COMMUNIA FINAL REPORT | Recommendation # 5

Educational resources as open access materials

Access to copyright protected works for education and research purposes must be facilitated by strengthening existing exceptions and limitations and broadening them to cover uses outside of formal educational institutions. All publicly funded research output and educational resources must be made available as open access materials.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 12 - Download Postcard)

The current exceptions and limitations intended to promote education and research activities assume that such activities are carried out within dedicated educational or research institutions. Pervasive access to the Internet and policy objectives like lifelong learning mean that growing parts of learning and research are taking place outside of such institutions. The exceptions and limitations intended to promote education and research need to take this reality into account and need to be broadened to facilitate all educational and research activities regardless of their institutional settings. In addition all publicly funded educational materials as well as publicly funded research output should be available without restrictions on its reuse. What has been paid for by the public must be available to the public.


The COMMUNIA action has been putting a lot of emphasis on access to knowledge (A2K) and open access to education and research resources. To that end, the COMMUNIA Working Group 1 has been devoted to the investigation of the role of the public domain for education and scientific research. The COMMUNIA WG1 has noted:

Education and science are at the core of modern knowledge based societies. The information technologies have created new opportunities in making the scientific and educational materials and publications available to the society as a whole, through universities as well as both formal and informal life-long learning. A robust Public Domain - that includes the structural Public Domain, voluntary commons and user prerogatives as defined in the Public Domain Manifesto - provides the necessary basis for the legitimate needs of education and science.

Similarly, access to educational and scientific information has been the subject of detailed analysis at several COMMUNIA meetings. In particular, the 2nd COMMUNIA Conference, Global Science and the Economics of Knowledge Sharing Institutions, addressed contractually constructed commons and public domain initiatives with particular emphasis on academic research. The 8th COMMUNIA Workshop, Education of the Public Domain: The Emergence of a  Shared Educational Commons focused on open educational resources (OER) and several OER projects. Finally, the 3rd COMMUNIA Conference, University in Cyberspace: Reshaping Knowledge Institutions for the Networked Age, touched extensively upon open access in scholarship and research while discussing the most significant issues facing universities in the networked age.

However, COMMUNIA advocacy of open access is not an isolated one. Open access as a new norm in scholarship and research has been promoted globally, as the worldwide celebration of the fourth edition of the open access week on October 18-24, 2010  may witness.[41] 

As a general rule, open access refers to a publishing model where the research institution or the party financing the research pays for publication and the article is then freely accessible. In particular, open-access refers to free and unrestricted world-wide electronic distribution and availability of peer-reviewed journal literature.[42] The Budapest Open Access Initiative uses a definition that includes free reuse and redistribution of “open access” material by anyone.

The major propulsion to open access at the European level was given by the so called Berlin Conferences.[43] The first Berlin Conference was organized in 2003 by the Max Planck Society and the European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO) project to discuss ways of providing access to research findings. Annual follow-up conferences have been organized ever since. The most significant result of the Berlin Conference was the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (“Berlin Declaration”), including the goal of disseminating knowledge through the open access paradigm via the Internet.[44] The Berlin Declaration has been signed by hundreds of European and international institutions.

Since the inception of the open-access initiative in 2001, there are now more than five thousand open access journals.[45] In addition, several leading international academic institutions have endorsed open-access policies[46] and have been working towards mechanisms to cover open-access journals’ operating expenses.[47] At the 2nd COMMUNIA Conference in Turin, Bernt Hugenholtz strategized that universities and research institutes should discourage or prohibit 'all rights' transfers to publishers, promoting instead open access practices. 

Together with research articles, data, teaching materials, and the like, the importance of open access models extends also to books.  Millions of historic volumes are now openly accessible from various digitization projects such as Europeana, Google Books, or Hathi. In addition, many recent volumes are also available as open access from a variety of academic presses, government and nonprofit agencies, and other individuals or groups.

Libraries cataloging data have been more and more released under open access models. Some institutions have taken a more open approach than others but openness seems to become a widespread solution when it comes to cataloging data. The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) has a policy in place that allows access and reuse of WorldCat-mediated data by OCLC members. Several German libraries and the project make their bibliographic data available for reuse without restriction.[48] The Open Knowledge Foundation has also released principles for open bibliographic data, recommending that bibliographic data be made available with public domain dedication or with as few restrictions as possible.[49] The British Library has been following the OKF recommendations by making its bibliographic data generally available for non-commercial use[50] and releasing three million records from the British National Bibliography into the public domain using the CC0 public domain waiver.[51] 

Recent economic studies have been showing a positive net value of open access models when compared to other publishing models. In June 2009, a study authored by John Houghton of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, has compared the costs and benefits of three different publication models in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Denmark.[52] The report was commissioned by Knowledge Exchange and based on background studies undertaken in the UK by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC),[53] in the Netherlands by the SURF Foundation,[54] and in Denmark by the Denmark’s Electronic Research Library (DEFF).[55] The studies showed that adopting an open access model to scholarly publications could lead to annual savings of around €70 million in Denmark, €133 million in the Netherlands and €480 million in the United Kingdom. In addition, potential increases in the social returns to R&D resulting from more open access to research findings would largely outweigh the costs.[56]

