Preprint license confusion


A new article in Nature highlights the confusion authors experience in choosing a license for preprints submitted to bioRxiv.

According to statistics from bioRxiv, 29% of authors have decided to append no licence at all to their work. On the site, these are labelled: “All rights reserved. No reuse allowed without permission.” Saskia Hagenaars, a geneticist at Kings College London says that her team chose this option because “we don’t want people freely using the non-peer reviewed versions of our papers”.


One reason for researchers’ hesitancy to choose open licences may be that some journals frown on them. Giulio Caravagna, a computational biologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, decided not to openly licence his bioRxiv preprint because it gave his team “full rights to proceed further with submission to any journal that we want to target”. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), for instance, says it will only publish papers arising from preprints that don’t have CC licenses, because it feels that these are not compatible with its own licensing terms. But Himmelstein has found a dozen CC-BY preprints that led to work published in PNAS — and the publisher says it has never enforced its rule.

The full article also contains some interesting insights about text mining preprints.

A Brief Introduction to Creative Commons

Creative Commons logoAs Open Access Week comes to a close, it is a good time to consider how everyone can put this year’s them of “Open in Action” into practice year round. One of the easiest ways to do this is by offering content that you create under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses are become more popular all the time and if you’ve used Wikipedia or Flickr you’ve almost certainly encountered them before, but at first glance they can seem confusing since there are so many options. Despite all the possibilities, understanding and using Creative Commons is actually very straightforward.

Though there are six types of Creative Commons licenses, all of them share the same goal of allowing people to share their work with others in a way that both protects their rights and allows others to make use of this work. The differences between the licenses allow you to ensure that these future uses are acceptable to you without future users having to contact you and negotiate individual agreements. The six available Creative Commons licenses are:

  • Creative Commons Attribution (also sometimes called CC BY) – This license allows for any use as long as the person using the item includes proper attribution, a link to the license, and an indication if the item has been modified.
  • Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (also sometimes called CC BY-SA) – This license is the same as the CC BY license with the addition that the person using the item must share their own work under a CC BY-SA license as well.
  • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (also sometimes called CC BY-NC) – This license is the same as the CC BY license, but with the additional stipulation that the person using the work may not use it for commercial purposes. (It is worth noting that the meaning of “commercial purposes” has been disputed in some cases).
  • Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives (also sometimes called CC BY-ND) – This license is the same as the CC BY license, but with the addition that the person using the item may not distribute any version of the item that they have changed, remixed, or modified.
  • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (also sometimes called CC BY-NC-SA) – This license requires attribution, prohibits commercial use, and requires that any end product is shared under the same license.
  • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (also sometimes called CC BY-NC-ND) – This license requires attribution, prohibits commercial use, and does not allow for the distribution of any version of the item that has been changed, remixed, or modified.
  • Creative Commons 0 (also sometimes called CC0) – This license releases an item freely without any restrictions. This means it may be used by anyone, in any matter, for any purpose, and without attribution.

If this sounds interesting, has more information about how to use licenses, including an easy-to-use tool that will help you select the right license for your work with just a few clicks. Or if you still want to learn more, check out the video below!


Open Access eBooks Coming to JSTOR

JSTOR logoThis week JSTOR announced that it will be adding open access monograph titles to its popular platform. In the initial round, 63 new open access titles from several academic publishers will be added to JSTOR and the announcement also noted that they “expect to add several hundred more Open Access titles over the next year.” These ebooks will be presented along with other content in search results, but will also have a green notice stating that they are open access. In all cases these items are offered under a Creative Commons license and DRM-free. Perhaps best of all, the announcement also notes that users will not have to register or log in to access these materials. In addition to the announcement, JSTOR also released additional information for librarians and a list of the 63 titles that will be available initially.