Showing posts with label copyright. Show all posts
Showing posts with label copyright. Show all posts

Thursday, May 18, 2017

YAAC ("yet again about copyright")

Some sensible remarks from the Director of UofA's copyright office.  Importantly, the UofA relinquishes its rights to the copyright of work written by faculty members.  Faculty members own the copyright of their writings.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Changing publication models

With the growth of good desktop document processing software and the universality of good, free Unicode fonts, it is now entirely feasible for an individual to produce excellent camera-ready copy of an academic book for themselves, with modest effort over a modest period of time.

With services like Lulu and Createspace, the transition from a PDF on your computer to a hard-bound, published book sold online and through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., is also very easy and cheap.  I mean, less than about $100, total cost.  I did a book with Lulu a couple of years ago (my father's memoirs), and I paid $60 to cover distribution through Amazon and all other big bookshops and online services.  Everything else was free.  The book is large, 650 pages, and costs about $50 for hardback, with free shipping in the USA (e.g., Amazon, B&N).    I also made the PDF downloadable directly from Lulu at $12.

What does all this mean?

What it means is that publishers are no longer necessary for performing the traditional roles of book production and distribution.   Authors can now do this satisfactorily for themselves at marginal cost, high quality, and with international distribution.

What remains?  What I call "Gatekeeping" services.  With today's deluge of free online resources, what we all really do need is someone to take responsibility for guaranteeing high intellectual quality.  Trustworthiness.

Traditionally, this was also a role performed by some publishers, especially the university presses.  A book on Buddhism from Cambridge University Press *should* be of a different calibre from a book on Buddhism from, say, Harlequin or Mills & Boon.   The good academic publishers acted as gatekeepers, offering an implicit guarantee of intellectual quality.

But if you look more closely at this arrangement, the university presses rely heavily on the free services of university staff for refereeing, book acquisition, series curation, and sometimes even content-editing and copy-editing.  In-house copy-editing was usual, however, and often of a high standard.

Another service that a big university press provides is prestige.  A young scholar with a book published by Princeton is likely to do better at getting a job than another with a book published with a publisher of less prestige.  This is because appointment committees are willing to take the implied quality-guarantee of Princeton UP.  But again, Princeton only publishes books because unpaid academic referees at universities give the thumbs-up.  The process is circular.

What does all this mean?

If books can be produced and distributed by academics themselves, and refereed and edited by them too, what is left for publishers?  Not much, I think, unless they dramatically change their business and service models.  

What we see going on today, I believe, are the last convulsions of a dying industry.  Yes, they're making a lot of money, but only because of the inertia and uncertainty of academics.  What used to be called FUD ("fear, uncertainty and doubt").  The upcoming younger generation of scholars with different preconceptions will probably not be so smitten by the prestige of old publishing houses, and will be more adept at self-publishing.

What remains is the need for gatekeeping, for the guaranteeing of quality.  If publishers really took that seriously, and divorced their editorial selections and quality judgements from their need to remain profitable, then they might salvage for themselves a genuine role in the future.  I cannot see a way in which genuine academic quality can be guaranteed by an institution that simultaneously has to satisfy criteria of profitability.  As long as their are two goals - quality and profit - there will inevitably arise cases of conflict and compromise.  In short, gatekeeping is the job of (publicly-funded) university staff, not a (commercial) publisher.

The alternative to this is that university staff take back into their own hands all the processes of the production and distribution of knowledge.  In fact, this is the change that the major funding bodies are pressing upon us, with the widespread requirement that publicly-funded academic research be published Open Access.  It is also the original idea of the university press.

Here's a hypothetical model for a future academic book series. 

