Managing Digital Rights in Open Access Works

Authors : Benjamin J. Keele, Jere D. Odell

Librarians, researchers using scholarly works, and consumers using popular media generally think of digital rights management (DRM) as only a limitation on their access and use of digital resources. DRM and open access (OA) works would strike one as a very unlikely combination. In almost all cases, we would agree; however, we note two instances in which DRM and OA may be compatible.

The first case is DRM used to enable more accessible and durable rights information and proper attribution for a work. The second case is DRM that limits some uses as an appropriate part of a compromise to make works OA that would not otherwise be so.

This overlap between DRM and OA is narrow compared to the set ofnonOA works equipped with DRM, but understanding this overlap is useful for at least three reasons. First, librarians may use DRM to better manage rights in OA works; second, librarians may persuade a reluctant author or publisher to make a work OA with appropriate DRM; and, third, librarians may recognize when DRM negates access to an ostensibly OA work.

This chapter will review OA and discuss cases in which DRM can complement OA objectives. We organize these cases by two roles played by many academic librarians: collectors and publishers. By considering the relationship between DRM and OA, one may better recognize when DRM should be adopted or resisted in projects involving OA materials.