The implications of the new UK Open Access policies on the ownership of copyright in academic publishing
The issue of who owns the copyright in works produced by academics during employment is not new. The practice is that academics, as authors - copyright creators, are routinely assigning the copyright for free to academic publishers in order to have their works published even though the production of such works might be said to be in the course of employment and therefore the copyright belonging to the employer (the university). A literature review will show only one side of the coin where - unsurprisingly – intellectual property (IP) scholars agree that they own the copyright in the works published during employment. The other side of the coin is not usually discovered because employers are not IP experts and are not in the business of writing academic articles. However, the general belief of the management is that the universities own the copyright as employers. More recently, UK universities have to comply with new Open Access policies which basically requires that publicly-funded research should be freely accessible. The Gold Open Access model is preferred by many academic publishers whose business model relies on academics (actually their funders) paying article processing charges (APCs) while the Green Open Access model is preferred by the universities as being virtually free of any charges. But since most of the research is publicly-funded, suddenly the issue of who owns the copyright in works produced by academics during employment becomes a very stringent one, not to mention expensive. This paper will discuss the problem of copyright ownership in academia and how the new Open Access policies might affect it. While it is possible to discuss copyright without mentioning Open Access, it would be quite difficult to discuss Open Access without mentioning copyright. A possible solution will be proposed and discussed in order to help universities comply with the new policies by using their preferred Green Open Access route.
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