  • Author on a research grant or university salary writes a book. 
  • The book is typeset using LibreOffice or TeX.  The university department provides some secretarial support to help, or some money from the research grant pays for smart word-processing by an agency.
  • The book is sent to an external commercial copy-editing company to tidy up the details.  A smart, accurate PDF results. 
    This is paid for by the university department, or out of the research grant (this is already common).
  • The PDF is submitted to a panel of academics somewhere who curate a book series, judging the intellectual quality of the submissions.  The book is accepted as an important intellectual contribution..
  • The PDF is uploaded to or Createspace, where it is turned into a print-on-demand hardback book for sale internationally through Amazon etc., and in bookshops. 
    Lulu are the printers and distributors. 
    The ISBN is provided by the university department, so they are the publishers, not Lulu.  
  • The book is advertised through a prestige university website that promotes the book as an intellectual contribution, contextualizes it as a university-curated product, and made available for sale through a simple click link to PayPal, Amazon, etc.  The university's series name is printed in the book, and splashed all over the website.
Ooops: high quality production, high quality intellectual content, university curation, international sales, but no "traditional" publisher!

Please blow holes in what I've said. There must be an elephant in the room that I'm not seeing.

(reproduced from my post to the INDOLOGY discussion list, 15 May 2013)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Copyright changes: updates

Changes may be afoot in the realm of academic copyright.  For a note about the situation in the UK and continental Europe, see the note in ALCS News, January 2013

See also Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, the  independent report by Professor Ian Hargreaves (2011).  Table of contents:
Foreword by Ian Hargreaves     01   
Executive Summary     03
Chapter 1 Intellectual Property and Growth     10
Chapter 2 The Evidence Base     16
Chapter 3 The International Context     21
Chapter 4 Copyright Licensing: a Moment of Opportunity     26
Chapter 5 Copyright: Exceptions for the Digital Age     41
Chapter 6 Patents     53
Chapter 7 Designs     64
Chapter 8 Enforcement and Disputes     67
Chapter 9 SMEs and the IP Framework     86
Chapter 10 An Adaptive IP Framework      91
Chapter 11 Impact     97
Annex A Terms of Reference     101
Annex B Stakeholders Met during Review of IP and Growth     102
Annex C Call for Evidence Submissions     105
Annex D List of Supporting Documents     

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Publishing in Medical History: The author's view

If I am an author coming to Medical History today, with a view to submitting my article for publication, what can I expect?

Copyright and free, online access

The journal's website has the statement reproduced in the Appendix below (after "Read more>>").  The website used to have CUP's normal "Transfer of Copyright" and OA conditions too, but these appear to have been removed recently (see image right).
Here are the questions I might ask:
  1. Will I retain copyright of my article? 
    Normally, yes.  But I may want to give it away.
    • Why would I want to give it away? 
      Because I would like my article to appear on the CUP website AND I would like to pay nothing, AND I would like a "one year subscription embargo period." (I don't know what that means.)
  2. Will I have to pay anything?
    Only if you want to.

  3. Will my article be free for the public to read?
    Yes, always.  All articles will be
    published online immediately, with Open Access, on the PMC website.
  4. Will my article be published online, Open Access, online, immediately on the CUP website? 
    Only if I pay $675.  And in this case, I probably have to give up my copyright.
    • Why would I do that?Because then my article will enjoy the added benefits of being on the CUP website.

Creative Commons licenses

The statement in the Appendix below raises the issue of CC licenses when discussing "Green OA."  What is a CC license?  It's all explained in baby language at
When you write something original, you automatically own the copyright of it.  And as such, nobody is allowed to copy your article without your permission.  
But what if you want people to copy your work, say from your website, while still respecting your authorship?  You want to give away some of your rights, but not all of them.

