Re: Do PrePrints and PostPrints Need a Copyright Licence?

From: <vilanka_at_HANKEN.FI>
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 11:21:23 +0300


I'll pick certain parts from the mail I received from Bo-Christer and answer
them here.

>>"Roger Clarke proposes that a Creative Commons (CC) licence or similar for
self archived preprints and postprints; Stevan Harnad suggests that such a
licence would be a good idea for self-archived preprints only. Neither makes
clear exactly why this would be a good thing. Stevan says it is "to *protect*
it (the preprint) until the final postprint is ready". But protection isn't the
purpose of CC licenses. Protection is vested with the author of a new work in
implicit copyright, and self-archiving does not remove that protection. The
issue is that authors of self-archived papers typically want to allow users
more rights, and to state something to this effect."<<

Licensing a pre-print with a CC-license is if course possible. However, first
some practical issues comes to my mind that may cause an obstacle. First, if
you license your preprint with a CC-license, is a commercial publisher still
interested in publishing your work since it (a preprint) is already available
online? Of course, if you post the preprint online only after the postprint has
been published, the publishers attitude might be more permissive. (But are we
interested in posting preprints online after the publication and availability
of a postprint?) Second issue is related to the first and the following
paragraphs enlighten the general problem field well.

>>""Irrespective of which approach the publisher adopts, the copyright
arrangements inrespect of the final version of the article do not affect the
(possibly many) existing licences relating to the (Pr)ePrint. Nor do they affect
the ongoing availability of the (Pr)ePrint and of licences in relation to it.
They may, however, preclude the provision of later versions of the work, and in
particular of the version that is to appear in the refereed venue."

Someone with more legal expertise than me could comment on whether it is correct
to say that the copyright arrangement with a publisher *does not* affect the
existing (e.g. CC) licences relating to the (Pr)ePrint. Since it is likely to
be more restrictive then it seems to undermine the point of any prior

This is a good question in my opinion: could a publisher "affect the existing
(e.g. CC) licenses relating to preprint?" If talk of EXISTING CC-licenses, to
my understaning the answer is no. The author (who has retained his copyright
when using CC-license) can revoke and amend a CC-licnense and therefore grant a
new 'more strict' license to the publisher. However, a revokation or amendment
does not affect those copies that have already been released with a CC-license.
Therefore, those previous copies (e.g. preprints) with a CC-license may still be
distributed according to the license terms they were originally distributed.
Thus we come back to the first question: would the publisher be interested in
publishing the work since there most probably are 'free' copies of the preprint
already out there?

Fially I would like to comment that the main point that Roger Clarke makes in
his article, is relevant. There is a problem when we post writings online
without any copyright notice. The default we have in the traditional
(continental) copyright system is that any use requires a permission (license)
from the author if not otherwise granted by a specific provision in law (e.g.
fair- or private use). Thus even if the author's personal intention is to allow
free distribution (e.g. "of course my work may be printed and distributed,
that's why I posted it online"), the default in the law is different. Therefore
the license Clarke suggests is worth concidering. Online publisher does not need
to think what kind of a license agreement he needs to draft (indeed not an easy
question always to answer!) and the user may use the work with out fear
copyright liability. The remaining problem is, if the publisher is interested
in publishing the article after it (or preprint) has been published with a
CC-license online.


Olli Vilanka

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Received on Wed Oct 19 2005 - 17:10:05 BST

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