Clarity of publishers’ licensing terms on open access

Cross-sector discussions to consider stakeholders’ needs

The Sherpa/FACT advisory group has membership from major research funders (HEFCE, Research Councils, Wellcome Trust), from universities through SCONUL and the UK Council of Research Repositories, from publishers through the Publishers Association, the Sherpa team and Jisc. One of the major topics of conversation in the group for the past few months has been whether journal policies related to open access can be expressed more clearly. The scope here is the set of conditions under which articles published in a particular journal can be made open access, on a repository or on a publisher’s website.

This is far from being straightforward, as authors, readers, publishers, funders and universities do not necessarily have requirements that align. Funders and authors, for example, might welcome both the flexibility offered by journals that adjust their policies in response to funders’ open access policies, and clarity about those journal policies. Flexibility and clarity are not necessarily easy to achieve together. All parties recognise, however, that a degree of both is desirable, and that we will continue working together to try to find a way practically to accommodate that.

We will do this in two ways. First, we will propose to EDItEUR, the curator of the ONIX-PL metadata standard, that a working group be established to explore whether that standard can be used to represent a reasonable proportion of journal open access policies. Second, universities, Jisc and funders will seek publishers who are willing to move faster than is often the case with formal standards processes, to see whether a workable solution can be found that demonstrates some principles on how to maximise the clarity of natural language licences on the key points that need to be covered. The ONIX-PL approach might also consider these principles in due course.

We acknowledge that there is considerable interest in this topic, and so will provide updates on this work whenever we can.

1 reply on “Clarity of publishers’ licensing terms on open access”

I’m not sure I understand what the complexity is here. I can’t think of any degrees of openness that aren’t captured by the set of Creative Commons licences. To these, add the publisher’s embargo period before Green OA deposits can be made available, and we’re done, aren’t we? e.g.
PLOS: immediate CC By
Elsevier: immediate CC By-NC-ND when APC paid, 12 month embargo otherwise

What real conditions are in place that can’t be expressed in these simple terms?

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