That's where the CC licenses come in.  They say, in effect, "I own the copyright, buster, so watch out.  But in advance, I give you certain rights, and here they are. ..."

bottom of page one.
As long as you still own the copyright, you are free to add one of these CC licenses to your article, stipulating exactly what others may or may not do with your article.  Here (right) is one I prepared earlier.  In this case, I've chosen the license that says that people using my article have to state that I wrote it (attribution), they can't sell it (non-commercial), and they can tweak or remix or build upon my article, as long as they release the new work under an identical license (share-alike).
What CUP says in the OA Options document below is that if you go for the Gold OA option, and pay CUP $675, your article will be published free, online immediately, with a Creative Commons license.  What isn't made explicit is that CUP wants you to transfer your copyright to them, and the CC license will be issued by them, not you.
Let me repeat that for the hard-of-hearing: if you pay CUP, they will relieve you of your copyright.
They will then release your work with a CC license of their choosing.
I am basing the above on the copyright forms that are normally issued by CUP for authors who choose Green OA, for example the form for Modern Asian Studies.  There seem to be different "Transfer of Copyright" forms for each journal that CUP publishes.  Sometimes the copyrights are transferred to the society or college behind the journal (SOAS, RAS), at other times the rights are transferred to CUP (as with the transfer forms that were on the MH website, but have now been removed).  As far as I have seen, copyright is in every case taken away from the author.

Authors' expectations

While journals like Medical History disseminate new knowledge and try to achieve fairness for authors and readers, I think we should all be striving for clarity and transparency.
  • People trying to read and cite articles should not have trouble working out what they are looking at, or worrying about whether this version is identical to that version, and so on.
  • Authors who have written for MH in the past should feel confident that their rights have been respected and their work is clearly and accurately published (whether in print or online) in the manner they expected at the time of publication.
  • Authors considering publication in MH in the future should have clear knowledge of the terms under which their papers will be published.  They should be able to answer these questions quickly and easily:
    • Will I have to pay for my article to be published?
    • Will the public have to pay to read my article?
    • Will I own the copyright of my article?
    • Can my article be reproduced, sold or re-sold without my consent or without paying me?
My views on some of the key issues above are laid out briefly in my January 2012 blog post Copyright and Open Access.
I have also tabulated these key issues for a number of journals that publish in my field, in the post Some OA journals that publish on South Asia.
What I discovered while assembling that information is that many journals do not provide clear information on these basic issues.  I think this is most often because the editors are simply ignorant of these matters.  This is not the case with CUP, but it appears to me that their policies err in the other direction, and are over-complex and hard for legally-naive academic authors to understand.  In the case of Medical History it is still the case that the document outlining the journal's policies in this matter contains opacities, if not self-contradictions (see next blog post).  Hopefully these will be ironed out soon.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Medical history: CUP breaching author's copyright? (cont.)

In an earlier post, I said I had written to CUP about two issues relating to an article that I wrote and of which I own the copyright,
  1. Their website's assertion that they own the copyright of my article, and 
  2. That they are bundling my Open Access article in a commercial package. 
Daniel Pearce, Commissioning Editor, HSS Journals at CUP has now written back a friendly and apologetic email letter, saying among other things,
I can confirm that an error has been made [...] in respect to the XML header files which accompany a subset of Medical History articles.  As a consequence, as you identify, our platform is currently displaying the incorrect copyright line for your article.  This is entirely unintentional.  It has never been our intention, and is not our intention now, to claim copyright over your article or the articles of any author in the same position as you.   To put this right we have requested a re-supply of XML as a priority and hope to be in a position to correct the copyright lines on all relevant articles on the live site today.  Naturally, we would like to issue an unreserved apology to you for this mistake.
I'm relieved about this, and glad that it has been possible to clear things up gracefully.
Mr Pearce will be writing to me again next week about question 2, when the people who know about these issues are back in the office.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Medical history: CUP breaching author's copyright?

(The last blog post on this topic starts with a summary of the saga so far.)

The CUP website for Medical History is now offering digitised back issues of the journal.

Not paid for
If you are just looking at the CUP from your home computer, without paying anything, you see this "Not paid for" screen.  The buttons on the left expand the issues, and you can burrow down to the articles, where you can read the abstracts.  But that's all you can get.  You can't read the actual articles. You can't even buy them.  They're not downloadable (see the previous blog).  There's no link to PMC, where they are legally free.

Paid for
But if you are on a university network that has paid for a license to view CUP content, then you see this, "Paid for" screen.  Now you can download the full PDF of all articles and book reviews back to 2007.
The expression "Digitised Archive" is not explained.

