hi Christoph,

This isn't as simple as it appears.  Combining Creative Commons licenses 
(including CC-BY) under the copyright of the author combined with rights 
transfer to the publisher that are not much different from full copyright 
transfer appears to be a common practice.

Elsevier has a particular clear example of this, as I wrote about here:

However, Elsevier is not alone. Last year in examining APC publishers I 
recorded a number of anomalies here: 
 We are still working on the 2016 APC survey.

This is important. If the publisher, not the author, is the real rights holder 
and hence Licensor for CC purposes, the Licensor has no obligations to continue 
to make a work available under a particular license, unless they have 
contracted to do so with the author.

If this is a common practice, note that it means that it is not possible to 
tell from looking at the license whether there has been a rights transfer or 
not. A CC-BY license indicating author copyright may be nominal only. You have 
to examine any license the author has agreed to with the publisher to be 
certain. Not every publisher posts samples of such agreements online.

Whether this would hold up in a lawsuit in a particular jurisdiction is a 
different question, as is whether authors are retaining copies of what they 
have agreed to. A record of payment for an article under a particular CC 
license likely not address this transfer of actual rights under copyright.

This situation is one of the reasons I strongly recommend that open access 
policy always require green OA archiving deposit, even if the policy-maker 
wishes to support transition to OA publishing. The license for a downstream CC 
licensed work cannot be revoked even if the publisher prefers not to continue 
to make the work available under those terms. This provides backup, as well as 
a disincentive to potential future backsliding on rights.


Heather Morrison

On 2016-09-21, at 3:58 PM, Christoph Bruch 

Dear All,

2 day ago OASPA has addressed
“Best practices in licensing and attribution: What you need to know”
In a blog post

The rights transfer chain is addressed in the following paragraph

“Instead of transferring rights exclusively to publishers, which is the 
approach usually followed in subscription publishing, in open-access publishing 
authors typically grant a non-exclusive license to the publisher to distribute 
the work, and all users and readers are granted rights to reuse the work under 
the terms of a Creative Commons license. CC-BY allows for unrestricted reuse of 
content to maximise the reach and influence of the work, subject only to the 
requirement that the author is given attribution.”

I appreciate that OASPA has picked-up the issue but believe firstly it needs to 
be treated in more detail and secondly OASPA should issue a recommendation 
based on this more detailed study.

This recommendation should include that publishers clearly explain their 
licensing practices so authors and funders can fully understand.



Christoph Bruch
Helmholtz Association
Helmholtz Open Science Coordination Office
W: +49 (0)331 28 82 87 61
M: +49 (0)151 14 09 39 68

Von: goal-boun...@eprints.org<mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org> 
[mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org<mailto:boun...@eprints.org>] Im Auftrag von 
Christoph Bruch
Gesendet: Freitag, 27. Mai 2016 09:33
An: 'Global Open Access List (Successor of AmSci)'
Betreff: Re: [GOAL] CC-BY with copyright transfer - correction

Dear All,

I raised the issue transparency of rights chains in conversations with OASPA 
and CC.

>From what I understand there is no recommendation in this respect from OASPA 
>and CC does not offer routinely a way to indicate who is the actual rights 
>holder as they assume that this is the author.

As I see it, OASPA should develop in cooperation with the academic community 
recommendations that OA publication for which APC are paid should not involve 
any individual rights transfer to the publisher.

Instead the publisher should rely on the CC-BY license provided by the author.

Attention has to be paid to rights of included third party works such as 

I will suggest to CC to consider ways to better identify the licensor.



Christoph Bruch
Helmholtz Association
Helmholtz Open Science Coordination Office
W: +49 (0)331 28 82 87 61
M: +49 (0)151 14 09 39 68

Von: goal-boun...@eprints.org<mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org> 
[mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org] Im Auftrag von Couture Marc
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 25. Mai 2016 19:46
An: Global Open Access List (Successor of AmSci)
Betreff: Re: [GOAL] CC-BY with copyright transfer - correction

Hi all,

Greg Tananbaum, from SPARC, informed me that there has been a change in 2014 in 
the  “Copyrights” criteria of “How open is it”, which now stress authors’ 
rights/permissions more than copyright ownership.

The original, 2013 version I discussed is the one available on SPARC own 
website; Greg told me this will soon be fixed. The version available on PLOS 
website should be the right one, 

The fact remains that the very notion of “author/publisher copyright ownership” 
should treated with much caution: as always, one must read the “small print”.

Marc Couture

De : goal-boun...@eprints.org<mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org> 
[mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org] De la part de Couture Marc
Envoyé : 24 mai 2016 08:50
À : Global Open Access List (Successor of AmSci)
Objet : Re: [GOAL] CC-BY with copyright transfer

Hi all,

I also agree that this is an important, but badly treated/understood issue.

For instance, in SPARC’s “How open is it” scale, author copyright ownership 
gives a minimum of 4 (over 5) for the “Copyrights” criterion, irrespective of 
possible restrictions that, as one sees, may amount in practice to no more 
rights than publisher ownership. Thus Elsevier’s exclusive licence gives them 
4/5 for this criterion.


In 2012, in my response to SPARC’s Request for Comments on a preliminary 
version of this guide, I had stressed this exact problem, explaining that the 
real issue was author control over usage, not copyright ownership per se. I 
don’t know if I was the only one to do so, but nothing was changed in the final 
version. This is the kind of situation that makes me believe that the issue is 
all but well understood.

Marc Couture

De : goal-boun...@eprints.org<mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org> 
[mailto:goal-boun...@eprints.org] De la part de Peter Murray-Rust
Envoyé : 24 mai 2016 04:38
À : Global Open Access List (Successor of AmSci)
Objet : Re: [GOAL] CC-BY with copyright transfer

I agree with Heather, this is unclear and needs checking. There is a difference 
between the author of a work and the owner. I would agree that it appears to be 
a deceptive practice. I have had similar problems "arguing" with Elsevier about 
text-and-datamining "licences" where the licences apparently give rights to 

I will try to get an informal opinion.

On Fri, May 20, 2016 at 6:18 PM, Heather Morrison 
<heather.morri...@uottawa.ca<mailto:heather.morri...@uottawa.ca>> wrote:
Elsevier's copyright page provides a very clear example of copyright transfer 
combined with CC licenses. Elsevier is not alone in this practice; I see this 
quite frequently while looking for APCS.

The Elsevier copyright page:

States under "for open access articles":
"Authors sign an exclusive license agreement, where authors have copyright but 
license exclusive rights in the article to the publisher. In this case authors 
have the right to share their articles in the same ways permitted to third 

This language makes it very clear that when Elsevier applies CC licenses, 
Elsevier (or one of its partners)  is the Licensor or copyright holder, even 
when there is a copyright statement indicating the author holds copyright.

I argue that this is a deceptive practice that I call author nomination 

This is important,  because CC licenses place obligations downstream for 
licensees, not Licensor. The copyright holder of a CC license has no obligation 
to continue to provide a copy of the work under the same terms in perpetuity 
(unless there is a separate contract).

To assess the extent of this practice one must examine journal/author 
contracts, not just visible indications, because even if an author is licensed 
CC-BY and indicates the author as copyright holder, it may actually be the 
publisher who owns all the rights under copyright.


Heather Morrison

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