This post originally appeared in Publishing Perspectives. Reprinted with permission.

In August, we reported on a memorandum of understanding to publish more than 13,000 articles by German scholars and scientists in open access annually, making them freely available to everyone and raising the visibility of German research published by Springer Nature.

At that time, the final contract was expected by the end of the  year, and the arrangement was to be open to all member-institutions of Projekt DEAL, which comprises more than 700 publicly and privately funded academic and research organizations in Germany.

On Thursday (January 9), media messaging from Springer Nature’s director of communications, Susie Winter, indeed informed us that “Springer Nature and MPDL Services GmbH on behalf of Projekt DEAL today announce that the formal contract for the world’s largest transformative open access (OA) agreement to date has been signed. Dated January 1, the agreement provides OA publishing services and full reading access to Springer Nature journals to scholars and students from across the German research landscape.

“It follows the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two parties on August 22, and is a giant step forward in the OA transition, enabling greater visibility, impact, efficiency, transparency, and sustainability in the dissemination of the fruits of German research, for the benefit of researchers everywhere.”

A full text of the agreement is to be released by the end of this month, and the deal is to be in force through 2022, with an option to renew for one more year, through 2023.

And today (January 10), as we look at the new year opening with this on-time arrival of the self-styled “world’s largest transformative open access agreement to date,” we’ve turned to Roy KaufmanCopyright Clearance Center‘s managing director for business development and government relations, for his take on where things are headed.

The trend represented by the Projekt DEAL library consortium in Germany, Kaufman says, is unmistakable. “Major STM publishers are inking wide-ranging deals with customers on a national or even broader scale,” he says. “In April, Elsevier inked an innovative ‘read and publish’ agreement”—referred to as a RAP deal—”with the Norwegian academic community. And in October, it went on to a country-wide open access agreement with the main Hungarian academic and research consortium.”

And as early as January a year ago, “Wiley entered into an agreement with Projekt DEAL,” which also is in the RAP category.

In fact, during the last year, “The American Chemical Society,” Kaufman says, “implemented 34 ‘transformative agreements’ in eight countries, enabling support for more than 150 accounts worldwide.

“Some of these arrangements,” Kaufman says, “have been criticized for leaving out smaller publishers and fully open access ones—and also for excluding smaller academic institutions—but eventually these gaps will be closed.”

“In effect, and a little surprisingly, the EU’s Digital Single Market copyright directive has created new license opportunities by creating a copyright exception.” – Roy Kaufman, Copyright Clearance Center

In case you’re unclear on the ubiquitous phrase transformative agreementLisa Janicke Hinchliffe at the Scholarly Kitchen provides a helpful line of definition in an article from April, writing, “A contract is a ‘transformative agreement’ if it seeks to shift the contracted payment from a library or group of libraries to a publisher away from subscription-based reading and toward open access publishing.”

You’ll also find Hinchcliffe helpful on the terms “read and publish” (RAP) vs. “publish and read.” As she writes, “A ‘read and publish’ agreement is [one] in which the publisher receives payment for reading and payment for publishing bundled into a single contract.” And, by contrast, “A ‘publish and read’ agreement is [one] in which the publisher receives payment only for publishing, and reading is included for no additional cost.”

And as for what’s ahead on the scholarly and scientific fronts, Kaufman says, “Given the pressures and the rate of change,” in those disciplines, “we can all expect to ‘enjoy,’ or at least experience a fascinating long-term future.”

In other words, as with so many things in this notably tumultuous new year’s first days, change may be the most dependable factor around.

Potential Impact from the EU’s Copyright Directive

As we pull away from 2019, Kaufman points out that on June 7, the nation-members of the European Union began their two-year period of “transposing” the new EU Digital Single Market copyright directive, which drew a lot of coverage from us and other news media last year.

Kaufman says that perhaps the most interesting factor he sees in the directive is that, “For the first time in copyright law anywhere in my opinion,” the new directive “articulated a clear and explicit formulation of the legal status of the act of copying materials for the purposes of use to instruct artificial intelligence (AI), of information extraction, and of other types of text and data mining (TDM).”

He concedes, however, “That might be misread at first glance.

“In effect, and a little surprisingly,” he says, “the copyright directive has created new license opportunities by creating a copyright exception.  Specifically, there’s a narrow non-commercial exception for scientific research, which leaves in place protections around licensing. And there’s also a broader exception from which rightsholders may opt out—and many will.

“This broader exception—which covers materials on the open Web—almost seems to turn the Berne Convention on its head through the introduction of formalities as a condition to the exercise of rights. It however also strikes an elegant balance between allowing copying for mining and/or extraction of works that are technically protected by copyright but in which the author has no true economic interest. For example, [this might pertain to] Reddit posts, blog comments, tweets, and other non-enduring ‘digital ephemera’ on the one hand. On the other hand is professional content in which authors and publishers have long traditions of knowing how to assert—and indeed asserting and managing—their rights.

“This structure provides both rights holders and users with a degree of legal certainty that’s so far lacking in the United States and elsewhere.”

Advice for 2020: AI, Metadata, Customer Experience

Publishers and content providers, Kaufman says, will do well to keep an eye on three tasks this year.

First, he says, “Reserve your AI and text data mining rights in Europe if you want to develop that as a revenue stream. Those extraction exceptions in the copyright directive enable publishers to either allow or disallow the machine-reading and extraction of their public-facing content, but only if they reserve rights.

“Given the accelerating change in the research environment and its ecosystems. it behooves the modern and competitive publisher to ask–for any given piece of content in any given setting–’Who is my customer?’” – Roy Kaufman, Copyright Clearance Center  

“While the exact form of that reservation may be subject to further debate,” Kaufman says, “I recommend minimally reserving the rights in plain text and in the robots.txt block of HTML. Ironically, the EU says that the reservation must be in ‘machine readable’ form. Since the exception covers the machine ‘reading’ of text, it’s hard to imagine what is not ‘machine readable.’”

Second, Kaufman says, “Attend to your metadata hygiene. content providers and especially STM publishers, need to delve ever further into a deeply interconnected world. It’s getting only more necessary and prudent to maintain clean, reliable metadata about authors, about institutions, about funders, about license types, and about citations. It’s one thing to enter into an agreement pursuant to which all authors at an institution can publish in open access, but it’s quite another thing to actually be able to identify those authors.”

And finally, in 2020, Kaufman says to optimize your customer experience.

“Given the accelerating change in the research environment and its ecosystems,” he says, “it behooves the modern and competitive publisher to ask—for any given piece of content in any given setting—’Who is my customer?’

“No longer is this a simple question that produces an answer of a unitary, static audience,” he says. “Customers may now include, separately and simultaneously, the author and/or researcher; the funding agency or national authority; a library or library system or its institution; or an individual reader, who may, unsurprisingly, soon take up the role of researcher and/or author.

“At each step, in service to each ‘customer’ role,” Kaufman says, “the publisher should seek to provide the best customer experience, to put the content in its best light and to deliver the best value.”

Following a 2019 STM publishing industry performance that was rated in a report from Simba Information as the best since 2011, “We expect another year of powerfully enriched products and services in scholarly and scientific publishing.,” Roy Kaufman says.

And there’s your upbeat ending as he sends you off into the new year.


Author: Joel DiMambro

Joel DiMambro joined CCC in March 2019 and currently serves as a Marketing Specialist. He is a graduate of Merrimack College, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and Marketing.
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