Here's the thing
All the PDF files that are being offered here by CUP are copied directly from the PubMed Central archive of the journal that ran up to 2011, when the journal was still Open Access, and authors still owned the copyright of their articles.  I have checked individual files.  They are the same files, byte-for-byte.  In the image below, you can see the PMC file on the left, and the CUP file on the right.  The date of creation is "6 March 2007" in each case.

The byte sizes are identical too.

Okay.  CUP has copied the free PDFs from PubMed Central to its own website, where it is distributing them for a fee under its bundled licensing scheme for universities.  Is this not wrong?  The PMC copyright notice says clearly:
All of the material available from the PMC site is provided by the respective publishers or authors. Almost all of it is protected by U.S. and/or foreign copyright laws, even though PMC provides free access to it. (See Public Domain Material below, for one exception.) The respective copyright holders retain rights for reproduction, redistribution and reuse. Users of PMC are directly and solely responsible for compliance with copyright restrictions and are expected to adhere to the terms and conditions defined by the copyright holder. Transmission, reproduction, or reuse of protected material, beyond that allowed by the fair use principles of the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners. U.S. fair use guidelines are available from the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.

Copyright breach?
This is an important issue.  The authors of articles in Medical History from 2005-2011 retained copyright of their own work. In the article above, by me, you'll see clearly at the bottom of the page, in the first footnote position, it says "(C) Dominik Wujastyk".  I own the copyright.  Nobody can copy that article without my permission.  Now, I knew that my article would be Open Access and freely downloadable from PMC; that's one of the reasons I wanted to publish with Medical History.  But I did not agree that anybody else could republish or sell my article. And that is what CUP is now doing.  Individuals at home can't buy it, but CUP is implicitly selling my article to universities and other license-holders by including it in their bundled commercial offering.
I do not want that. CUP has not sought my permission, nor offered to negotiate a copyright fee with me.

Copyright theft?
Even worse, CUP has slapped their own copyright statement on my article!  As you can see in the image below, CUP claims copyright for my article, dating from 2007, and says that it was published online in May 2012 (which is untrue, since it appeared online and in print in 2007). 

Just to make it clear that CUP is making money from my copyrighted article, here is the "request permissions" screen.
The popup "I would like to ..." menu offers these choices, that lead to screens where you can pay a fee.
These are all matters for me, as copyright-holder, not for CUP.  If someone wants to reprint my article in a book, or make a Hollywood film from it, I expect to be contacted and, with any luck, offered money for it.
I am writing a letter of complaint to CUP about this breach of my legal rights.

The matter is more complicated, for another reason.  When I wrote this article, I had a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow contract with the Wellcome Trust that included the requirement that all my articles should be published under Open Access terms.  This I did.  In some cases, the Wellcome Trust, through UCL, paid substantial sums of money for my articles to appear as Open Access publications.  But now, CUP has asserted that it owns my copyright, and has placed my article in a closed-access publication website. This causes a breach of the terms of my research fellowship contract with the Wellcome Trust, and a clear breach of the intention of the Wellcome Trust to further Open Access publication for the research that it funds.

Friday, June 22, 2012

(Deep breath) Medical history again

The story so far

My three previous blogs on this topic are, in chronological order,  1 here, 2 here, and 3 here.
(All my blogs on the topic of the journal Medical History are collected here.)

  1. In the first post, I sketched the history of this important journal and expressed regret about the journal's move from the Free-to-read, Open Access, author's copyright model to a pay-to-read, closed access, publisher's copyright model. 

    The journal's new editor, Sanjoy Bhattacharya, responded here, defending the new policies.
  2. I responded here, noting that the new website was inconsistent, and that there were unsolved contradictions about payment structures, and that in no case did the publisher offer the author the option of retaining copyright.
  3. When the first new issue appeared in January 2012, I noted that articles were freely downloadable and authors were ascribed copyright. This was very good for the authors and readers, but some contradictory information about rights and payments continued to be present on the publisher's website. 

