05 November 2007

Odds and ends

Peter Suber's excellent Open Access news Weblog has been mentioned frequently here and recently he's had a couple of particularly interesting (to me) posts. One relates to Eric von Hippel's making available a couple of his books, with the agreement of the publishers, as open access e-books. The interesting thing is that sales exceeded expectations in both cases. As von Hippel says, this is counter-intuitive for publishers, but it simply shows that publishers have not thought through the logic. They know that, for example, for every thousand mailings of a publicity shot they're likely to get only 2% or 3% response - or even less - so they ought to understand that publicity in the form of open access, which reaches millions of people, rather than a few thousand, is going to increase sales, even if only one or two percent of the downloaders actually buy the book. I could also see benefits if publishers make books OA when the main sales have been made and the order stream is reduced to a trickle: this could give a boost to sales well beyond what would have been anticipated.

The second item is somewhat more esoteric and legalistic. Peter has been engaged in a debate on whether or not real OA includes the right to make 'derivatives' of the work in quetion - referring to the Creative Commons' licences. There are those who hold that the right to make derivative works is a required characteristic of OA works and those who protest the opposite. What is not clear for me is what constitutes a 'derivative work': if someone uses my work to create something related, using, for example, a theoretical model and quoting from my work, I don't see that as 'derivative' in any way other than all scientific work is 'derivative', in that it builds on the earlier research. To be truly 'derivative' in my book means taking my work and re-working it, using the text and the arguments, along with new insights and ideas to create something closely associated and 'derived' from my work. In that kind of work - and I know of none - I would be, in effect, a silent collaborator and I think I would be justified in claiming to be the joint author! So I think the debate may be about two different things: creating a work that simply refers, textually and otherwise, to my own, and creating a composite work, based on my ideas, but extending, etc. I would be perfectly happy with the first form of 'derived' work, but I think that for the second I would deserve a stronger form of acknowledgement than mere citation. Should I, therefore, adopt the 'no derivatives' form of the CC licence?

While pursuing this at the CC site another question occurred to me. The CC licence has a 'no commercial use' element, which simply means that, you cannot use my work for commercial gain. However, if you publish through a toll access publisher, who is in the business of making a profit, can the publisher profit from the inclusion of my work in yours? I think I shall have to watch this carefully in future, since I get numerous requests to use the diagram of my 1996 'General Model of Information Behaviour' - in the past, I've given permission without question, but now perhaps I should say - fine, if you publish in a true (Platinum Route) OA journal, but, if not, your publisher will have to pay.

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