[TOS] Copyright assignment considered harmful?

Luis Ibanez luis.ibanez at kitware.com
Tue Aug 23 23:37:45 UTC 2011


Academic publishing is split today into
two parallel universes:

A) The Open Access community


B) The Traditional Publishers using business models
     that pre-date the industrial revolution.

Some publishers are slowly moving from (B) to (A).

Some others still doing (B) are hoping that (A)
will go away and that they will survive with their
traditional business models.

Sadly enough, most of the scientific and technical
societies do (B).  For example IEEE, ACM  and ACS.

IEEE went even to the extreme of lobbying *against*
the NIH Public Access policy.


(That requires all NIH publicly funded research
to be published in Open Access so it is available
to the taxpayers who... paid for it).

IEEE want's to protect its stream of +$50M/y revenue
that results from Journal subscriptions and conferences.

As Clay Shirky said: Institutions lose track of their mission
and quickly turn to focus on self-preservation...

Fresh minded publishers, such as PLoS and
BiomedCentral have embraced the Open Access
model, and have promoted policies in support of
Open Access publishing for Federally Funded
research (there is an ongoing bill that will extend
the NIH public access policy to other 11 Federal

Your options today,
then come down to:

1) Find an Open Access Journal in the
     area of your interest, and publish with them.


2) Attempt to not transfer your copyright when
    publishing with a traditional Journal that
    does (B), and instead just give them the
    license that they need to publish your work.
    Typically a Creative Commons by Attribution
    License should do the trick. In this option,
    be ready for a fight...


3) Start your own Open Access Journal.

In the domain of Medical Image Analysis,
we took option (3), about six years ago:


We made it open, we made it free,
we made it reproducible.


The typical argument that you will hear is
that Traditional Journal in (B) have the "best
reputation", and highest "impact factors",
and that therefore you should bend to their
primitive intellectual property practices.

The reality in the ground is that "impact
factor" is a bogus measure, computed by
a company using a "proprietary method",
that nobody have ever managed to reproduce;
and that "Reputation" is something that we
(as a community) do for the Journals, when
we send our best papers to them, review
(for free) for them, serve as associate
editors (for free) for them, serve as editors
(for free) for them.   It is quite a nice business
model, when you think about it. They get their
content for free, the quality verification for free,
and sell content at high prices.

For example,
some Elsevier Journals has higher profit margins
than Microsoft and Google:


PLoS gained a reputation of excellence
in just about six years, beating Science
and Nature, that have been around for
more than a century.

So, reputation can be build,  as long as
a community commits to its principles.
(...you know that better than most of us..)

You probably will also be exposed to the
fallacy of "Publish or Perish", which sadly
is the mother of all the current mediocrity
in the larger field of scientific research.

It doesn't take too long to figure out that
if academics are rewarded for the number
of published papers, then they will publish
as many paper as they can, with as little
content as they can. Helas, that's what
we get today.


Stick to your guns and your Open Source
instincts. Academic publishing is broken,
and Open Access is part of the remedy.


On Sat, Aug 20, 2011 at 2:12 AM, Mel Chua <mel at redhat.com> wrote:
> (The subject line is an allusion to
> http://www.u.arizona.edu/~rubinson/copyright_violations/Go_To_Considered_Harmful.html.)
> As some of you know, I started grad school this week. And... culture shock.
> Ohhhh boy, culture shock. (Yes, I know every professor who's had me for
> POSSE is now chortling with we-told-you-so glee.) One incident came today,
> when at the urging of Karl Fogel, who runs http://questioncopyright.org, I
> looked into academic copyright -- specifically, what's the deal for the
> places TOS typically submits to (FIE and SIGCSE)?
> A few hours and a quietly dawning horror later, I... think I've screwed up.
> My first couple co-submissions of work on teaching open source are,
> ironically, *unable* to be open-licensed. I've documented my naive findings
> here:
> http://blog.melchua.com/2011/08/20/in-which-mel-is-saddened-and-bewildered-by-academic-copyright-assignments/
> Please tell me that I'm missing something. How can we get
> academically-published TOS output released under open licenses? Why do we
> put up with this? Yes, I understand the publishing industry needs to make
> money and this "way of doing things" was well-intentioned at the time they
> were designed, but... but... why?
> --Mel
> PS: This isn't the only thing I've written about academic culture shock, btw
> -- for instance,
> http://blog.melchua.com/2011/08/17/academic-culture-shock-grad-student-ta-training/.
> _______________________________________________
> tos mailing list
> tos at teachingopensource.org
> http://lists.teachingopensource.org/mailman/listinfo/tos

More information about the tos mailing list