And now...

No abstract
The April 2012 issue of Medical History is out.  I'm sorry indeed to see that things have changed for both this issue and the previous January one.  The freedoms that were earlier present in the January issue have been revoked.  The statements giving authors copyright have been removed.  Articles are not freely downloadable.

No way to read the article...
Most bizarre of all, no articles are now readable at all.  Even at a price.  The website give abstracts for most - but not all - articles (see above right).  But that's all.  Even if you have an account with the CUP journals site, and log in, you still cannot read any articles in Medical History.
You can link to them, you can refer to them, you can link, blog and write to the author.  You can request permissions, e.g., to reprint or copy the article.  You can do most things, except reading the articles (see left).

This surely has to be a temporary glitch?

If you are logging in from an institutional licensee, such as a university network, then yes, you can download the PDFs.  But if you do not have such an affiliation, then you cannot download any article.

No downloads at PMC
I thought that perhaps the articles were now at Pub Med Central (PMC), as Sanjoy had said they would be, and that readers were meant to know this and read the articles from there.  But that's not the case either.  Neither of the new issues has appeared at PMC (see right).  It was always understood that there would be a time-lag before articles appeared at PMC, and the journal is starting again from zero, administratively speaking, so perhaps it's just a matter of patience before the freely-downloadable version of the articles appear.

Subscription prices
However, as long as an individual cannot download the articles at all from anywhere, I suppose the only way to read the journal is to order a printed copy.  But one can only buy the printed journal if one is an organisation (left).  So for anyone who doesn't have access to an institutional licence, access to Medical History is limited or impossible.

Back issues

And, confusingly, CUP is offering to sell rights to consult the past archive, that the Wellcome Trust has paid for already to be freely available at PMC: "... access to the digitised archive must be purchased separately. Please email [so-and-so] for a tailored package quote." This again must be a glitch.

In general, it looks as if CUP is trying to fit Medical History into a Procrustean bed designed for its other more commercial offerings.

On CUP's MH website under "back issues / digitised archive," selected past issues of MH are now displayed (see right).  But once again, there is no button for actually downloading a PDF for any of the articles.  Nor is there any link to PMC, where whole journal from 1957-2011 is already available free.

New Open Access Policy

I think the terms of the Open Access agreement for Medical History have changed since I last looked at them.  I don't remember seeig the following statement:
If you choose to publish your article in this way [Open Access] you are required to complete the following form, within one week of your
manuscript being accepted for publication by Medical History. If you prefer not to take part in the Open Access option,
you need not do anything; your article will be published in the usual way, with access to the complete text being available only
to subscribers
. [my bold]
The corresponding author should complete this form, and by doing so he or she authorises that the full charge of £425/$675,
plus VAT where applicable, will be paid.
CUP will NOT grant Open Access to your article unless you pay them $675.  This statement raises serious questions about whether all articles will continue to appear in PMC, as asserted by Sanjoy and as desired by the Wellcome Trust.


So, where do things stand now?
  1. Authors don't have copyright, in any model of publication in MH.
  2. Articles are not freely downloadable.
  3. Articles cannot be downloaded at all by private persons, even for purchase.
  4. Private persons apparently cannot buy the print version of journal issues.
  5. CUP wants to charge for access to past archived issues of the journal.
  6. No article will be available Open Access unless $675 is paid by the author.
I still hope that some of these issues are just teething problems.  I also hope that, as Sanjoy said, articles will appear as free downloads at the PMC site, in a "version of record," and that the current de facto embargo period of six months and growing is also just an initial administrative problem.

Between 2005 and 2011, Medical History was an Open Access journal that assigned copyright to individual authors, and charged no fee to authors or to readers.  The journal embraced all the best and most innovative models of the distribution of scholarly knowledge (see Open knowledge, Open definition, Open Access).   That model of publication has been abandoned, in favour of a closed-access, strongly commercialized system.  If all MH articles start to appear for free, full-text, version-of-record download at PMC, it will make a big difference.  But it remains hard to see how the commercial and copyright requirements of CUP can be squared with free distribution though PMC.

