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March 28, 2012

The following is a comment from Creative Commons to the Research Councils UK on their Proposed Policy on Access to Research Outputs.

Creative Commons is pleased with the updated RCUK policy on access to research outputs. We echo Peter Suber’s excellent comments.

Specifically, we applaud the RCUK for clarifying that Open Access “allows unrestricted re-use of content with proper attribution--as defined by the Creative Commons CC-BY license.” We agree with Suber’s comment in support for RCUK’s move toward libre OA over gratis OA. Releasing the outputs of publicly-funded research free of cost online should be a baseline, but if downstream researchers are unclear about their legal right to copy, amend and redistribute the research, those publications will be reused less, and the overall impact lessened. CC BY communicates these rights in advance, thus reducing the transaction costs that would normally be incurred by researchers asking permission to use the resource. Since CC BY includes machine-readable rights and permissions metadata as a feature of the license, it will be easier for users to search for and understand those requirements and permissions granted to them during their research activities. And under CC BY, authors will receive the credit they deserve.

We also support the RCUK’s inclusion of explicit permission for text and data mining. To the extent text and data mining are prohibited by copyright law, CC BY licenses grant permission for these actions. RCUK should clarify that attribution requirements under CC BY should be waived with respect to text and data mining activities, thus reducing unintentional attribution stacking problems, or clarify how attribution should be accomplished in the context of text/data mining results. In some jurisdictions, text and data mining may fall under an exception or limitation to copyright, or may be prohibited by sui generis database rights. To clear up any potential uncertainty, it is best to err on the side of caution and clarify that text and data mining are expressly permitted.

The updated RCUK policy says (footnote 3), “The Research Councils consider that the ‘content’ of a paper includes, but is not limited to, the text, data, images and figures within a paper.” For supplemental datasets submitted alongside research articles, the RCUK should consider recommending CC0. CC0 (read “CC Zero”) is a tool that allows authors to dedicate data to the public domain by waiving all rights to the work worldwide under copyright law. Waiving copyright and related rights in a domain like science or public sector data eliminates all uncertainty for potential re-users. When CC0 is coupled with community norms, data providers can promote maximum reuse while encouraging proper attribution and citation.

Again, we endorse the proposed updates to the RCUK’s policy on access to research outputs. RCUK is setting a good example by supporting libre OA and CC BY. We hope that RCUK communicates the updated policy in a way that makes these new permissions crystal clear to users. We are happy to provide assistance or answer any questions you might have. We thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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