OER licensing before you publish

While browsing the web on how academics are using open licences in their own work I came across a blog article by Sara Haenzi, a neuroscience PhD student, on how she tackled the issue of image use in an academic paper.

Sara was preparing her paper when she realised that she was using pictures from a published book.  The book and the images it contained were protected under copyright, and the illustrative purpose she wanted to use the images for didn’t fall under any copyright exceptions, which meant that she couldn’t use them in her own paper.

Deciding to get rid of those images and instead produce her own, she then came up against a further copyright issue: depending on where the paper was published, the rights for those images could end up with the publisher rather than herself.

I like to use this example in the copyright and licensing training sessions I run with my colleague Eugene Stoica. Eugen provides a great introduction into the theory of copyright and how it affects higher education and academic publishing, then I run through the options and possibilities that open licensed content and open educational resources can provide.

At this point in the session I like to pause and ask what our participants think Sara could do?

What do you think Sara did?

There are a number of options available in this instance. Sarah could have gone online and sought out openly licensed images of the type she needed, although it could take some time to find ones that suited her purpose. She could have contacted the publisher of the book to ask for permission to use the copyrighted images in her paper, although again this could be time consuming even if she was able to find a contact and receive a response.

What Sara did:

Sarah created her own images and published them herself on figshare under a creative commons license, and then cited her own images in the paper.

Overview of the developmental stages of Xenopus laevis - i.e. composite of all the individual images with a dorsal view and a white background
Xenopus laevis: overview over late tadpole stages, Hanzi and Straka, 2016, CC BY 4.0

Sara also created a series of schematised versions for figures where details don’t matter:

Schemes of Xenopus laevis tadpoles at developmental stage 50 and 54 in 'Individual images of Xenopus laevis tadpoles' (see references). These drawings are low detail pictograms and lack characteristics for identifying a particular developmental stage; they are therefore best used for illustrations that require Xenopus tadpole icons.
Schemes of Xenopus laevis tadpoles, Hanzi and Straka, 2016, CC BY 4.0

In her blog post, she explains that she chose the Figshare hosting site because she really enjoyed the way that it provides version control: for instance, she published all the images of the tadpoles, and then added another set later and so created a version two of tadpole images.

Sara’s story is a great example of taking copyright ownership control of her content and in doing so ensuring that the content will be freely available for anyone else to re-use, re-mix, re-share, create, learn, and educate.

Full story source on GSNMunich

2 thoughts on “OER licensing before you publish

  1. Thanks Charlie, Copyright is an unwieldy beast, and your post is clear and even comforting, the more I have had training on in copyright the more grey areas I have found that most people are not aware of especially in their misunderstanding of creative commons, btw I wasn’t aware of figshare, so thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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