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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Medical History" going from free, Open Access, Creative Commons licensed to copyright-controlled closed access (contd.)

Hi, Sanjoy, thanks for responding. 

What you say in your comment differs from what the CUP website says, and on all the most important points.  Some things still need clearing up.

If all authors are to retain copyright, why does the CUP website for medical history present "Transfer of Copyright" forms to prospective MH authors? Here's the location:

The first, non-OA form says, "The Journal's policy is to acquire copyright in all contributions."

The second, OA form also requires authors to transfer their copyright to CUP in full, just like the first.  In spite of having paid a $1350 fee to CUP, authors who sign this form will not retain copyright of their own work.  It is CUP, as the new copyright holder, who will offer a Creative Commons licence, not the author.  As they say in the form, "Cambridge University Press will licence such uses under the following Creative Commons licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike".  And in fact, it is not even a full CC licence, since CUP specifically forbids authors from using their articles in certain ways.

In all cases, therefore, both closed- and open- access, the CUP website clearly states that it is CUP and not the authors who will hold the copyright.  This is the opposite of the journal's policy from 2005 to 2011, and the opposite of what you say in your comment above.

Where the CUP website talks about "Gold Open Access",
I think they are being slightly misleading.  They say, "Gold Open Access: Authors may opt to publish their article under a Creative Commons licence by paying a one-off article processing charge, making their article freely available to all."  I think most readers would, like you, assume from this statement that it is the author who will own the Creative Commons licence.  But that is incorrect.  CUP will be the owner of the CC license, and the copyright.  The author is paying CUP so that CUP - qua copyright holder - will issue a CC licence.  The author's relationship to their own research is therefore just the same as any other member of the public, with CUP controlling all the rights.


Can you really confirm that the PMC version of MH articles will be, as you say, the "final version of record"?  The CUP documentation
uses the phrase "Accepted Manuscript" which is not the same thing.  An "accepted manuscript" would normally not have the pagination of the final version, nor the final edits of CUP's editorial staff.  So it is not usually an adequate source for scholarly citation, and it is not what appears in print.

If you are right in asserting that it is the "final version of record" that will go into PMC, then I think readers of your comment may wonder why any MH author would ever choose to pay the $1350 "Golden" fee, if their article is already freely available on the web in "final, published version of record".  Does it seem good value to pay $1350 in order to have one's article available from a second website, when it is already freely downloadable from PMC?

I look forward to your clarifications.

And to be clear myself: I applaud your efforts to give MH a future, and I applaud the Wellcome Trust for their generosity.  I just sincerely hope that the new deal for MH isn't Faustian.  The model under which MH operated from 2005 was so exemplary - with true, free OA, and authors' copyright - that it would inevitably be sad to see the doors slamming shut.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Medical History" going from free, Open Access, Creative Commons licensed to copyright-controlled closed access

In a controversial move, the journal Medical History is moving from being an "Open Access, no Article Processing Fee" journal to being a closed, copyrighted, fee-charging journal.

1957: the launch
The first issue of Medical History, edited by W. J. Bishop, appeared in 1957 (front matter).  Medical History rapidly established itself as a journal of primary importance in the field of medical history, especially in the anglophone world.  In many ways the evolution of the journal's content from 1957 to the present day is a mirror of the evolution of the field of medical history itself, from the reminiscences of senior physicians to the work of professionalised medical and social historians.  From its earliest issues it included the writings of such figures as Charles Singer, Lynn Thorndike, and Walter Pagel, and over more than half a century Medical History has become a journal of record for its academic field.

At its launch, the journal was printed and published by Dawsons of Pall Mall.  An annual subscription to four issues cost $7.50, or $2.50 for society members.

