Journal article

Open access to journal content as a case study in unlocking IP

Open access Academic publishing Information technology
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The internet has brought with it both means to disseminate and access content, and an enhanced expectation that content will generally be readily accessible. This has threatened entrenched for-profit activities, which have long prospered on closed, proprietary approaches to publishing, facilitated by anti-consumer provisions in copyright laws. The ePrints and Open Access (OA) movements have been complemented by the emergence of electronic repositories in which authors can deposit copies of their works. The accessibility of refereed papers published in journals represents a litmus test of the extent to which openness is being achieved in the face of the power of corporations whose business model is dependent on the exploitation of intellectual property (IP). A specification of the requirements for “Unlocking IP” in refereed papers is presented and applied, leading to the conclusion that a great deal of progress appears to have been made. The copyright arrangements applied by most publishers enable authors to self-deposit PrePrints of their papers on their own web-sites and in open repositories; and in many cases authors can also self-deposit the PostPrint, i.e. the author's copy of the final version.

The theoretical success of the OA, ePrints and repositories movements has not – or at least not yet – resulted in success in practice. This is because only a small proportion of papers are actually self-deposited, and a large proportion of refereed papers continue to be accessible only through highly-expensive subscriptions to journals and journal-collections controlled by for-profit publishers. The unlocking of IP in refereed papers is therefore still very much a work-in-progress. Moreover, the gains may be ceded back to the for-profit publishing industry, unless concerted efforts are made within academe.


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