Saturday, May 19, 2012

Medical History (cont.)

The January 2012 issue of the journal Medical History has now appeared online (here).  This is the first issue with the new publishers and under the new editorship.

The good news is that
  • the articles are copyrighted to the authors, and
  • articles are freely downloadable.  
This is very good for the authors and readers.  However, the terms on which the papers may be distributed are not stated.  The authors may not wish their papers to be copied, or they may wish to charge for copies, or they may wish to apply one of the several Creative Commons licenses.  Nothing is stated.  However, since the PDFs of the papers are freely downloadable from the CUP website, obviously this is what the authors and the publisher intend readers to do.

If you click the "Request Permissions" on the CUP website, then a window opens in which CUP asserts its own copyright of the article.

A menu system lets you request various things, including the right to make photocopies not-for-profit.  The charge for this right (not the copies themselves) is about $5 per copy.  This charging option appears to be an honour system.

The Transfer of Copyright form is still presented for authors to sign (here), by which authors sign over their copyright to CUP.  But since authors seem to be keeping their copyright (a very good thing) perhaps these forms are just a relic, and will be withdrawn.

The same applies to the Open Access Transfer of Copyright form (here), which asks authors to send CUP £425/$675 (plus VAT) for giving their copyright to CUP and having CUP publish their articles under an Open Access license.  Perhaps if one paid this fee, the "Request Permissions" page would not ask for money for photocopies?  In any case, since everyone can download the articles freely already, and they are copyrighted to the authors, there would seem to be little incentive to pay the above fee.  The authors - who own the copyright - could themselves choose to place a Creative Commons license on their work, for example an Attribution-NoCommercial-NoDerivs license, thereby releasing any reader from the obligation to pay anything for making copies or using the article in teaching, linking to it from a Moodle website, etc.

So, at present, the rights and distribution situation with Medical History shows real promise.  Authors are retaining their copyright, and articles are freely downloadable from the CUP website.  This is great   In due course, presumably the articles will also appear in the online Medical History archive at the National Library of Medicine / Pub Med Central (here), as the editor, Sanjoy Bhattacharya said they would.

Residual confusions exist because of the continuing statements on the journal's CUP website that CUP owns the copyright of the articles, and that it wants authors to transfer their rights to CUP and to pay fees for Open Access distribution.  It is very much to be hoped that these are just teething problems and that the journal will continue to
  • allow authors to retain copyright 
  • that authors will not be charged any "article processing fee", and
  • that articles will be freely readable by anyone anywhere.

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