Open Access Week with Guest Pat Aufderheide

It’s the last full week of October 2011. For many, this is a time of Halloween prep (or in the case of students, paper planning). However, for librarians and other information professionals around the world, it’s time for Open Access Week — an annual global event the promotes discussions of open access scholarship.

Open access (OA) is a growing movement within scholarly communication circles, and is frequently discussed in combination with topics of copyright and fair use.

As a category of literature, it is typically described by proponents as “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” In this way, Open Access stands in notable contrast to traditional forms of academic publishing, which continue largely to shun the Internet and free online models of distribution.

In recognition of Open Access Week here in the AU Library, I decided to ask SOC professor Pat Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media and co-author of the new book Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright, for her take on Open Access and advocates’ efforts to promote its principles at universities around the world.

The following is an excerpted version of response:

Academic and research librarians’ push to expand the body of materials available to scholars and learners everywhere is admirable and appropriate.It is a movement that is gathering momentum as the body of materials grows. For this movement to succeed, it will be important to avoid the too-common resort to a moral discourse in which good guys share and bad guys hoard.

Sharing without charging (usually with attribution) is a built-in feature of academic life, and it is greatly enhanced by the reality that many academics receive a salary for a job that includes the mandate to research. It is efficient and nicely matched to business models that academics participate in a pool of materials that can be distributed non-commercially for purposes related to academic mission.

At the same time, there is no need for open-access advocates to demonize the copyright regime in itself.Indeed many of the mechanisms favored by such advocates, such as Creative Commons licenses, depend upon the limited monopoly rights of owners. There is also no need to scorn the value that many people (including some academics all the time and many academics some of the time) place on their limited monopoly rights under copyright.

Furthermore, open-access advocates do and should highly value the copyright policy of fair use, which permits the repurposing of copyrighted material still under limited monopoly without permission or payment. This right permits the enriching of many scholarly materials, from quotes in academic articles to illustrations in art history essays to demonstrations in sound engineering classes to the production of creative work such as documentary films, collage art and music. Fair use permits the creation, on the basis of need, of a floating public domain. It permits the culture to grow and scholars to share, even when original owners did not, and might never, license material to the new user. 


Open Access Week 2011 runs from October 24-30, and can be further researched by visiting For more information about open access journals, repositories, or related controversies, feel free to send me an email — or to click on one or more of the following websites.

Happy Open Access Week, everyone!
Related Links:
  • Open Access (SPARC) – sub-site of the ARL Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.
  • DOAJ – Directory of Open Access Journals. A great site for scholarly open access literature.
  • Open Access (PLoS) — article on “The Case for Open Access” from the Public Library of Science.
  • Scholarly Publishing (GMUHS) – scholarly publishing page from GW’s Health Science Library website.

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