I am going to release a Technical Report that will be archived and made available online by the university's library. An abridged version of the work was accepted by a peer-reviewed conference and will be published in the proceedings. For this to happen, I have to sign a copyright form, assigning to the publishing institution all rights under copyright.

My questions:

a) What is the best way to grant readers of the Technical Report the freedom to quote (unlimited length), distribute, and build upon the work? And point out that they have this freedom without asking for my permission?

b) Is a Creative-Commons License the way to go? If yes, in what form should include the lincense in the work?

c) Is there any conflict between the copyright form for the conference paper and releasing the Technical Report under an open license?

  • Concerning c), since it's basically the same question as whether you could put your article on arXiv and publish it in a conference, you can have a look at this question: academia.stackexchange.com/q/7/102
    – user102
    May 24 '12 at 14:26
  • 3
    It's actually rather different from the arXiv. The IEEE copyright form already deals with electronic preprint servers like the arXiv (see #8 under "Author Online Use"), and seems to allow this (maybe only if you submit it to the arXiv before the IEEE?) provided you use the accepted version rather than the IEEE published version. By contrast, this question is asking about granting far more rights. May 24 '12 at 15:31
  • @AnonymousMathematician Yes, you're right, I meant that for the point c), if you use a preprint, then usually there is no problem with the copyright form for the conf, meaning you should be able to do anything you want with it, including publishing it under an open license (arXiv actually allows you to publish papers under a CC license).
    – user102
    May 24 '12 at 19:05

A Creative Commons License is a good way to achieve this. It doesn't really matter how you convey this information, as long as it's clear. (A footnote on the first page is fine, for example. Whatever you prefer.) The attribution license (CC BY) sounds like a good choice for what you're looking for.

However, this definitely conflicts with the copyright form. You can try asking the IEEE for permission, and there's some chance they will agree, but they tend to be picky about copyright. If you can't come to an agreement with them, then you will have to decide whether publishing in this conference is worth giving up copyright, and they will have to decide whether it is worth losing your paper over this issue. (If you have already signed the form, then there's nothing you can do except ask them.)

  • Do you think the conflict exist no matter how different the actual texts are? Technically, the TR is the original work, and the IEEE paper is the derivative work.
    – clstaudt
    May 24 '12 at 12:35
  • I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think this argument works. (It would be an enormous loophole in copyright law, if one could sign over copyright to something while secretly knowing that it was just a derivative work of a longer work and planning to release that longer work.) I think the right thing to do is to discuss it with the IEEE and try to come to some arrangement with them. May 24 '12 at 15:26
  • 4
    ...or you could just break the law, like most other people (at least in CS).
    – JeffE
    May 24 '12 at 15:57
  • I talked about this with more experienced colleages/coauthors, who said that there might be a legal conflict, but that it is common practice to self-publish a longer version of your conference paper. So maybe I should rephrase my question "is there a conflict" to "How likely am I to get into trouble". ;)
    – clstaudt
    May 24 '12 at 16:08
  • 3
    Not likely, but I'd be careful with CC licenses, because you are granting other people rights. If you just post the paper online, then the worst case scenario is that the IEEE makes you take it down, and I don't think they will do that (it would look bad). If you license other people to create derivative works, then they may end up someday being asked to take them down (perhaps via a DMCA takedown notice sent to their hosting company). Again, that's not likely, but I'd be really annoyed if I discovered that I had relied on a CC license that the author wasn't in a position to issue. May 24 '12 at 17:28

Similarly, I'd also recommend the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY). A good guide explaining why this is best, written by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) exists here. This would fulfil all the criteria you ask for in a)

However, it does matter how you convey this licence. For example if you included just a CC BY 'badge' as an image in the PDF, it would be difficult for a web crawler or machine to detect that the manuscript is Open Access. Thus it's good to signpost the licence in a clear machine readable way


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

(specifically including a URL link to full terms of the licence, and make sure you choose the unported license, rather than any of the country-specific variants)

With respect to c) the trick is (if it's not too late now) to upload your CC BY version as a preprint before you submit to the journal & their draconian terms & conditions. Journals can't stop you uploading your work before you've signed any agreements with them. Some journals don't 'like' this and will reject submissions that they know are openly available on the web prior to submission, but these journals represent a small-minded, old-fashioned minority in my experience. Even Elsevier allow preprints!

  • 2
    There's a huge difference between rejecting submissions because they are available on the web (which I believe is rare in most fields) and objecting to a CC BY license (which I believe is common). Releasing a paper under such a license before submission may substantially restrict how it can be published. That's not necessarily a problem - if you care enough about the ultimate form of open access, then you have no choice. However, there's a genuine trade-off here. For example, Elsevier allows preprints, but their published policies certainly do not allow CC BY, and they are far from alone. Jun 11 '13 at 0:27
  • @AnonymousMathematician CC-BY doesn't affect redistribution under different licenses; CC-BY-SA does. And the author still reserves the right to confer more permissive licenses to others. That's why even Elsevier doesn't restrict licenses on pre-prints, although they attempt to dictate the CC-BY-NC-ND for post-prints.
    – Nemo
    May 2 '18 at 13:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.