World Bank’s Open Access Publishing Program, Copyright & Licensing

As recently announced, Carlos Rossel, Publisher, The World Bank, is guiding the transition of the Bank’s print publishing to largely electronic, open access publishing. As part of this transition, The World Bank invited several of its employees including editors, economists, researchers, lawyers and invited non-Bank guests to a two-hour session yesterday in Washington, DC.

Carlos opened the session introducing the issues and speakers. I then gave an overview of relevant copyright and licensing/contractual issues relating to OA publishing. The information I provided was based on U.S. law as well as international copyright principles from the leading copyright treaty, the Berne Copyright Convention. It was interesting to note that Berne has 164 country members and The World Bank has 187 member countries. Thus the Bank is working with non-Berne countries whose domestic copyright laws do not follow the Berne required minimum copyright protection as well as automatic copyright protection upon creation and fixation of a work. Berne member countries cannot require registration of copyright works or the use of © as prerequisites to copyright protection. Once a work is protected in one Berne country, it is protected in all Berne countries according to the national laws of the country where the work is being used.

The bottom line of my presentation was “you cannot use what you do not own.” In terms of OA publishing, my summary included understanding copyright and contracts; planning ahead and leaving sufficient time to determine and clear relevant rights; and informing authors about underlying rights in their contributions and obtaining rights clearances and warranties from authors.

OA advocate Sandy Thatcher gave a thorough overview of the history of OA publishing, the different types of OA, and various OA publishers such as The National Academies Press and Athabasca Press, and various funding models for OA including revenue from print, author fees, foundations, endowments, subscription, patronage and advertising.

The World Bank publishing office is considering whether its open access publishing will allow both commercial and noncommercial use, whether derivative works could be based upon their publications, and whether attribution to The World Bank is essential.


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