University of Chicago Library
University of Chicago Library, from Carlos Jimenez via flickr, used by permission

Who knew?  The Chicago Manual of Style‘s current edition (the 16th) includes for the first time a stance on open-access (Section 4.62), and on Harvard-style OA policies in particular (Section 4.63).

Written by copyright lawyer William S. Strong of Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP, the chapter comes down hard on academics’ attempts to use their own writings.

Section 4.62 on “Authors’ electronic use of their own works” claims that open access to articles in institutional repositories is “likely to diminish licensing revenues” (despite all evidence to the contrary). It concludes that “The fact that licensing revenue helps support the publication of important scholarly work seems to have escaped general notice.” As if.

Section 4.63 on “University licenses” seems to be particularly aimed at Harvard-style open-access policies, “under which they presumptively receive nonexclusive licenses of journal articles written by their faculty, with the right to post those articles on the Internet and to make and license ‘noncommercial’ uses. (Commonly, faculty are permitted but not encouraged to opt out of this arrangement on a case-by-case basis.)” He lists as faults the claim that addenda “do[] not make clear what the author can, and cannot, do with derivative works that he or she creates” (because there is no limitation); that they “do[] not make clear whether what the author can distribute, display, and otherwise use is the author’s own manuscript or the finished, published work” (even though the Harvard addendum [paragraph 4a] is explicit about not distributing publishers’ versions); and that they “do[] not prevent the author from licensing the article to a competing journal” (except that journals won’t publish already published articles anyway). He frets about the vagueness of the term “noncommercial”, though the Harvard policies are explicit in stating that articles “are not sold for a profit” and agreements with publishers have further clarified the university’s intention not to sell the articles at all.

The Manual makes a recommendation to publishers to generate their own addenda “to use when presented with author requests for nonexclusive rights.” But why make the addendum conditions available only upon request? If the addendum-specified activities are allowable, why not just allow them in the publisher’s agreement from the get-go? In particular, how about a recommendation that publisher agreements allow authors of scholarly articles to post their final manuscript versions at their discretion, that is, allowing green OA?

Section 4.64 on “The NIH Public Access Policy” recommends that publishers “push for the maximum delay (i.e., twelve months) on public posting” if concerned about maximizing their revenues.

The most surprising thing about the new Manual sections is that a style manual is taking a stance on these intellectual property issues in the first place. The issues are obviously considerably more nuanced than Mr. Strong’s RIAA-like stance makes clear. Given that stance, you’d hardly know that the book is owned by a university (The University of Chicago, as stated in three copyright notices on each page) filled with faculty and students whose interests are not best served by this kind of short-term profit-maximizing attitude. Perhaps the editors might solicit a broader range of informed advice ahead of their next edition.

[Hat tip to Tom Dodson for bringing these sections to my attention.]

2 Responses to “Chicago Manual of Style on Open Access”

  1. Oh, Chicago? Your Freudian slip is showing. | Book of Trogool Says:

    [...] is similarly undercutting the many scholars actively participating in the open-access movement, as Stuart Shieber ably recounts. Not shocked, but a little surprised, I must say; I always respected and appreciated the Manual for [...]

  2. Planned Obsolescence » On the Scholarly Press, the Manual of Style, and Intellectual Property Says:

    [...] Shieber posted an interesting and troubling analysis a few days ago of the recommendations of the Chicago Manual of Style with respect to open access publishing. The upshot of these recommendations appears to be “fight it,” or at least “limit [...]