Tag Archives: Access to research

Fear, Friction and the Fastest Moving Treaty – Copyright for Libraries in 2018

Copyright and libraries in 2018

At the beginning of the year, we posted about copyright for libraries in 2018, looking into ongoing and upcoming copyright reforms in order to prepare our 2018 advocacy efforts. There were areas of promise, with helpful draft legislation on the table in countries such as South Africa or Japan. But there were also concerns, with trends towards placing greater limitations on uses of works by libraries in the digital world (read this post on trends in 2018).

We’ll open 2019 with two more blog posts: one similar to the overview on copyright for libraries in 2018, and one on trends for the upcoming year. But today, we close the current year, looking back at how far we’ve got in 2018.


Fear: Uncertainties Drive Increasingly Passionate Positions in Copyright Debates

2018 has been marked by continued intensification of discussions around copyright. Much of this is down to the development of new possibilities – and uncertainties – created by changing means of creating, accessing and sharing works.

For example, while photocopying is still key for access to information in many places, in others it is increasingly irrelevant. In its place, the value of data about how – and to what extent – works are used has encouraged greater tracking of behaviour.

These have combined with the unique nature of copyright, according to which any original work is protected, without any requirement for registration, for a very significant period of time, to create instabilities.

As a result, existing businesses have been forced to reposition themselves, and reallocate resources. Those who do not move risk becoming obsolete and disappearing. It is understandable that there is a desire to buy time in order to make the necessary changes.

However, this has also led to efforts to impose strict controls, often justified by the concern that a single copy of a work ‘in the wild’ could spell the end of a market. Efforts to promote individual user authentication to access scientific works, as well as questionable applications of blockchain could have some impact on piracy, but at significant cost to privacy and other use rights.

There are also a growing number of businesses looking at the potential of blockchain for copyrighted works, which raises important questions about user privacy, as well as the protection of exceptions and limitations to copyright.


Friction: The Changing Environment for Library Advocacy Around Copyright

There has also been a crucial change in the lobbying and advocacy environment. Whereas previously libraries and other groups representing users were very much at the front of copyright debates in favour of exceptions and limitations, there are now highly profitable internet platforms leading the charge.

This has often left libraries stuck in the middle, between these new platforms, and more established companies in the publishing or music sectors. To escape from this trap, they have had to invest more time in fighting against myths and unfair accusations, often centred around the idea that they are working to protect the interests of major internet platforms.

They have had to offer reminders, time and time again, of their contribution to innovation and creativity through democratic access to information, as well of course through the billions they spend on content. Too often, they have had to face personal attacks.

Recent research in Europe, fortunately, has started to throw light on deliberate efforts to use association with tech companies to weaken the arguments of libraries and others working for the interests of users. They have also shown the far greater lobbying efforts made by those who wish to restrict access.

Thanks to the efforts of engaged librarians giving their time to advocate for libraries, copyright legislation which will enable libraries to fulfil their missions in a digital age is nonetheless advancing in many countries. Their perseverance in these passionate struggles has been key to achieving progress.


The Fastest-Moving Treaty: The Impact of Marrakesh

A high point of the year is certainly the progress towards universal implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty. This looks to facilitate access to books and other documents for people with print disabilities. With 48 countries having completed the process to become full members (including the European Union as a single signatory),  it has become the fastest-ratifying Treaty in WIPO’s history.

Crucially, Marrakesh shows the impact that an international instrument (on exceptions and limitations to copyright) can have on copyright legislation worldwide, as the only way to ensure cross-border collaboration, which is more and more needed and technologically possible in the digital world.

Worryingly, however, there are signs of efforts to spread untruths about what the Treaty says, which risk seriously restricting the impact that it will have at the national level. IFLA has therefore published a monitoring report from countries which have ratified the Treaty (or are in the process of doing so), and how (or whether) they have adapted their national laws. The overview is available on the IFLA website, and updates will be published regularly.

IFLA has also released “Getting Started”, a guide for librarians in countries where the Treaty has been implemented, helping them to make full use of its provisions. There is considerable hope that good laws and good implementation, as well as efforts to promote accessible publishing in the first place, will lead to real improvements for people with print disabilities.

What has happened since January 2018: legislative changes


Nigeria – The Nigerian copyright bill was approved by the Cabinet. We are still waiting for details on what it contains.

South Africa – After years of discussion, the South African copyright amendment Bill was adopted by the South African National Assembly on 5 November. The process is not completely over, as the Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence, which is likely to happen early 2019. More information is available in this blog post.

Kenya – The Copyright Amendment Bill was introduced in 2017. It contains provisions towards the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, provisions on the regulation of collective management organisations, fair dealing for the purposes of scientific research, private use, criticism or review of the reporting of current events, quotation, incidental inclusions, and an exception for the reproduction of works in libraries and archives, among others. It was subject to a vote in the Senate in October – we will provide further information when available.

