Confused about copyright? Assessing Researchers’ Comprehension of Copyright Transfer Agreements

Authors: Alexandra Kohn, Jessica Lange


Academic authors’ confusion about copyright and publisher policy is often cited as a challenge to their effective sharing of their own published research, from having a chilling effect on selfarchiving in institutional and subject repositories, to leading to the posting of versions of articles on social networking sites in contravention of publisher policy and beyond.

This study seeks to determine the extent to which authors understand the terms of these policies as expressed in publishers’ copyright transfer agreements (CTAs), taking into account such factors as the authors’ disciplines and publishing experience, as well as the wording and structure of these agreements.


We distributed an online survey experiment to corresponding authors of academic research articles indexed in the Scopus database. Participants were randomly assigned to read one of two copyright transfer agreements and were subsequently asked to answer a series of questions about these agreements to determine their level of comprehension.

The survey was sent to 3,154 participants, with 122 responding, representing a 4% response rate. Basic demographic information as well as information about participants’ previous publishing experience was also collected. We analyzed the survey data using Ordinary Least Squared (OLS) regressions and probit regressions.


Participants demonstrated a low rate of understanding of the terms of the CTAs they were asked to read. Participants averaged a score of 33% on the survey, indicating a low comprehension level of author rights.

This figure did not vary significantly, regardless of the respondents’ discipline, time in academia, level of experience with publishing, or whether or not they had published previously with the publisher whose CTA they were administered. Results also indicated that participants did equally poorly on the survey regardless of which of the two CTAs they received.

However, academic authors do appear to have a greater chance of understanding a CTA when a specific activity is explicitly outlined in the text of the agreement.

URL : Confused about copyright? Assessing Researchers’ Comprehension of Copyright Transfer Agreements


Les enjeux éthiques et juridiques du dépôts des travaux scientifiques dans une archive ouverte

Auteur/Author : Isabelle Gras

Cette contribution vise à analyser comment la structuration du marché numérique de l’édition scientifique a induit de nouveaux enjeux éthiques et juridiques en matière de diffusion du savoir. Le secteur de l’édition numérique des publications scientifiques se caractérise par une concurrence imparfaite qui menace la circulation des connaissances scientifiques.

Si ce phénomène s’observe tout particulièrement dans le champ des sciences et techniques, il ne faut pas en négliger les conséquences dans le domaine des sciences humaines et sociales.

Le transfert des droits d’auteur en faveur des éditeurs tout comme le diktat du « publish or perish » pèsent sur l’ensemble de la communauté scientifique. Face à cette situation, les chercheurs se tournent vers la voie verte de l’Open Access afin de diffuser leurs travaux scientifiques dans une archive ouverte.

Ils se trouvent alors confrontés à des questions juridiques et éthiques que nous nous proposerons d’analyser afin de dégager des bonnes pratiques. Dans cette optique, cette contribution propose de préciser les nouvelles opportunités offertes par l’article 30 de la loi pour une République numérique.

Enfin, dans la mesure où ils constituent des dispositifs opérants pour repenser les logiques traditionnelles du droit d’auteur, les spécificités des licences creative commons et des epi-revues, étroitement liées aux archives ouvertes, seront soulignées.

URL : Les enjeux éthiques et juridiques du dépôts des travaux scientifiques dans une archive ouverte

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The Open Revolution : Rewriting the rules of the information age

Author : Rufus Pollock

Forget everything you think you know about the digital age. It’s not about privacy, surveillance, AI or blockchain—it’s about ownership. Because, in a digital age, who owns information controls the future.

In this urgent and provocative book, Rufus Pollock shows how today’s “Closed” digital economy is the source of problems ranging from growing inequality, to unaffordable medicines, to the power of a handful of tech monopolies to control how we think and vote.

He proposes a solution that charts a path to a more equitable, innovative and profitable future for all.

URL : The Open Revolution : Rewriting the rules of the information age

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Open Science and Public Sector Information – Reconsidering the exemption for educational and research establishments under the Directive on re-use of public sector information

Author : Heiko Richter

The article discusses the possibilities of including public research and educational establishments within the scope of the Directive regulating the re-use of public sector information (2003/98/EC – ‘PSI Directive’).

It subsequently evaluates the legal consequences of such an inclusion. Focusing on scientific information, the analysis connects the long-standing debates about open access and open educa-tion to open government data.