1960: Wellcome Trust funding
In 1960, just a year before his death, Bishop published a letter to the readers announcing that the Wellcome Trust had made a five-year grant to enable the journal to continue publication.  This grant was an appropriate decision by the Trust, at that time still bound by the terms of Sir Henry Wellcome's Will that included a stipulation that the Trust should support the study of the history of medicine (see, e.g., the first and first and second reports of the Wellcome Trust).

1965: Wellcome Trust ownership
Five years later, when the Wellcome Trust's initial grant came to an end, Dawsons decided no longer to publish the journal, and "surrendered all their rights in the journal."  Its publication was transferred to the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (see here).  Since the WHML was owned and solely funded by the Wellcome Trust, this change effectively institutionalised the Trust's support for Medical History.  That support has enabled the journal to continue publication until last year.

2005-2011: The Open Access years
But the single biggest change in the journal's history came in 2005.  That year, the Wellcome Trust issued a public statement as follows:
Medical History – entire archive freely available online
The first complete archive of a medical history journal has been deposited into PubMed Central, as part of a £1.25 million programme led by the Wellcome Trust, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). 
In addition to the digitization of the back catalogue, all future issues of Medical History will be made freely available online at the time of publication.
This project supports the Wellcome Trust’s position of supporting open access to scientific literature, and complements the ongoing work to establish a UK PubMed Central. 
(Bold print mine.  See full announcement.)
The editors of Medical History also announced the move to Open Access in a statement in July 2005, and an agreement was signed between the Wellcome Trust and UCL in September 2005 that stipulated that all intellectual property for the journal was vested in UCL, that all management decisions would be taken by the editors at the UCL Wellcome Centre, and that the journal would be completely Open Access.

Following these changes, the entire archive of Medical History, from 1957 to the present, was digitized and put online at PubMedCentral (here), and publication in print and online was handled by the British Medical Journal Group.

Between 2005 and 2011, in accordance with the Wellcome Trust's Open Access policy, each issue of Medical History has appeared in print and online more or less simultaneously.  As the Trust says on its website,
It is a fundamental part of our charitable mission to ensure that the work we fund can be read and utilised by the widest possible audience. We therefore support unrestricted access to the published outputs of research through our open access policy.
Not only were the articles in Medical History published Open Access, but the journal charged no Article Processing Fee (APF).  For both authors and readers, Medical History was free. And authors retained their copyright under a Creative Commons license.  These are the most enlightened policies in the three key issues of modern academic publishing: free authorship, free readership, and authors' retention of copyright.  (A large contemporary literature discusses the new business models underlying these new structures of academic publishing.)

As everyone knows, these policies are critically important for authors on low incomes, including scholars from eastern Europe and many parts of Asia and Africa.  Only these policies guarantee that readers everywhere can benefit from research findings, and that researchers can contribute their own work for open publication and dissemination without encountering a financial barrier.  The Wellcome Trust and the journal's editors broke important new ground in this policy change, adopting the highest ethical and research standards.

2006: EAHMJ partnership
In 2006, Medical History partnered with the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health, becoming the official journal of that association, and accepting EAHMH members onto its board of editors (announcement).  In doing so, the journal returned to its roots in one sense, since it had started in 1957 as the organ of a consortium of medical history societies.  At the time of writing (spring 2012), the EAHMH website still presents Medical History as its society journal, stating that,
The EAHMH encourages publication in the journal Medical History. Medical History is a refereed journal devoted to all aspects of the history of medicine and health, with the goal of broadening and deepening the understanding of the field, in the widest sense, by historical studies of the highest quality. It is also the journal of the European Association for the History of Medicine and Health. The membership of the Editorial Board, which includes senior members of the EAHMH, reflects the commitment to the finest international standards in refereeing of submitted papers and the reviewing of books.
Plans were made in 2009 to bring Medical History and the EAHMH closer together, creating a single subscription to both the journal and to the society.  However, before these plans could be finalized, the Wellcome Centre closed and the management of the journal moved briefly into limbo.