Lesotho – A copyright law review was launched which should lead to the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Zimbabwe – Parliament ratified the Marrakesh Treaty in January 2018.


Australia – A new copyright bill was passed at the end of June to extend safe harbour provisions to libraries and archives. These limit the damages that online service providers pay when their clients use their services to infringe copyright, as long as the service providers take steps to remove content that they know is infringing. Previously – ironically – safe harbour had only been available for commercial ISPs in Australia, not to others who provide the same services. Those left out included libraries and archives, universities, schools, and online platforms (e.g. local versions of YouTube, Facebook etc), which are now covered. For more information, check the ALCC’s press release.

Furthermore, the Government called for submissions on the Copyright Modernisation Bill. This time the government consulted on a few specific aspects of Australia’s copyright regime. The Government sought to understand whether there is general support for several provisions, namely flexible exceptions to copyright, access to orphan works and contracting out of copyright exceptions. More information is available here, together with all submissions sent. IFLA’s is available here and ALCC’s is here.

Taiwan – Taiwan, which already has a fair use provision in its law, has made a small amendment which will make it clear that fair use exists independently of additional, statutory exceptions to copyright.

Japan – A new copyright law has been adopted, allowing for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty implemented.

Thailand – The King of Thailand has approved the necessary laws for the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.

New Zealand – An issues paper was issued on a planned copyright reform, with submissions welcome until 5 April 2019. There will be separate legislation to allow New Zealand to ratify Marrakesh. The paper is very comprehensive, with a full section on libraries, and covers many other relevant issues. There is acknowledgement that introducing fair use could be a result of the consultation, but at this stage the paper requests a focus on how the current Act is functioning.

Singapore – There was a first public consultation in October 2016 with 16 proposals, including an expiry date for copyright protection of unpublished works, use of orphan works, educational exceptions to reflect digital education, facilitating the work of libraries and archives, museums and galleries, provisions for print-disabled users, among others. A second consultation took place in May 2017. A White Paper is due in the first months of 2019.


EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market – Discussions around the proposal for a Directive in the Digital Single Market are still ongoing, now between the three institutions involved: the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the Parliament. They are hoping that an agreement will be reached early next year. Member states will then have a period – likely just one year – to adapt their national laws. There are currently positive provisions for cultural heritage and research institutions (text and data mining, preservation, digital education, out of commerce works), but also worrying articles that might hamper access to information.

EU Directive and Regulation on Marrakesh – After the entry into force of the EU Directive and Regulation the instrument of ratification was deposited at WIPO, and several member states have transposed the Directive. See the Marrakesh overview for more information.

United Kingdom – The official start-date for e-PLR in the UK was the 1 July. The official government press release is available here.

Denmark – Denmark was the first country where PLR was paid based on eBooks & digital audio books.

Ireland – A draft bill was published in June 2018. This includes proposals to “allow libraries, archives and educational institutions to make copies of work in their collections for the purposes of preservation and inclusion in catalogues for exhibitions; extend existing copyright exemptions to: (i) promote not for profit research, including by introducing a text and data mining exception; (ii) widen the scope of the fair dealing exemption in the context of news reporting; and (iii) allow the creation of a voluntary digital deposit of books”. It is currently in discussion in committee (source).

Switzerland – A copyright working group reached an agreement in various issues related to the modernisation of copyright law in March 2017, and this has been discussed in committee in the Federal Parliament. It contains provisions relating to orphan works, cataloguing, extended collective licensing, research exceptions, and will allow for the implementation of the Beijing and the Marrakesh treaties. Proposals to introduce public lending right, as well as a right for researchers to publish their own works open access (regardless of contracts signed), and steps to make it possible to identify the IP addresses of people suspected of piracy were rejected.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Mexico – The Mexican Senate passed changes to copyright law that would allow for content to be taken offline even if there are only suspicions of infringement (i.e. without proof). More information is available at the Creative Commons webpage.

Colombia – The changes from the recent copyright reform were adopted. Some of the most relevant points for libraries: an orphan works provision, based on a mandatory search; a lending exception (with no explicit reference to digital lending, which does not necessarily exclude it). There are some negative additions, such as an extension of the term of protection (from 50 to 70). The Marrakesh provisions will be adopted through another reform.


Libraries and others have been active in setting out what changes they would like to see in the law. There has been a particular focus on taking the necessary steps to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.

North America

Canada – The Canadian Parliament continues to carry out its review of the country’s copyright laws, taking evidence from different sides of the debate. Libraries are arguing for the current fair dealing provisions to be safeguarded, as well as engaging in discussions around copyright and indigenous knowledge, technological protection measures, and contract override. In parallel, legal processes involving Canadian universities, education ministries and the reprographic rights collecting society Access Copyright continue, as does a review of how copyright royalties are defined. You can read more on the pages of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations. Results of the review are expected towards the middle of next year, and will inform policy choices made by whoever wins the elections due in October 2019.