Few months ago, another study authored by the same Australian research team concluded that free access to U.S. taxpayer-funded research papers could yield $1 billion in benefits.[57] The study was commissioned to examine the potential payoff of expanding a National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy requiring grantees to post their papers in a free database after a 12-month delay. A bill pending in the U.S. Congress would extend the policy to 11 more agencies and shorten the disclosure delay to 6 months.[58] The model developed by the Australian team found that over a period of 30 years from implementation, the benefits of a policy opening access to publicly funded research would exceed by eight times the costs (e.g. of archiving), or five times counting the benefits only accruing in the United States.[59] In fact, the study found that one-third of these benefits would spill over to other countries.


As described above, privileged and open access to education and research materials entails considerable social and economic value. To the end of extracting this value and profiting from the new technological opportunities, COMMUNIA promotes privileged and open access to cultural outputs for education and research purposes. The COMMUNIA members detail the strategy to promote education and science by requesting the European institutions to undertake the following actions and implement the following principles:

12.1. It is essential to expand exceptions and limitations for educational and research use so as to allow for unlimited reusability free from technological restrictions of any kind of material covered by exclusive rights. This includes uses occurring outside of institutional settings.

In particular, exception and limitations to exclusive right for educational and research purposes should (i) be mandatory for Member States, (ii) apply to education as a general process, not to institutions only, and be unbounded from the physical space of institutions, (iii) apply to both compiled material and data.

12.2. All publicly funded research output, educational resources and other protected works that are made publicly available, must be made available according to the open access standards and at a minimum compliant with the 'Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities'.

In particular, as per the Berlin Declaration, to meet open access standards a work must satisfy two conditions: (1) the authors and right holders of the work grant to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use; and (2) a complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in an appropriate standard electronic format is deposited (and thus published) in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards that is supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, inter-operability, and long-term archiving.

Additionally, universities should respect the Wheeler Declaration Principles stating that (i) the research that the university produces is open access; (ii) the course material are Open Educational Resources (OER); (iii) the university embraces free software and open standards; (iv) if the university holds patents, it readily licenses them for free software, essential medicines, and the public good; (v) the university network reflects the open nature of the internet.

Further, funding organizations supporting the creation of educational resources should adopt a policy that strongly encourages or require their grantee to disseminate the educational resources under Creative Commons licences, and particularly Creative Commons Attribution (CC-by) as the preferred licencing option for Open Educational Resources (OER).

12.3. All publicly funded data-sets must be made available, including for commercial use, in the structural Public Domain or in the voluntary commons (as defined in the Public Domain Manifesto) with due respect for privacy and ethical issues.

In particular, EC funded data-sets which are perceived as publicly needed as infrastructures for research and science should be made available under (i) public domain dedication, (ii) Creative Commons Zero Waiver (CC0) or (iii) a licensing scheme allowing free re-use, possibly under a "share-alike" clause.

It is worth noting that substantially similar principles have been endorsed by the Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge released by the Free Culture Forum,[60] and the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science, launched by Open Knowledge Foundation.[61]

Further Proposals

Further proposals to enhance open access to academic material have been put forward during COMMUNIA proceedings. In particular, Professor Paul Uhlir talked about a model of open knowledge environments (OKEs) for digitally networked scientific communication. The OKEs would “bring the scholarly communication function back into the universities” through “the development of interactive portals focused on knowledge production and on collaborative research and educational opportunities in specific thematic areas.”[62] 

The OKE model would build upon online peer production and participative web 2.0 environments and techniques. The OKEs would transform the traditional scientific journal model into a “truly interactive networked mechanism for integrated knowledge production and reuse.” The OKEs would be practically implemented as follows:

  1. (i) the OKE would be developed around thematically linked open access journal;
  2. (ii) openly available report, gray literature and data would augment the OKE;
  3. (iii) various interactive functions, such as wikis, discussion forums, blogs, post publications reviews, and distributed computing, would be added to stimulate discussions and contributions;
  4. (iv) semantic web technologies would be added to increase the opportunities for automated knowledge generation, extraction and integration, and the OKE could encode references under a unified numbering system for easy search and integration of information.

Several options would be available for setting up the physical location of the OKEs:

  1. (i) the OKEs could be hosted at single universities;
  2. (ii) the components of the OKE may be distributed among a consortium of universities sharing a privileged interest in a specific subject matter; alternatively,
  3. (iii) the OKEs could be based at based at not-for-profit research centers or government agencies.

The OKEs would be multidisciplinary in character by bringing in the experts of the specific subject matter, in house computer engineers, information scientists and librarians to help establish and manage the OKEs. As a consequence of being integrated directly into the curricula or research functions of the host organizations, the OKEs would have low overhead cost to operate by using on site personnel and students. Additionally, financial sustainability of OKEs would be provided by grants and other positive externalities that the OKEs will attract to the hosting organizations.

