[GOAL] Re: Springer for sale - implications for open access?

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Wed Oct 10 21:09:06 BST 2012

On Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 6:45 PM, Heather Morrison <hgmorris at sfu.ca> wrote:

> On 2012-10-10, at 10:05 AM, David Prosser wrote:
> Unless you believe that private companies should not be allowed to run
> scholarly publishing services (a position I don't hold) then I don't see
> any implications.  I guess any new owner may feel that the OA business is
> not profitable enough, in which case they will either a) put prices up and
> risk pricing themselves out of the market, b) lower costs and risk losing
> out to competitors who provide better services or c) exit the OA journal
> publishing busy entirely.  In any case, all the papers that Springer has
> already published OA will remain OA.
> Re:     "all the papers that Springer has already published OA will remain
> OA".
> Question: please explain on what basis you make this assertion. Any papers
> that Springer has published under CC-BY licenses place no obligation
> whatsoever on the Licensor (Springer) or a successor.
> This is central to the whole rationale for CC-BY:

Assuming that by "OA" we mean BOAI compliant ("free to use, re-use and
redistribute) CC-BY then all BOAI-compliant papers can remain
BOAI-compliant for all time. The mechanism is simple:

* anyone can copy any BOAI-compliant paper and redistribute it as many
times as they like.

That's it.

Ross and I are doing exactly that. We are copying the whole of an BMC
journal (BMC is owned by Springer) and putting them into open repositories.
Here is an example of our first public batch (80 papers):


These are the PDFs copied directly from the BMC site (we used a
web-friendly approach). I have thousands more on my machine - I could put
them all on bitbucket except it would affect  performance.

Assume BMC closed down tomorrow (I hope it doesn'), these papers would
remain on my machine and on bitbucket. I can clone the whole of BMC if I
want. I may well do that and i don't need permission - (but I'd ask BMC
first as to the most friendly way to do it technically).

So long as one person or institution clones ("forks") the content it is
potentially saved as open for all time. And although the world cannot rely
on me and Ross to preserve BMC content, this can and is bening done by
national libraries.

*** and of course Eu/PMC ***

So it's the power to clone that preserves OA. This right has been very
clearly set out by the Free and Open Source movements and its philosophy
has been essentially copied by BOAI. That is why BOAI is so powerful.

You cannot do this with CC-NC. National libraries can be construed as
commercial organizations. So CC-NC gives no rights to fork publicly. Pleaes
consider this before yet again suggesting CC-NC as a useful strategy

And note that many "Open Access" terms and conditions and almost all Green
OA (unless CC-BY) does not give the right to copy and fork. Indeed some
publishers actively specify that their "OA" prevents copying.

It is because "OA" effectively operationally meaningless that we are urging
that documents should all be formally licensed. And many of argue that
CC-BY is the only workable and desirable licence.

The only problem with CC-BY is potential apathy - no-one makes a copy. But
while national libraries, domain repositories and IRs exist that is not a

Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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