Electronic Reserves and Open Access

Electronic Reserve and Open Access

By Klaus Graf

Can administrators of Electronic Reserves (ERs) and staff using them in order to support Open Access (OA)? Copyright law requires that an ER must be restricted to students and staff. Even if the ER is in the same repository as the OA eprints (this is the case e.g. in Essen-Duisburg, see http://miless.uni-duisburg-essen.de) web users without a specific account cannot view the course materials.

It is clear that staff members’ own works (syllabus, link lists, bibliographies etc.) can be made freely available on websites or in repositories. You can learn why it is important to make course materials open to the general public on the excellent MIT OpenCourseWare? website: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html

ERs contain both copyrighted modern works and Public Domain (PD) materials which were scanned for classroom use.

It is not known which portion of ERs is PD (which could be displayed freely on a website). Maybe it’s a very small portion (depending from the academic discipline). In a unified system (one server for eprints, multimedia and course materials) one can give access rights for these documents to the general public, but in a non-unified system one has to move to the OA repository.

PD materials don’t have to be deleted at the end of the course.

Administrators and staff of ERs should give the general public access to PD documents

Administrators should encourage staff members to do so, and inform them about the legal framework and copyright issues (e.g. in Germany a work is PD if the author is 70 years dead).

Concerning the copyrighted material (modern articles and book chapters) there is also a way to support OA. When preparing a course ER scholars can ask the authors for permission to make the materials available freely. In the US it is likely that the rights holder is the publisher. If publishers agree with OA (a lot of them do so) there is no legal problem to put OA versions in the web. Administrators of OA repositories should allow moving stuff from ERs (i.e. from mostly non-affiliated authors) into the archive. In the case of an unified system one has only to set access rights for the public.

What is the advantage for the authors if their works are put into the OA part of an ER? They don’t have to scan the documents and upload them to the repository.

A permission request to an author can educate that author about OA, who may then be interested to know more about OA.

Sending some permission mails is not really a lot of work.

Conclusion: Administrators and staff of ERs should support OA by asking for permission to make OA versions of ER materials available.

This text is dedicated to the Public Domain

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