But, as the previous post and a related post describe, the CC-BY license creates new problems for authors, because some for-profit publishers have begun aggregating CC-BY papers into high-priced edited books without the authors' knowledge. The authors I've discussed this with are quite upset. They trusted the journals to offer licensing arrangements that were in the authors' best interests, but now they feel that they have relinquished control of their scientific reputations. (Note that these weren't predatory publishers, but PLOS One and BioMed Central.)
Most of the discussions of open access licenses haven't considered the exploitation of these licenses by for-profit publishers, probably because this niche opened only very recently, once open-access papers became widely available. I and others discovered this problem by accident. I don't know how widespread it is, but I expect it will only grow. (I'd like to do a survey of its prevalence, but I can't figure out any way to distinguish between such repackaged books and traditional multi-author volumes without having to contact individual authors - any suggestions?)
But for-profit republication of open-access articles is a cost that most advocates of open access didn't anticipate and that most authors are unaware of. It's time for open-access advocates and especially publishers to take on the responsibility of informing authors of all the consequences, not just the good ones.
In some ways the ethical issues are like those of a clinical trial. Participation generates a public benefit (medical research) and may be directly beneficial to the participant (better medical care, access to new therapies). But the researchers directing a clinical trial are obliged to make sure that potential participants also understand the risks and costs. They can't assume that the participants have thought the implications through, but must spell these out in clear and simple language.
Similarly, advocates of open access need to honestly inform authors about the consequences of the CC-BY license. The onus shouldn't be on the authors to research the implications and consequences of different licenses, but on those with expert knowledge to communicate this to the authors.
So, two questions:
Should authors in open-access journals be allowed to choose between different CC licenses? Publishers agree that CC-BY is best for science, but authors may think it is not best for them. The major publishers don't give authors any choice, but I think they should.How should open-access journals inform authors about license consequences? This is particularly important when CC-BY is the only or default license. Most scientists I've talked to are unaware that the CC-BY licenses of their open-access papers allow commercial publishers to alter and republish their papers without consulting them. And they are very unhappy to learn that this is actually happening, often saying that they'll have to rethink their use of open-access.
Here's what the authors are told at present. Note the emphasis on benefits and no discussion of risks:
"Upon submitting an article, authors are asked to indicate their agreement to abide by an open access Creative Commons license (CC-BY). Under the terms of this license, authors retain ownership of the copyright of their articles. However, the license permits any user to download, print out, extract, reuse, archive, and distribute the article, so long as appropriate credit is given to the authors and the source of the work. The license ensures that the article will be available as widely as possible and that the article can be included in any scientific archive."
"You retain copyright, licensing the article under a Creative Commons license: This means that articles can be freely redistributed and reused as long as the article is correctly attributed. For example, a published article can be posted on a personal or institutional homepage, emailed to friends and colleagues, printed and sent to people, archived in a collection, distributed on CD-ROM, included in course-packs, quoted in the press, translated and further distributed as often and widely as possible. Read the full Creative Commons license."