The European Commission should promote quantitative studies to investigate the value and feasibility of OKE projects. The European Commission should take into consideration the opportunity to design an action plan to promote the development of OKEs throughout the network of European academic institutions.

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Broaden existing exceptions and limitations to cover uses outside of formal educational institutions.
  2. Require that all publicly funded research output, educational resources, other protected works, and data-sets are made available according to the open access standards.
  3. Promote quantitative studies to investigate the value and feasibility of OKE projects and the development of OKEs throughout the network of European academic institutions
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  1. Broaden existing exceptions and limitations to cover uses outside of formal educational institutions.
  2. Require that all publicly funded research output, educational resources, other protected works, and data-sets are made available according to the open access standards .
  1. Member States (MS)
  1. Broaden existing exceptions and limitations to cover uses outside of formal educational institutions.
  2. Require that all publicly funded research output, educational resources, other protected works, and data-sets are made available according to the open access standards.
  3. Promote the development of OKEs throughout the network of national academic and research institutions
  1. Public Funding Bodies (PFBs)
  1. Require that all publicly funded research output, educational resources, other protected works, and data-sets are made available according to the open access standards .

[41] See Open Access Week,

[42] See Budapest Open Access Initiative, Budapest, Hungary, February 14, 2002, index.shtml.

[43] See Open Access at the Max Planck Society, Berlin Conferences, lin-konferenzen.

[44] See Berlin Conference, Berlin, October 20-22, 2003, Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (October 22, 2003), available at

[45] See DOAJ, Directory of Open Access Journals,

[46] See The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition [SPARC], Campus Open Access Policies, http://www.

[47] See, e.g., Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity,; see also Stuart M. Shieber, Equity for Open-Access Journal Publishing, 7 PLoS Biol 1 (2009),

[48] Libraries in Cologne open up bibliographic data!, Open Knowledge Foundation Blog, March 15, 2010,;, the Open Data Commons Public Dedication and Licence,

[49] See Open Bibliographic Projects, Principles for Open Bibliographic Data, October 15, 2010, 2010/10/15/principles-for-open-bibliographic-data.

[50] See British Library, Metadata Services, Data Services, Free Data Services, html.

[51] The British Library Releases 3 Million Bibliographic Records into the Public Domain Using CC0, Creative Commons News, November 22, 2010,

[52] See John Houghton, Open Access – What are the Economic Benefits? A Comparison of the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Denmark (June 23, 2009) (report prepared for Knowledge Exchange), available at [hereinafter Houghton, Open Access].

[53] See John Houghton et al, Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models: Exploring the Costs and Benefits (January 2009) (report prepared for the Joint Information Systems Committee [JISC]), available at

[54] See John Houghton, Jos de Jonge and  Marcia van Oploo, Costs and Benefits of Research Communication: The Dutch Situation (May 29, 2009) (report prepared for the SURF Foundation), available at SiteCollectionDocuments/Benefits%20of%20Research%20Communication%20_April%202009_%20FINAL_logos2.pdf.

[55] See John Houghton, Costs and Benefits of Alternative Publishing Models: Denmark (May 29, 2009) (report prepared for the Denmark’s Electronic Research Library [DEFF]), available at Public/DWSDownload.aspx?File=%2fFiles%2fFiler%2fdownloads%2fDK_Costs_and_benefits_of_alternative_publishing_models.pdf.

[56] See Houghton, Open Access, supra note 482, at 9, 12-14.

[57] See John Houghton with Bruce Rasmussen and Peter Sheehan, Economic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs (July 2010) (report prepared for The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition [SPARC]), available at; see also Jocelyn Kaiser, Free Access to U.S. Research Papers Could Yield $1 Billion in Benefits, Science Insider, August 4, 2010, available at

[58] See Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), H.R. 5037, available at; see also Jocelyn Kaiser, House Hearing Explores Debate Over Free Access to Journal Articles, Science Insider, July 30, 2010, available at

[59] See Victoria University, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Economic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs, (for an online model which makes a subset of the cost-benefit modelling available to the public).

[60] See Charter for Innovation, Creativity and Access to Knowledge: Citizens' and Artist's Rights in the Digital Age, Barcelona, Free Culture Forum,; cf. Evolution Summit 2010, (endorsing very similar principles).

[61] See Panton Principles: Principles for Open Data in Science,

[62] See Paul F. Uhlir, Revolution and Evolution in Scientific Communication: Moving from Restricted Dissemination of Publicly-Funded Knowledge to Open Knowledge Environments, paper presented at the 2nd COMMUNIA Conference (June 28, 2009); see also Jerome H. Reichman, Tom Dedeurwaerdere, and Paul F. Uhlir, Designing the Microbial Research Commons: Strategies for Accessing, Managing, and Using Essential Public Knowledge Assets (Yale U. Press, forthcoming 2011).