United States – there was welcome progress on Marrakesh with Presidential sign-off for legislation ensuring that the Treaty can be implemented nationally. Further reforms considered questions about the situations in which technological protection measures can be removed (positive), and whether the Register of Copyrights should be a presidential appointment or left up to the Library of Congress.

1 Day to Human Rights Day: Bringing Rights Together

Image for Human Rights Day -1In the last of our series of blogs in the run up to Human Rights Day, we’re looking at situations where different human rights risk being in tension with each other. We argue that in a number of key areas of potential clash, the work, professionalism and ethics of librarians offer a valuable response. 

Over the last week, our blogs have looked at just some of the different ideas contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will turn 70 tomorrow.

They are ideals – and indeed should be, as no country or society should ever feel like they have fully implemented the Declaration, and can now relax. Defending and promoting these rights is a constant effort, not least for libraries.

A complicating factor in this work is the fact that rights can, sometimes, collide. Because it is possible that one individual’s exercise of freedom can restrict that of someone else.

The Declaration, in its Article 29b, recognises this risk: ‘In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others’.

At the same time, it warns that no part of the Declaration ‘may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein’.

There is clearly a tension, and not necessarily an easy one to manage. These tensions also exist in the work of libraries, requiring careful judgement and attention.

As the last in our set of blogs in the run-up to Human Rights Day, this post will look at three examples of where achieving the best result requires balance, and how libraries – uniquely – can help provide this.


Access to Information vs Privacy: the Right to be Forgotten

Libraries have long had a mission to collect material about the world today – newspapers, magazines, books and other documents. They then make this available to users in order to support research and understanding about the present and past.

Such materials have always contained information about people, from simple factual data to information about political views and personal characteristics. The fact that such materials place limits on the right to privacy has been generally accepted, given the contribution made to research and learning, and the fact that researchers needed to visit a library to read them.

With the coming of the internet, far more information is available, from a growing number of websites (of which only a very small share belongs to libraries), more quickly and easily than ever before. This makes it more difficult for past mistakes to be ‘forgotten’.

Following a case brought to a Spanish court, the Court of Justice of the European Union therefore developed the concept of a ‘right to be forgotten’, or at least a right to be delisted from search results. Meanwhile, the General Data Protection Regulation has strengthened the ‘right to erasure’ – the right of individuals to ask that information about them be deleted.

This brings into focus a first clash of rights – between the right to a private life (Article 12), and the right of access to information (Article 19).

For libraries, this is a relevant question. Citing Article 12 in its Statement on the subject, IFLA has acknowledged that some information may be unfairly damaging, where it is ‘untrue, where it is available illegitimately or illegally, where it is too personally sensitive or where it is prejudicially no longer relevant, among other possibilities’.

However, it has also underlined that the possibility to limit access to – or erase parts of – the historical record need to be the exception, not the rule. Such provisions can too easily be used to hide information that can support decision-making, or whitewash reputations. Any restrictions implemented therefore need to be transparent, managed by the courts rather than private actors.

This is not to say that libraries themselves do not have a role to play in this. They can ensure that access to information is provided in a way that is respectful of the interests of the subject, as well as of the reader. This provides a more nuanced way of managing this tension, as well as leaving space for future generations to make their own judgements.

In this, the approach is similar to that with access to indigenous cultural expression, where applying professional ethics to questions of whether, and how, to give access to works represents a much more nuanced way of achieving goals than laws.


Freedom of Expression vs Freedom from Discrimination

The response to hate speech is a frequent subject of discussion in the media.

It is clear that there have always been voices promoting the rejection of the other. The internet has, however, made it easier for such voices to spread, strengthening their power.

There are legitimate fears about the links between hate speech and harm to the groups targeted. Indeed, Article 7 underlines that ‘All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination’.

At the same time, there is also the right to free expression set out in Article 19 of the Declaration, a key principle for the work of libraries and others. This speaks in favour of keeping restrictions on speech to the absolute minimum necessary.

It is clear that judgements about where unpleasant speech becomes dangerous will vary. Neither banning all disagreeable speech (disagreeable to whom?), nor taking no steps to stop efforts to promote violence, are desirable.

Once again, there is a potential clash. How can we find the balance between the two rights?

Again, this is not a new issue. There are many laws which look to establish where the line between unpleasant and dangerous speech lies. Such laws should be clear and transparent, and of course proportionate in the limits they place on free speech.

A recent trend is the growing pressure on major internet companies to do more to prevent the spread of dangerous messages. Some are already acting to downgrade search results, or to slow the spread of this content.

