Project Retain Preliminary Findings: Rights Retention, Licensing & Copyright

30th November 2022Open Science

Project Retain Preliminary Findings: Rights Retention, Licensing & Copyright

30th November 2022Open Science

Did you know that over 60 European higher education institutions have policies covering the copyright of research publications and almost 45 institutions either have or will soon have rights retention policies in place? This highlights just how important this topic is right now and how crucial it is to continue to address rights retention — now and in the future. 

As part of Project Retain — a one-year project led by SPARC Europe that forms part of the KR21 Project — we carried out research to garner more information about rights retention, licensing, and copyright. 

In November 2022, we surveyed higher education institutions about their policies in four areas.

  1. Copyright of Scientific Publications
  2. Author Rights Retention
  3. Open Licensing
  4. Reuse of Scientific Publications

Over 225 responses were garnered from across Europe. 

Vanessa Proudman, Director of SPARC Europe, and Jon Treadway from Great North Wood Consulting presented these interim findings at the MUNIN Conference on Scholarly Communications in November 2022.

Read more about the key findings from Project Retain’s survey below:

Key Takeaways Thus Far

  • Over 60 institutions have policies covering the copyright of research publications. Far fewer have policies covering the reuse of research publications and author rights retention. Most policies covering these areas are ‘Open Access’ policies rather than dedicated to one specific topic.

  • Rights retention is a topic of much interest. Around half of the institutions with rights retention policies launched them in the last two years, and a further 30 institutions are currently developing them, underscoring just how much of an issue this is at the moment and the growing level of importance institutions place on this. Planning for the development of policies is complex and hard work, and generally, plans have been in place in some form for over a year before a policy is launched. 
  • Most responses came from the United Kingdom, where there are 15 policies currently in development and three already in place. The influence of peers and the particular national context plays a major role in how policies develop and at what speed.
  • The library is the key department providing support to researchers, with those involved in legal or Intellectual Property departments coming in shortly after. 
  • Where institutions have an open licensing policy in place and it covers the type of license researchers choose, CC BY is promoted by around 80% of respondents. Between 30 – 40% also recommend license types frequently, as well as CC BY.

Results from Publisher Policies

We have looked in parallel at publisher policies and intend to speak to publishers over the next few weeks. We have found that:

  • Publisher policies, in many cases, still impose requirements in conflict with rights retention.
  • Publishers have become more flexible in their approach to self-archiving by researchers, but this hasn’t led to the elimination of the embargo period. 
  • Many publishers require exclusivity for commercial use when authors choose an NC or NC-ND license. Such terms mean that only the publisher makes and authorises derivatives and commercial use of the work.
  • Looking at Open Access titles registered with the DOAJ, we have looked at the sector in terms of the largest 20 publishers in terms of the number of journals published. 97% of journals owned by the largest 20 publishers offer either one or two license choices; for journals outside the top 20, 97% permit only one license type, so there is no choice.

2023 and Beyond

Project Retain will continue data analysis by talking to institutional policymakers, funders, and publishers to understand their motivations, visions, and how they developed their policies. Interviews and focus groups will continue running in 2023, and a report in early spring 2023 will be released on the conducted research taken from the survey results. Moreover, we look forward to developing an action plan to act on the recommendations issued in the above-mentioned report. 

Watch the webinar recording here or read more about Project Retain below or here.

About Project Retain

Project Retain, a one-year project led by SPARC Europe intends to accelerate the uptake of rights retention and open licensing to enable researchers to share their work openly. It will do this by calling for publisher, institutional, and funder policy change and by empowering authors to refuse to cede their intellectual property. We will carry out research to provide a solid and informed basis for this change and then campaign and support a transformation in copyright policy that embraces OA amongst publishers, funders and institutions.