Submission on Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

Here is my submission to the consultation on the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy
(…if you have been thinking of sending one in, note they are due today!)

Submission of Prof. Samuel E. Trosow on Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

Please accept this note as a submission in support of the Draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy. I am an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario holding a joint appointment in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and in the Faculty of Law. I am also a Principal Network Investigator and Theme Leader for the Graphics, Animation and New Media (GRAND) NCE and I have previously acted as a Principal Investigator on two SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis Grants and as a collaborating investigator on others.

I am writing in my personal capacity to express my strong and enthusiastic support for the proposed Open Access Policy. This is an issue that is very central to my research, to my teaching and also to my external professional and scholarly activities. The main focus of my research over the past few years has been information policy issues, and particularly those relating to copyright and access in the digital environment.

Besides expressing my strong support for the principles articulated in the Preamble and Policy Objective sections, I would like to add a few suggestions which I think would improve the resulting policy and its effective implementation:

1) Grant recipients who choose to publish their work in a qualifying journal (Option #1) should also deposit the manuscript in an open institutional or discipline-based repository (as per Option #2).

Such duplication is useful for several reasons. The additional deposit guarantees long term accessibility regardless of what happens with the journal. It is possible that an open access journal may change its policies, cease publication, or undergo other transitions that could compromise the accessibility of its content. Simultaneous deposit poses no substantial burden on the grant recipient, their institution or the selected journal. The same embargo terms and conditions would apply to the archived copy as apply to the journal version, and there would be appropriate citation to the journal.

This additional requirement would also enhance the searching ability for researchers looking for works in particular disciplines or by authors at particular institutions.

2) The embargo period should be shortened.

Consideration should be given to shortening the initial embargo period to six months rather than a full year. And the policy should thereafter be systematically reviewed with the ultimate goal of eliminating the embargo period entirely. The embargo period should be viewed as a barrier to access, and this problem could be substantial in a field where changes are fast-paced. A phase-out period will give those journals that need it time to adapt to the new environment.

3) More emphasis should be placed on encouraging author retention of copyright.

While the guidelines cannot be expected to fully mandate issues of copyright allocation, more encouragement could be given authors to retain the copyright in their works. In order to publish an author’s work, journals need permission, but they do not need a full and outright transfer of all rights as is still often demanded. Authors can certainly comply with the requirements of the policy by inserting clauses necessary for compliance (as for example the SPARC addendum or similar language). But in the long run it would make more sense to encourage author retention as much as possible. Journals need to have the permissions necessary to publish the article, but they do not need to be accumulating transferable intellectual property assets.

A clear statement that in addition to compliance with the required guidelines, authors are encouraged to retain their copyright (and that journals are encouraged to facilitate this arrangement) would help authors in their negotiations with publishers for better contract terms and would enhance access in the long run.

4) It should be clarified that access restrictions imposed during the embargo period are subject to users rights under the Copyright Act

One of the problems that might arise during the embargo period is the status of users’ rights to access works such as fair dealing. During this period where there is not full public access to all works in the repository, it should be clarified that users’ fair dealing rights are not vitiated. Such a statement would assist providers of, for example, Interlibrary Loan services in interpreting their obligations with respect to patron requests that are still under embargo but are part of the library’s collection.

Under current Canadian Copyright law, fair dealing is available for certain enumerated purposes (research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review and news reporting) and Canadian courts have characterized these provisions as “users’ rights”. The actual details of implementation are something that will need further consideration, but at the very least the general principal could be stated in the policy. This would become less of an issue as the embargo period is shortened and would become moot once they are eliminated.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer feedback on this important initiative.

Dr. Samuel E. Trosow,
Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario
Faculty of Information & Media Studies and Faculty of Law