28 Apr 2007

Open access and the reuse of images

Pedro on Public Rambling has written about the reuse of scientific images and notes that the Creative Commons license used by both BioMed Central and PLoS allows him and other bloggers to freely post images from our journals without the need to laboriously fill out forms or the worry of facing legal action: “From a user point of view this is absolutely liberating. I can not only read these manuscripts but I can use their pictures to comment on them and I can even think of creatively combining their content with other works”. All that is needed is an acknowledgement of the source of the figures (this wasn't given when an article was published in Cytometry Part A, hence this erratum).

Pedro's comments were well placed.
Shelley Batts on Retrospectacle, reports that she had a tangle with lawyers ... over the 'fair use' of a figure ... In short, I was threatened with legal action if I didn't take it down immediately. I used a panel a figure, and a chart, from over 10+ figures in the paper. I cited and reported everything straight forwardly. I would think they'd be happy to get the press. But alas, no.

John Hawks has pointed out that unfortunately Wiley (the publisher in question) might be within their rights to argue that 'fair use' does not extend to posts on a blog on a commercial platform that carries advertising. Shelley initially redrew the figures after being contacted by Wiley, but a check of the Wiley permissions FAQs confirms that
If you redraw a figure, you have created an adapted version of the original figure. You are still required to credit the original source. If the figure or figures you are redrawing exceed the limits of "fair use," you must request permission from the original source. Redrawing is not a way to by-pass copyright protection (my emphasis).

Although Wiley has now backed down since the blogosphere exploded on this issue - a good summary is on A Blog Around The Clock - this confused picture of permissions and rights only goes to bolster the argument that traditional closed access publishing damages the dissemination and discussion of science.

Peter Suber has noted before that open access solves not just the 'serials crisis' on journal pricing, but also the 'permissions crisis'. Although Wiley allows self-archiving, the instinct and practice of traditional publishers is to limit the reuse of work published by them unless they give permission and receive payment. If you believe that scientific work should be communicated and debated without barriers, publish in an open access journal.

No comments: