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If it ain’t broke… #NoNewLicenses!

Image credit: Frustration, by Eric (e-magic), CC BY-ND. https://www.flickr.com/photos/emagic/
Image credit: Frustration, by Eric (e-magic), CC BY-ND. https://www.flickr.com/photos/emagic/

On August 7th, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers  (STM) responded to a call from the Global Coalition of Access to Research, Science and Education Organizations (signed by more than 80 entities and counting, including ScienceOpen) to withdraw their new model licenses.

So what exactly is all the fuss about? Our headline pretty much sums it up and comes courtesy of OA advocate Graham Steel who rightly observed that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The Open Access (OA) community happily relies on a license suite from Creative Commons (CC) to provide an interoperable and simple standard for our industry. ScienceOpen uses the most flexible CC “attribution license”, known to its many friends as CC-BY. We like it because it allows maximum scope for the creative re-use of research, including commercially, no permission from us required. The only caveat is “credit where credit is due” which only seems fair and means that the original authors and source must be cited, together with the license type and ideally a link to the work. We believe that research works better and faster without any limitations and that CC-BY facilitates this.

So why does the STM Association, the “voice of academic and professional publishing” (but not ours, we’re not members), think that we need new licenses? One reason they give in their response is that “Creative Commons (CC) licenses are designed to be used across the entire creative sector, and are not specifically designed for academic and scholarly publishing”. Sadly, this demonstrates a lack of understanding of the true power of the licenses which comes precisely because they were developed for use across different creative industries.

This is very important for those who work in scientific communication whose job it is to explain science to a broader audience. Research is frequently complex and mashing it up with CC-BY images (of which there are over 58 million at the photo sharing site Flickr), Wikipedia links (over 4 million CC articles) even music can really bring a story to life. Making this content freely available under a CC license is important because advances in science and medicine should ideally be available to and understood by everyone.

For those who have a role in this field, the reality is that navigating and selecting the best content from the overwhelming volume on the internet and then complying with the current dizzying array of more and less restrictive copyright licenses is already quite tricky enough, thank you kindly! We simply don’t need any more complexity.