However, this does imply leaving key decisions to private companies, with all the issues around transparency and oversight that this implies.

Meanwhile, libraries also have something to add to this discussion. Through their professionalism, and their ethics, they can make valuable judgements made about the way in which access is offered. For example, texts which do clearly incite discrimination and violence may not be suitable for pubic consultation, but could rather be restricted only to researchers.

At the same time, librarians may also need to defend books which others try to remove for a variety of reasons, in order to ensure that collections serve all of the community, not just the most vocal. Courage and careful reflection are both needed.


Cultural and Scientific Participation vs Creators’ Rights

Finally, there is the ongoing question of how to balance the right of everyone to participate in cultural life and benefit from scientific progress (Article 27a), and the right of creators to the moral and materials interests resulting from their work (Article 27b).

While the Universal Declaration does not make intellectual property rights a human right, it does provide a basis for this. What is certain is that an industry has developed around copyright, which provides a revenue to creators (although questions remain about how effectively it achieves this).

Meanwhile, there is the right to participate in cultural life. For those without the disposable income to buy books, or other cultural goods and services, there is a risk of being left out. For them, access needs to be free for it to be effective.

Once again, there is a tension – how to ensure that everyone can have access to culture and the results of research and innovation without limiting the revenues of creator?

Clearly, the work of libraries is only part of the picture here. The fairness of the distribution of revenues to creators is likely a bigger issue. And of course for scientific articles, the author is rarely paid at all, living rather off their institutional salary.

It is nonetheless true that, once libraries have bought works, they do then lend them out. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that they reduce sales, but rather signs that they promote the discovery of new writers, as well as acting more generally to strengthen reading culture.

In this way, and as part of a broader cultural and research policy which ensures that authors themselves are primary beneficiaries (in line with Article 27b), libraries can also help resolve any potential conflict of rights here.


Guaranteeing human rights is not a simple task. This is both because of resistance from those who do not believe in them, but also because they do not always sit easily together.

Finding balance, as the Universal Declaration suggests, must be done carefully and proportionately, ensuring that any restrictions are as limited as possible.

Given that laws risk being a blunt instrument, and private solutions can lack legitimacy, the potential of libraries to find this middle way, at least in the examples given in this blog, should not be ignored.

Latest trends in open access: looking back at OpenCon

The Open Access movement is not standing still. Alongside the successes, there are also major questions and even concerns about inclusion, sustainability and whether it is achieving its original goals. OpenCon may not provide the answers, but provides an excellent opportunity to share ideas and hear new ones, and explore potential ways forwards.

The conference is held annually, organised by SPARC, and looks at open access, open science and open education. It is the only conference of its kind, gathering a small number of selected early career researchers, NGOs and government officials, as well as other actors involved from all over the world. This year’s OpenCon took place in Toronto from 2 to 4 November, and once again, it was an unforgettable experience.

Everything is set up in a way that makes every participant chat at least once with every one of the other participants. Panels take place in between story circles, do-a-thons, unconferences and regional workshops in which the audience takes over. This is what makes it so unique: a conference made, to a large extent, by its participants.

Given that it is difficult to summarise what happened at OpenCon altogether, here is a recap of some projects and topics that were discussed during the conference:

The panel on diversity, equity and inclusion in open research and education

This is one of the most-favoured panels in OpenCon, which goes back to its very essence. It is based on the fact that “while the Open Access, Open Data, and Open Education movements often lean on rhetoric around social justice, equity, and the democratization of knowledge, in many ways, the movements continue to marginalize underrepresented scholars and students. Mainstream efforts to advance Open centre digital solutions and dominant (often Western) ways of knowing”.

Panellists Jasmeen Patheja (Founder/ Director of Blank Noise), Leslie Chan (Associate Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough), Denisse Alboronoz (The Knowledge GAP, University of Toronto Scarboorugh) and Alexis C. (Pineapple Laboratories) introduced different perspectives and projects, that are all impacted by a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion or that could benefit from it. All panellists underlined the opportunity that the open access movement has to make change happen through knowledge sharing.

Denisse for instance talked about what it could mean to re-imagine open science from a feminist perspective, which she has been exploring at OCSD.net. Leslie looked into the global north and how institutions there could ensure that the open access movement fosters inclusion, diversity and equity.

Presentations are available online (see this video, starting on minute 48).

IFLA’s research on International Governmental Organisations

IFLA used this opportunity to share its recent research on the topic of open access in intergovernmental organisations. As already presented at the Creative Commons summit, while much of the discussion around open access focuses on scientific research, free and meaningful access to reports and data produced by public bodies is an important part of the picture. In the case of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) in particular, there are four main benefits from open access to the works they produce: greater transparency around decision-making; support for research, jobs and growth; the moral justice of the public being able to access works for which they have paid; and the example set to national governments.

