Showing posts with label creative commons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creative commons. Show all posts

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.