About a week ago I blogged about misleading information on Creative Commons licenses provided by one of the leading scientific publishing houses in the course of a textbook project I am involved in. In the closing paragraph, I wrote that “we plan to insist on including the respective figures in the volume”. After doing so, we have now received another table with “permission queries” from the publisher with even more disappointing misinformation. The query with regard to the photo of the Rana Plaza Collapse in full:
Although creative commons states that you can reproduce work commercially, it states that you can only do so by retaining the creative commons rights (aka no copyright) on the reproduction which would prohibit us from placing a copyright on the book. We also have no proof of who took the photograph which makes it too risky to include. We need to remove this photograph
Again, this is misleading on many different levels. First of all, “creative commons rights (aka no copyright)” is not just misleading but simply wrong. Creative Commons does not mean “no copyright”, it means “some rights reserved”. Actually, Creative Commons is entirely based and dependent on copyright; only someone who has the copyright of a work is able to (re-)license it under a Creative Commons license.
Second, as I and Creative Commons Germany lawyer John Weitzmann in a comment to my last blog post have tried to clarify, the specific ShareAlike clause does not prohibit the publisher from placing a copyright on the (rest of the) book.
Third, I doubt that using a photo, which is prominently featured in the Wikipedia article on the Rana Plaza Collapse, could be “too risky to include”. Not only has Wikipedia a strict copyright enforcement policy, but it is one of the ten most visited websites of the world and the photo has been used for a long time on many different Wikipedia sites under the terms of the respective Creative Commons license. Actually, in any other case including a picture would be much riskier.
To me, referring to the “risk” is just a bad excuse for wrongfully and generally opposing the use of Creative Commons licensed material. Even more so, since the author agreement transfers all responsibility for rights clearing over to the authors anyway.
We will give it another try to convince the publisher to include the photograph. However, in case of failure, I see no other option than to “name and shame” by revealing the publisher’s identity and thereby recommend fellow colleagues to search for alternative outlets. Open Book Publishers, for instance, offer rigorous peer review and embrace Creative Commons.