Some IGOs, such as UNESCO or the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), have been leading the way with open policies. However, there are still many IGOs whose policies are far from being open.

IFLA will soon release a statement on the topic and make the background research available on a user-friendly platform.

The OpenAccess button and copyright librarians

OpenCon was attended by many “copyright librarians”, or librarians whose position within the university involves dealing and giving advice on copyright to library users, faculty staff and researchers. They all insisted on the importance that copyright plays in the library, the amount of request for advice they receive, and the lack of trained staff on the matter.

One of the key things in their role is to guide researchers throughout the publication process, and encouraging the deposit of a pre- or post-print on the library’s repository for it to be available to other researchers. Natalia Norori and Joe McArthur have been working on a project in the framework of the open access button that seeks to make this easier for researchers. The discussion started through a do-a-thon that tried to answer the question “self-archiving and copyright: How might we help researchers be more conscious of what versions of their work they can/can’t share online?”. More information is available on the github page.

OpenCon satellite events

Every year, SPARC also offers support to people who wish to organise meetings on open access, open science and open education in their regions. Previous editions of OpenCon have gathered people willing to do so from Latin America, a group that has successfully organised two OpenCon “Latam” satellites both in Mexico (2017) and in Argentina (2018).

Another successful OpenCon satellite was celebrated in the United Nations Headquarters in New York on October 2018. The UN Headquarters library brought the discussion on open access, open science, open data and open educational resources to the UN. The event was co-hosted by SPARC, and was attended mainly by librarians and higher UN officials. Panellists highlighted on the contribution that open access can bring to the achievement to the Sustainable Development Goals. Part 1, part 2 and part 3 of the session can be watched on the UN Web TV webpage.

Next Generation Leadership Award

The next generation leadership award is given each year to a person who helped advance significantly open access, open science or open education in its country, region or internationally. This year’s award went to Diego Gómez, a biologist who faced criminal charges for sharing an article. Fundación Karisma, who offered him support throughout the trial and spread the word internationally, collected the award. More information is available in Karisma Foundation’s webpage.

Several other projects: the Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Educators

OpenCon is also a gold mine of information on local initiatives with great impact. One good example is the Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Educators, a project initiated by Jamshid Hashimi that aims at using OER to foster education in Afghanistan. It “is a repository of open educational resources for teachers, teacher trainers, school administrators, literacy workers and others involved in furthering education in Afghanistan. These open source resources include lesson plans, pedagogical tools, exercises, experiments, reading texts, work books, curricula and other resources for use in Afghan classrooms”.


OpenCon means going back home with more questions than answers, which is also a sign of a healthy movement that questions its own foundations. Participants want to ensure that the open movement does not end up creating the same burdens that triggered it, that it benefits every region in the world equally, and that it is sustainable in the long-term.

And if you weren’t there, you haven’t necessarily missed it – the main sessions are available on their YouTube page (see for day 1, day 2 and day 3).

Open access as a first step for open science

Open Access and Open Science

By David Ramírez-Ordóñez

[The Spanish version of the post is available here]

Having access to research results is a very good first step of a much longer path. Framing open access in its general context is almost like the end of a chain that derives from the green route (the self-archiving) and the golden route (the publication in Open Access journals), but it is worth starting to go through the chain backwards.

The big picture

In this graphic you can understand the taxonomy of open science.

Along with open access are:

  • Open data
  • Reproducible open science
  • Open evaluation
  • Open policies
  • Open tools

Offer access to the “source code”

A simple way to interpret this big picture is through the idea of offering the source code. Among software developers, a program has two parts: 1) its source code, which allows modifications and in turn generates 2) the “executable”, which is the program running.

If we take the idea of source code to the example of a word processor, one could say that a pdf document is the “executable”, the result of the writing, and its source code is the word file that generated it. Those who have tried to modify a pdf will know that it is much easier to modify it if you have access to the Word file that produced it.

This is why I like to think that those who, besides opening the result of an investigation through open access, offer access to the “source code” of their research, are like the neighbour who puts flowers on his balcony: it helps to beautify the neighbourhood. It will help researchers in their field of knowledge have more to advance their research.

Other forms of source code: the data

If the research has data, it is very common to see articles or books with graphics. Following the metaphor of opening the source code for the data, we would have to give access not only to the graphics under open licenses, which would be the “executables” in our software example. The tables with the data, for example an Excel file, would be the equivalent to the source code.

With this data file we could not only generate the same graphics found in the article or book published in open access. We would also have the possibility of making other graphs based on the same data, doing different analyses or even mixing different types of data to obtain new results.

Publishing data is a way to start with open data, another component of open science.

