Back in 2017, I penned a post for The Scholarly Kitchen entitled “The Value of Copyright: A Publisher’s Perspective“. We are now in 2020, hunkering down in isolation, working remotely. As we ride out these difficult times, we can’t help but look ahead and consider what a post-COVID-19 publishing landscape will look like. In this article, I want to revisit the history of copyright, steering into Creative Commons Licensing, and weigh the value of protection and reuse in light of an inexorable push towards global openness. There is value in publishing in an open setting, but do we fully understand how openness will stimulate or hinder creation and expression of ideas? Publishers, and indeed all players in the publishing ecosystem, have not moved far in helping our communities understand the rights and licensing landscape. On the one hand, authors are mainly concerned with disseminating their research and doing so in a way that maximizes use and citation. On the other hand, authors be they authors of journal articles or books, may find their content repurposed in ways they did not expect by publishers they did not sign on with. I am deliberately not stepping into the treacherous waters of whether publishers pay royalties for differing kinds of content to authors. The issue I address is how to equip authors to be able to ask the right questions, and sign up to be published knowing how their content will be treated. An author’s bandwidth to consider complexities of licensing and rights associated with their publishing output is limited. However, it is important that authors grapple with such complexities, as their ability to create may rest on being able to navigate the right path for publicizing their research and communicating their ideas.
A useful read for researchers, wherever they might be careerwise.
However, some key innovations are worth examining. For example, the Berne Convention, which came into being in 1886 and was signed by the US in 1989. The notion was to place the US approach to copyright in context of a broader international approach. Effectively, it recognized that there is a myriad of approaches to copyright laws across the world, which to this day confuses authors and publishers alike, given the global nature of research.