Peter SuberIn scholarly publishing, the movement toward “Open Access” – essentially, making it possible to read and re-use published research without cost or permission – is often taken as a challenge to copyright. But according to OA evangelist Peter Suber, author of Open Access (MIT Press, June 2012), OA treats copyright just as do “traditional” publishers.

“Open access depends on copyright holder consent, in the same way that traditional publishing depends on copyright holder consent,” explained Suber. “The only way a novelist can publish a novel is by consenting to do it. If the publisher does it without the author’s permission, that’s a violation of the author’s copyright. The author has to transfer certain rights to the publisher for the publisher to have legal permission to publish that book.

“Open access is exactly the same,” Suber elaborated. “We just have to get to the copyright holder and say, ‘please, consent to do it this way, rather than transfer all your rights to a publisher who won’t want to do it this way.’ We have to make the case to the copyright holder, but we’re able to make that case precisely because these are authors who are not protecting a revenue stream.”

In an interview on the Harvard University campus at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he is a faculty fellow, Suber tells CCC’s Christopher Kenneally that “the focus of the open access movement is on journal articles for which scholars are not paid, and therefore for which they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by enlarging their audience by putting them online free of charge.”

In addition to his work at the Berkman Center, Peter Suber is currently director of the Harvard Open Access Project; a senior researcher for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC); open access project director at Public Knowledge; as well as a research professor of philosophy at Earlham College. Until May 2003, Professor Suber was a professor of philosophy at Earlham, where he has also taught computer science and law.

To learn more about Copyright Clearance Center and Open Access, and how CCC can provide technology solutions for OA authors and publishers, go to

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