Tools and reproducible science

In my last two examples, the pdf file and the document in Word and the graph and the data in the Excel file, I used as an example two very popular tools, but they are not free tools. Although we have become accustomed to using them for their popularity, we must pay a license for their use. There are multiple options in free software to avoid a paywall.

Libre Office for example has Writer, which is the equivalent of Word, and Calc is the equivalent to Excel. If we apply the metaphor of giving access to the source code, but this time on the tools, the result is not only to mention with which tool we create the article, but to allow anyone to download these tools and use them.

In this way, open tools and reproducible science are being covered. When you give others the possibility to replicate your experiments and measurements and do the same, you help science advance faster.

The role of librarians in open science

One of the principles of open access is access to scientific publications without technological, legal or economic barriers. If we start to expand this principle to open science we are promoting not only access to information, but also the development of informational capabilities. If we expand it a little bit more, what we are defending is the Human Right of access to information and freedom of thought without technological, legal or economic barriers.

Additionally, supporting open science ensures more and better opportunities to guarantee digital preservation: how many of us can access digital files produced in software that are no longer available in the market? If only 20 years ago we used floppy disks, how will we be able to access the information produced today in 20 years? Will we have the ability to access and reproduce these documents without legal or economic barriers?

This text was written in Ghostwriter using markdown to export it to html, the format in which you will surely be reading this article. The source code can be downloaded in this link and this work is in the public domain since its creation. Although it is not a scientific article, I believe that the principles of open access and open science can be applied to other types of information. It’s my way of putting flowers on my balcony.

Extra: Meanwhile, in Latin America

In Panama (October 22 to 24 – 2018), many people from civil society were working in the Panama Declaration on Open Science -document in Spanish- and librarians from Colombia, Argentina and El Salvador were involved to promote not just Open Access but also Open Science. Maybe you can replicate this with your library association.

El acceso abierto como primer paso para la ciencia abierta

Acceso Abierto y Ciencia Abierta

Por David Ramírez-Ordóñez

[la versión inglesa del post está disponible aquí]

Tener acceso a los resultados de investigación es un muy buen primer paso de un camino mucho más largo. Enmarcando al acceso abierto en su contexto general, se encuentra casi como el final de una cadena que deriva en la ruta verde (el auto archivo) y la ruta dorada (la publicación), pero vale la pena empezar a recorrer la cadena hacia atrás.

El panorama general

En este gráfico se puede entender la taxonomía de la ciencia abierta.

Junto con el acceso abierto se encuentran:

  • Datos abiertos
  • Ciencia abierta reproducible
  • Evaluación abiertas
  • Políticas abiertas
  • Herramientas abiertas

Ofrecer acceso al “código fuente”

Una forma sencilla de interpretar este panorama general es la idea de ofrecer el código fuente. Entre los desarrolladores de software, un programa tiene dos partes: 1) su código fuente, que permite modificaciones y a su vez es el que genera 2) el ejecutable, que es el programa funcionando.

Si llevamos la idea de código fuente a los procesadores de texto, podría decirse que un documento en pdf es el ejecutable, el resultado de la escritura y su código fuente es el archivo en Word que lo generó. Quienes han intentado modificar un pdf sabrán que es mucho más sencillo modificarlo si tienes acceso al archivo en Word que lo produjo.

Es por esto que me gusta pensar que quien además de abrir el resultado de una investigación mediante el acceso abierto ofrece acceso al “código fuente” de su investigación es como el vecino que pone flores en su balcón: ayuda a embellecer su vecindario. Ayudará a que los investigadores de su campo del conocimiento tengan más para avanzar en sus investigaciones.

Otras formas de código fuente: los datos

Si la investigación tiene datos, es muy común ver artículos o libros con gráficos. Siguiendo la metáfora de abrir el código fuente para los datos, habría que dar acceso no sólo al gráfico bajo licencias abiertas, que serían los “ejecutables” en nuestro ejemplo del software. Las tablas con los datos, por ejemplo un archivo en Excel, sería el equivalente al código fuente.

Con ese archivo de datos no sólo podríamos generar el mismo gráfico que se encuentra en el artículo o libro publicado en acceso abierto. También tenemos la posibilidad de hacer otros gráficos basados en esos mismos datos, hacer análisis diferentes o incluso mezclar diferentes tipos de datos para obtener nuevos resultados.

Publicar los datos es un camino para empezar con los datos abiertos, otro componente de la ciencia abierta.

Las herramientas y la ciencia reproducible

En mis dos ejemplos pasados, en del archivo en pdf y su documento en Word y en el de un gráfico y los datos en Excel usé como ejemplo dos herramientas muy populares, pero que no son libres. Si bien nos hemos acostumbrado a usarlas por su popularidad, para emplearlas debemos pagar una licencia por su uso. La verdad es que hay múltiples opciones en el software libre.

