Wiley-Blackwell open access licenses – clarity needed

Update – the Vice-President & Director of Open Access from Wiley has responded below.

Alongside the awesome Theo Andrew, I’ve been leading the crowd sourcing effort to explore the Wellcome Trust Article Processing Charge data (Original data found here). This effort is still on-going, so please do have a look if you have even a few minutes to spare.

I’ve found an interesting case when looking at the licenses of work published in Wiley-Blackwell journals.

Every Wiley-Blackwell article I’ve looked at so far makes the statement: “Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation.” (For an example, see the image below).

This isn’t my understanding of ‘Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5’ at all.

CC BY (as it is otherwise known), allows for any use, including commercial use, as long as you “give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.” (Text taken from Creative Commons CC BY 2.5 human readable summary).

Creative Commons have spent a lot of time ensuring that the licenses are incredibly easy to understand, but it seems the license statement here from the publishers is deliberately difficult to understand and contradicting the actual meaning of CC BY licenses.

Have I gotten confused about Creative Commons licenses? Or have Wiley-Blackwell?

If it’s not clear to me – someone who spends a lot of time thinking about open access and licensing – it’s hardly going to be clear to other academics and professionals who should be able to spend time focusing on research, rather than spending time talking to lawyers.

16 thoughts on “Wiley-Blackwell open access licenses – clarity needed

  1. Completely unacceptable from WB. It’s either incompetence (in which case they shouldn’t be publishing) or deliberate to stop legal copying. We find this throughout the scholarly publishing industry. Incompetence, indifference, deliberate muddying, and copy fraud – take your pick.


  2. I’m responsible for the institutional account of Helmholtz Association with Wiley; we pay only APCs for Gold Open Access Journals, no Hybrid Open Access, and we insisted in CC-BY licenses.

    From Helmholtz I can report of two cases:

    In both cases, we have the statement
    “This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.” with a link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    This seems correct and is different from the version reported

    The difference is: Once we have “© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.” (this is correct) and once “Copyright © 2013 EMBO Molecular Medicine” (this is IMHO incorrect).


    1. Hey Bernhard – thanks a lot for the comment. I’m really interested to hear that you guys don’t pay for any hybrid open access. Has this caused any problem with the academics in your institution? Many I know would be outraged at not having freedom to publish wherever they would like.

      On the second point about copyright – I had a quick look at the pdf version of the EMBO paper (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/emmm.201302475/pdf), and here it seems there is statement that the authors retain copyright.

      Interestingly though, looking at the PubMedCentral version of the paper (found here, authors are said to retain copyright, but the pesky ‘Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation’ appears again.

      Seems there is some confusion here as well – with different statements in different places 🙂


      1. Michelle,
        scientists may publish wherever they want, without any restriction. The point is that the library pays only once, either for reading subscription journals or for writing in Gold Open Access journals, but not for hybrid articles in subscription journals (double dipping). If they really want that option, than they have to pay on their own. This happens in only occasionally.
        The only exception from that rule is that we pay “traditional” publication charges (pages charge, colour charge etc.) also for subscription journals though I doubt they can be really justified in an electronic world. Colour printing may have been more expensive than printing in b/w, but black electrons aren’t cheaper than coloured ones.


  3. Thank you for pointing out the issue with the Zoonoses and Public Health paper. You are absolutely right of course that the CC-BY Attribution license does allow reuse and so the license line on this paper is incorrect. It appears there was a problem with the information that we supplied to PMC for this paper and a small number of others. We are working to address the problem a matter of priority and apologize for the lack of clarity.


  4. Thanks, Rachel, for chiming in here and working on the problem. Further cases are collected in https://github.com/erlehmann/open-access-media-importer/issues/52 and https://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM/Newsletter/November_2012/Contents/Open_Access_report#Metadata_at_PubMed_Central . I had flagged these to Wiley in November 2012 and was asked for further explanation, which I provided. I haven’t heard back from them since.

    A more comprehensive account of problems with the XML that Wiley and others deliver to PMC is given in http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK159964/ . Apart from licensing, it also touches upon issues with MIME types and keywords. I will give a talk about this at JATS-Con next week (cf. http://jats.nlm.nih.gov/jats-con/2013/schedule2013a.html#1-330 ).


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