2010: The Wellcome Trust Centre shuts
The chief editors of Medical History were always senior research staff at the Wellcome Historical Medical Library.  That institution changed its name several times, finally becoming the "Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London" in 2000 (announcement by its then Director Roy Porter).

Ten years later, in 2010, in a controversial change of policy, the Wellcome Trust announced the closure of the Wellcome Centre (Wellcome Trust announcement, Times Higher Education reports here, and here, The Telegraph).  The majority of senior staff retired or dispersed to other centres worldwide, and Centre's programs in teaching and research were closed.  A small cross-departmental group remained at UCL, focussing on the history of neuroscience (here).  What would happen to Medical History?

2011: Interregnum
After the closing of the Wellcome Trust Centre, editorial control of the journal passed to UCL staff, including Roger Cooter and Vivian Nutton, who wrote an editorial statement in 2011 that was bullish about the future health of the journal, in spite of the closure of the Centre and the presumed loss of Wellcome Trust funding (Nutton and Cooter 2011 and  Cooter 2011).  Just one more issue of Medical History has appeared in the Open Access PubMedCentral archive since the last statement, the fourth and last for 2011.  At the time of writing (Feb 2012), references to Medical History on the UCL website lead to dead links.

2012: Cambridge University Press takes over
An announcement on 30 Jan 2012 by Cambridge University Press explains that the editorial control of Medical History has moved to the University of York, and that the journal has a new editor, Sanjoy Bhattacharya, a reviews editor, and an editorial board comprising no fewer than forty-six members, about thirty more editors than the journal has ever had before.  The journal is still supported by the Wellcome Trust, though details are not given.  According to an announcement by Bhattacharya, "the ownership of this journal has passed to Cambridge University Press." 

Cambridge University Press (CUP) is now operating the journal as a Closed Access journal.  If you wish to publish your article Open Access with a Creative Commons license, and retain your own copyright, you must pay $1350 or £850 (here).  CUP requires all non-paying authors to sign a contract transferring their copyright to CUP (contracts here).  The contract permits authors to post a pre-publication, pre-final-editing copy on their own or their university's website.  The terms also state that, "All articles will automatically be deposited in PubMedCentral upon publication" (statement).  But since PubMedCentral is an Open Access, full text website, it is hard to see why an author would pay $1350 if the full text of their article is to appear free in PubMedCentral in any case.  The answer seems to be in the terms of CUP's contract, that suggests that it only the pre-publication version of articles that will appear in PubMedCentral from now on, and not the final published version, as in the past.

At the time of writing (Feb 2012) the January issue of Medical History has not appeared in PubMedCentral.  It will be interesting to see the terms on which it does appear there.

CUP website
Cambridge University Press is keen to promote the journal by pointing to its illustrious past, and has a "Highlights of a Decade" page, showcasing selected articles.  But several of these articles, although originally published Open Access and copyrighted by their authors, are presented on CUP's website as being published by CUP, and have been assigned a DOI pointing to CUP's website, and a statement that the article was published online on 07 December 2011.  There is no reference to PubMedCentral, where the articles were actually published online, and much earlier, and where they are still freely downloadable.  CUP did not publish these articles.  The full text of the articles is not available on the CUP website, nor is there any suggestion that these "Highlights of a Decade" can be read freely at PubMedCentral.

Maybe CUP will solve these problems in the future, and come to a more graceful accommodation with the Medical History's Open Access past.


References and notes
Editors of Medical History:
  • W. J. Bishop, (1957-1961), 5 years.
  • F. N. L. Poynter (1962-1972),  11 years.
  • Edwin Clarke (1973-1979),  7 years.
  • William F. Bynum and Vivian Nutton (1980-1999),  21 years.
  • William F. Bynum and Anne Hardy (2000-2002), 3 years.
  • Harold J. Cook and Anne Hardy (2003- 2010), 8 years.
  • Vivian Nutton and Roger Cooter (2011),
  • Sanjoy Bhattacharya (2012- )
Declaration of interest
I have published in Medical History.