Libre Office por ejemplo tiene Writer, que es el equivalente a Word y Calc que es el equivalente a Excel. Si aplicamos la metáfora de dar acceso al código fuente, pero esta vez sobre las herramientas el resultado es no sólo mencionar con qué herramienta se construyó el artículo publicado en abierto, sino permitir que cualquier persona pueda descargarse estas herramientas y usarlas.

De esta forma se está abarcando las herramientas abiertas y además la ciencia reproducible. Dar todas las condiciones para que otros repliquen tus experimentos y mediciones y que estos a su vez publiquen los resultados de sus investigaciones de la misma forma hace que la ciencia avance más rápido.

El papel de los bibliotecarios en la ciencia abierta

Uno de los principios del acceso abierto es el acceso a las publicaciones científicas sin barreras tecnológicas, legales o económicas. Si empezamos a expandir este principio a la ciencia abierta estamos promoviendo no sólo el acceso a la información, sino el desarrollo de capacidades informacionales. Si lo expandimos un poco más realmente lo que estamos defendiendo es el Derecho humano de acceso a la información y a la libertad de pensamiento sin barreras tecnológicas, legales o económicas.

Adicionalmente el apoyar la ciencia abierta asegura más y mejores oportunidades para garantizar la preservación digital: ¿Cuántos de nosotros podemos acceder a archivos digitales producidos en software que ya no está disponible en el mercado? Si apenas hace 20 años usábamos disquetes ¿Cómo podremos acceder en 20 años a la información producida hoy? ¿Tendremos la capacidad de acceder y reproducir estos documentos sin las barreras legales y económicas?

Este texto fue escrito en Ghostwriter usando markdown para exportarlo a html, el formato en el que seguramente estarás leyendo este artículo. El código fuente puede descargarse en este enlace y está obra está en dominio público desde su creación. Si bien no es un artículo científico, creo que los principios del acceso abierto y la ciencia abierta pueden aplicarse a otro tipo de información. Es mi manera de poner flores en mi balcón.

Extra: Mientras tanto, en Latinoamerica

En Panama (Octubre 22 a 24 – 2018), muchas personas de la sociedad civil estuvieron trabajando en la Declaración de Panamá sobre Ciencia Abierta y bibliotecarios de Colombia, Argentina y El Salvador estuvieron involucrados para promover no sólo el Acceso Abierto, sino la Ciencia Abierta. De pronto podrías replicar esto con tu asociación bibliotecaria.

Reaching Further: Open Access and Public Libraries

Open Access and Public Libraries

Discussions around open access are often dominated by academic librarians and publishers. But given that open access is supposed to make research available for all, and that it is not only students and researchers attached to an institution who may need access, public libraries could have an important role to play. This blog sets out the arguments, and some examples.

Discussion around open access tends to be intense, but limited to a relatively limited group of publishers, researchers, research funders and librarians. It only rarely enters into the broader public debate, for example through George Monbiot’s article of 13 September this year The Guardian.

This is does make some sense – the people most likely to make use of academic articles currently are based in research institutions. They clearly do benefit from an alternative to the rising prices of subscriptions, although arguments continue around how to finance scholarly communications otherwise.

However, it also implies that the main potential beneficiaries – people outside of academic institutions who are highly unlikely to be able to afford subscriptions or individual article charges that can go up to €50 for a single paper – are not getting involved.

The Potential of Public Libraries

One means of ensuring that the impact of open access is felt as widely as possible, and so its benefits are widely realised, is through work with public libraries.

Unlike academic libraries, public libraries usually have a clear mandate to be open to everyone. They have a crucial role in ensuring that everyone can get access to the information they need to learn, and take decisions.

There is no reason why an ordinary person will not want to be able to access scientific information.

Prospective entrepreneurs wanting to develop a business concept, people suffering from medical conditions, those with a personal interest in local history or nature, researchers working for non-governmental organisations and former students with a continued interest in their subject – all may rely on their public library to access articles and books. Citizen science initiatives in particular can bring ‘ordinary’ people in contact with scientific literature.

Clearly public library budgets cannot support the cost of academic journal subscriptions, making open access essential. But they can, once access is assured, invest effort in supporting discovery and use of these materials. Given the wealth of materials available – and well-documented fears around deceptive journals – these skills are indispensable.

It’s Already Happening!

There are already good examples of public libraries using these possibilities. Toronto Public Library has focused on raising awareness of the availability of open access materials, and offers direct support to researchers who are not affiliated to an institution.

They work closely with the University of Guelph to bridge the gap between public and academic libraries, and encourage more people to access, and get involved in scholarship.

In the Netherlands, the Plusbibliotheken (Plus Libraries) network aims to ensure that the public are able to access academic-level literature. This covers a number of areas, from traditional science to heritage and music, and responds to public demand.

