Thursday 31 October 2013

Roy Kaufman: Open Access Doesn't Necessarily Mean Free

Roy Kaufman, Managing Director of New Ventures at Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), writes here in a guest post about the real cost of open access.

"There is a popular opinion in the publishing market - that open access means free. However, the truth is far more complex and dependent on the licensing options a publishers offers. We recently produced a white paper to explain where exactly the costs of open access occur and their impact on scholarly and scientific publishing.

Publishers incur costs
Regardless of the open access model, there are still costs of publication. These include recruiting authors, maintaining the peer review system, print and/or digital production, sales, marketing, tagging and linking articles, as well as archiving and making the "version of record" available.

Some users may still need to pay to reuse content
Publishers use a variety of licenses for open access content. Often, they choose those designed by Creative Commons, which provides a range of nuanced licenses. For example, a CC BY-NC license allows derivative works to be made for non-commercial use without an additional license or fee. However, a permissions fee is required to use an article designated as CC BY-NC for commercial purposes. Ultimately, the terms of commercial reuse may be set by the publisher, the author, the author's institution or the funding agency.

Creative Commons licenses and the impact of funding agencies
Many publishers are currently using – or considering – a range of standard licenses provided by Creative Commons. There are several factors to consider when choosing the license type, including the author's goals, the policy of the publishing society or company, the academic institution and the funding organization. This can influence the terms of the license under which an article is published.

In any case, publishers need to recoup the costs of publication to maintain a going concern. In a traditional publishing paradigm, revenue often originates from subscriptions, single article sales, secondary licensing and more. For many Open Access articles, publishers offset costs by securing article processing charges from funding organizations, authors, and / or academic institutions.

What does this mean for publishers?
Clearly, open access presents new opportunities for publishers to serve their customers and authors, and creates an outlet for the publication of ever-increasing submissions. However, it also generates administrative and business burdens that challenge publishers' typical subscription-based business models. There are opportunities to generate revenue with open access such as license fees for commercial use when an article is covered by a CC BY-NC license, and opportunities to provide other services to authors as well.

When exploring licensing options, publishers should consider the following questions:
  • Who typically requests reuse permissions and for what purpose?
  • Under which open access model was the article published?
  • Are there special funder requirements for the author?
  • What are the various revenue components of a journal? How will each model of open access affect them?
  • What is the competitive landscape for the journal as compared with open access options offered by competing journals?
Open access policies present challenges and opportunities for publishers to better serve authors as well as consumers of open access content. A strong licensing framework, communicated clearly to authors and the community, is essential to ensure both quality and sustainability.

These thoughts are drawn from a white paper CCC developed earlier this year to help our publisher clients when considering open access. The full version can be downloaded here."

CCC offers ALPSP members a special discount off the RightsLink suite of licensing tools. Review information about their open access solution on their website at

Roy Kaufman is Managing Director, New Ventures at Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) where, since 2012, he has been responsible for expanding capabilities as the business develops new services for authors, publishers and other rights holders. Prior to CCC, Kaufman served as lead counsel for the Scientific, Technical, Medical and Scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., working in all areas of licensing, contracts, strategic alliances and online publishing.


  1. CC BY-NC also means that the content cannot be reproduced anywhere that carries advertising, such as most free blogging platforms, even if the person using the work is not benefiting financially themselves or intending to. It is a very restrictive licence. The more you restrict open access, the less open it is.

  2. This article is very informative and cool. Thanks for share this beautiful article.

  3. Open Access does mean that it is free to re-use, for any purpose.

    That was the definition agreed on many years ago by the BOAI, and re-iterated by other organisations since. It's also the only definition that is consistent with other uses of Open - e.g. Open Source.

    CC-BY-NC does not meet the definition of Open Access. So stop calling it Open Access when it's not. It's public access.