Another Reason For Moving To Open Access: Encouraging Scientific Debates

Glyn Moody | Tech Dirt | September 29, 2014

Techdirt has written often enough about how copyright is used to censor criticism. has an interesting post that offers a variation on that theme: copyright getting in the way of a scientific debate.  A band of researchers has been tirelessly trying to demonstrate that a body of scientific work which rests on a paper from over 10 years ago is completely wrong. The only problem is, their argument isn't being allowed to stand or fall on its merits -- instead, copyright restrictions are interfering with their ability to make their case at all.

The issue is that in order to make their case, the researchers need to re-use figures from one of the papers they are questioning. Unfortunately, fair use doesn't necessarily help here, because the journal publishing their new paper, Public Library of Science (PLOS) ONE, uses the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license for all its material. Fair use cannot be used to change the license under which the images are released -- only the copyright holders can do that, which means the latter are effectively able to block their republication in PLOS ONE:

[The publisher] Wiley has responded ... saying that while they'll allow re-use with no fee under standard copyright, they won't simply relicense the images to be compatible with PLOS ONE's non-restrictive distribution policy. (What Wiley actually says is that they are "unable to change [the images'] copyright status", which is simply false.) It isn't yet clear how this will be resolved...