Their strategy recognises what open access brings to this work, and indeed they have organised training sessions on how to search for open access publications.

Elsewhere, there have been efforts to give access to subscription journals through partnerships between academic and public libraries. In Switzerland, where university libraries double up as public libraries, open access is helping overcome challenges around how to give access to walk-in users. Deals have also been struck to ensure that public library users can access academic works, for example through RERO.


Clearly, these are only limited examples, but offer an important example both of helping open access realise one of its key original goals, and using the specific skills and potential of libraries to make this happen.

Of Nuts and Sledgehammers: Why MEPs Should Choose their Tools Wisely in Copyright Reform

Graphic for sledgehammers and nutsThe European Parliament’s vote on the draft copyright directive next Wednesday is likely to be the last chance for transparent discussion on the substance of a reform that has been years in the making. It is also a last chance for libraries to reach out to and influence Members of the European Parliament.

A key message will be that European law-makers must choose wisely, and ensure that they are creating rules that are targeted, proportionate, and respect the public interest.

The Draft Copyright Directive

The last wide-ranging piece of EU copyright legislation dates to 2001. Since then, we have seen new technologies and expectations from users, dramatic evolutions in the market for music and media, and an explosion in the amount of copyrighted material produced every day online.

The draft Directive seeks to take stock of these changes, addressing questions around text and data mining, digital education, preservation, use of works which are no longer on sale, rights of press publishers and the obligations of content-sharing platforms, amongst other issues.

The debate has been intense, with a particular focus on Google and YouTube. It has, often, come across as a dramatic struggle between big technology companies and creators.

The problem with this approach is that tends to lead to dramatic solutions – sledgehammers to crack nuts. This blog illustrates just two areas where such dramatic solutions are being proposed, and the harm that they risk doing to libraries and their users.


Repositories are not YouTube

Perhaps the most contentious part of the Directive has been Article 13, which deals with the responsibility of content-sharing platforms to remove copyright-infringing materials uploaded by users.

While this covers commercial operations such as YouTube, other sites, such as educational and scientific repositories run by libraries and others also help people share their work. As such, they risk falling under the same rules.

For example, scientific repositories are a vital part of the infrastructure for open access. They host copies of research articles – often pre-print (i.e. not final) versions – allowing people who aren’t registered at the wealthiest universities or research institutions to have access. For doctors, individual researchers, and people in developing countries, this can be essential.

Educational repositories play a major role in spreading Open Educational Resources (OERs). These offer exciting possibilities for teachers to find and use materials which may be better tailored to their needs than traditional textbooks.

The repositories that host these materials are clearly working in the public interest, and are often hosted by libraries, education or research institutions. As concerns their size, resources, and objectives, they have little in common with YouTube.

However, the draft Directive risks treating them in the same way, placing the same regulations and responsibilities upon them. While YouTube can deal with this, it is hard to imagine repositories working on small budgets, and a strong aversion to legal risk, doing the same. See our blog on the risks around Article 13 and filtering for more.


Libraries are not Pirates

The desire to fight piracy of copyrighted content extends beyond Article 13. Elsewhere in the directive, organisations representing certain rightholders have made major efforts to impose restrictions on what libraries can do, claiming that this will help limit infringement.

For example, proposals on text and data mining (TDM) could make it very easy to restrict access to materials on the grounds of security, or force researchers to delete the datasets they create as part of the process. Such steps would create a major disincentive to invest time and effort in TDM.

Why do so when access to materials is uncertain, when the work that goes into structuring data will be lost, and when others will not be able to verify the results? Libraries already take care to respect copyright, and do not need further restrictions.

Similarly, there have been major efforts to prevent libraries from taking preservation copies of works held on third-party servers. In a digital world, this is the case for a growing share of what libraries offer their users. Excluding these eBooks, articles and other materials undermines a core mission of libraries, and increases the risk that these works in question being lost in future.

Finally, an amendment proposed to Article 6 of the directive would stop libraries using more than one exception at once. In practical terms, libraries would have to choose between taking a preservation copy of a work, carrying out text and data mining on it, or using it for teaching.

This would be a bizarre situation, with libraries forced to select which of their public interest missions they want to fulfil with works in their collections. It is also unnecessary, as whatever libraries do is still governed by copyright law, and in particular the obligation not to cause unjustified prejudice to rightholders. Libraries should not be forced to choose.


There are other areas where misguided rule-making risks doing more harm than good. Indeed, there is a strong argument that it is competition law, not copyright, that provides the best response to the market dominance of just a few major platforms.

While we will have to wait to see if Europe’s competition authorities act in this area. In the meanwhile – and particularly next Wednesday, it will be important to ensure that European law-makers choose their tools wisely.