny,
This is a really helpful point and something I’ve been thinking about a lot myself recently as I have been reflecting on what rights publishers need to generate an income from journal publishing. I would probably question whether the fact that publishers can make money out of something was ever a good proxy for quality! Although I take your point that author-pays models have led to a rise in predatory journals which means that just ‘getting published’ means less than it used to. We have to be a lot more savvy about journals, their reputation and reach than we ever used to be.

I agree that cultural understanding is critical to moving forward in this space. I think the Scholarly Kitchen is providing a really useful service in this regard – there have been lots of useful discussions in these comments boxes!

Andre Gaul raises a very important point, overlooked far too often in schol comm discussions, where the ruling presumption (not Elizabeth’s) is invariably that US (or indeed Californian) law applies, or occasionally English, but scant or zero perception is paid to the very different IP traditions that have historically applied in (say) Germany or France. Harmonisation of different national IP traditions has of course been a major strategic goal of much EU activity in this sector, in which the UK has played a prominent part, and not the least important aspect of Brexit for the British research community as it exits the Digital Single Market (assuming that it does…) will be its potential impact on IP protocols and copyright futures. Andre’s last point could with advantage be expanded to France, and to several other European jurisdictions: indeed, given the centrality of The Netherlands to so much academic publishing practice over the past four centuries, the Dutch experience could be particularly resonant.

Thanks so much for writing this article, Elizabeth. Your framing of the issue into copyright culture versus scholarly culture is incredibly helpful. I’ll definitely be using it when I talk to faculty about their concerns; frequently they don’t understand that a contract might not be written with their rights in mind, since publication essentially serves both the publisher and the author. I also want to add that this confusion stretches beyond faculty. I’ve had conversations where licensing professionals, who work in publishing, say to me, “But we let them keep their copyright. We register it in their name” when in fact the contract states an exclusive license.

Thanks Charlotte! You make an excellent point here about the level of confusion amongst licensing professionals within publishing houses – I’ve had similar experiences myself. Of course, by verbalising the “But we let them keep their copyright” argument, it further perpetuates the myth that academics can do what they like with their work. Even when licensing professionals do understand the nuances of copyright licensing and believe they have fully communicated their terms to authors, they may not accept that those terms of might be interpreted by authors differently. I’ve blogged about my experience of this here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/09/07/post-publication-blues-how-getting-published-can-be-the-beginning-and-not-the-end-of-your-publication-woes/. There is definitely room for more conversation between authors, their representatives and publishers in this space. The utopia might be an agreed model licence.

And whilst not strictly a licensing/copyright issue, the current suit filed by academics from the University of Konstanz, claiming that proposed federal OA protocols infringe academic freedoms and are therefore against German constitutional law, shows again how unwise it can be to make universalist assumptions in these complex schol comm domains

Hi Richard,

Yes indeed. A Staff Development colleague of mine once said that if you put 5 academics in a room, they would have 10 different points of view! This is what we see contributing to my first theory about the broad spectrum of views and understanding about copyright. However, I think many scholarly behaviours are common and the evidence would support that. The University of Konstanz situation has made the news because it is the exception, not the norm.

The concept of academic freedom (or I would say ‘freedoms’ as people mean many different things by it) is an interesting one. Academics often conflate academic freedom with the right to own and manage their IP. This is ironic considering they often give this up in exchange for publication (more cognitive dissonance).

At the risk of going off at a tangent, the University of Konstanz case adds weight to another theory of mine about copyright ownership, namely, that academics are more likely to be suspicious of their own institution’s motivations around IP ownership than they are of any other party. It’s like they see their institution as the ‘wicked step-parent’, looking to steal their inheritance. The fact that an institutions’ fortunes are inextricably tied up with those of their academic staff would give the lie to this. If an academic succeeds, so does their institution. Would that academics could see their institution as more of a ‘benign grandparent’ – a party interested only in supporting (and funding) their activities and protecting them where necessary.

Comments are closed.