Their common driving force is the call for a wide-spread dissemination of publicly funded information. However, the regulatory standard set out by the PSI Directive is characterized by considerable legal uncer-tainty.

Therefore, it is difficult to derive robust assumptions that can form the ba-sis for predicting the effects of extending the PSI Directive’s scope to research in-formation. A potential revision of the PSI Directive should reduce this uncertain-ty.

Moreover, PSI regulation must account for the specific incentives linked to the creation and dissemination of research results.

This seems of primary importance for public-private research collaborations because there is a potential risk that a full application of the PSI Directive might unduly affect incentives for such col-laborations.


The legal and policy framework for scientific data sharing, mining and reuse

Author : Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay

Text and Data Mining, the automatic processing of large amounts of scientific articles and datasets, is an essential practice for contemporary researchers. Some publishers are challenging it as a lawful activity and the topic is being discussed during European copyright law reform process.

In order to better understand the underlying debate and contribute to the policy discussion, this article first examines the legal status of data access and reuse and licensing policies. It then presents available options supporting the exercise of Text and Data Mining: publication under open licenses, open access legislations and a recognition of the legitimacy of the activity.

For that purpose, the paper analyses the scientific rational for sharing and its legal and technical challenges and opportunities. In particular, it surveys existing open access and open data legislations and discusses implementation in European and Latin America jurisdictions.

Framing Text and Data mining as an exception to copyright could be problematic as it de facto denies that this activity is part of a positive right to read and should not require additional permission nor licensing.

It is crucial in licenses and legislations to provide a correct definition of what is Open Access, and to address the question of pre-existing copyright agreements. Also, providing implementation means and technical support is key. Otherwise, legislations could remain declarations of good principles if repositories are acting as empty shells.


Resisting the Resistance: Resisting Copyright and Promoting Alternatives

Author : Giancarlo F. Frosio

This article discusses the resistance to the Digital Revolution and the emergence of a social movement “resisting the resistance.” Mass empowerment has political implications that may provoke reactionary counteractions.

Ultimately—as I have discussed elsewhere—resistance to the Digital Revolution can be seen as a response to Baudrillard’s call to a return to prodigality beyond the structural scarcity of the capitalistic market economy.

In Baudrillard’s terms, by increasingly commodifying knowledge and expanding copyright protection, we are taming limitless power with artificial scarcity to keep in place a dialectic of penury and unlimited need.

In this paper, I will focus on certain global movements that do resist copyright expansion, such as creative commons, the open access movement, the Pirate Party, the A2K movement and cultural environmentalism.

A nuanced discussion of these campaigns must account for the irrelevance of copyright in the public mind, the emergence of new economics of digital content distribution in the Internet, the idea of the death of copyright, and the demise of traditional gatekeepers. Scholarly and market alternatives to traditional copyright merit consideration here, as well.

I will conclude my review of this movement “resisting the resistance” to the Digital Revolution by sketching out a roadmap for copyright reform that builds upon its vision..


UK University policy approaches towards the copyright ownership of scholarly works and the future of open access

Author : Elizabeth Gadd


Considers how the open access policy environment has developed since the RoMEO (Rights Metadata for Open Archiving) Project’s call in 2003 for universities and academics to assert joint copyright ownership of scholarly works. Investigates whether UK universities are moving towards joint copyright ownership.


Analyses 81 UK university copyright policies are analysed to understand what proportion make a claim over i) IP ownership of all outputs; ii) the copyright in scholarly works; iii) re-using scholarly works in specific ways; iv) approaches to moral rights. Results are cross-tabulated by policy age and mission group.


Universities have not asserted their interest in scholarly works through joint ownership, leaving research funders and publishers to set open access policy. Finds an increased proportion of universities assert a generic claim to all IP (87%) relative to earlier studies.

74% of policies relinquished rights in scholarly works in favour of academic staff. 20% of policies share ownership of scholarly works through licensing. 28% of policies assert the right to reuse scholarly works in some way.

32% of policies seek to protect moral rights. Policies that ‘share’ ownership of scholarly works are more recent. The UK Scholarly Communication Licence (UK-SCL) should have an impact on this area.

The reliance on individual academics to enforce a copyright policy or not to opt out of the UK-SCL could be problematic. Concludes that open access may still be best served by joint ownership of scholarly works.


This the first large-scale analysis of UK university policy positions towards scholarly works. Discovers for the first time a move towards ‘shared’ ownership of scholarly works in copyright policies.