A shared path to reforming rights retention in Europe

Vanessa Proudman SPARC Europe

Stichting IFLA Foundation Programme, in partnership with IFLA, LIBER and SPARC Europe are implementing a three-year Arcadia Foundation-funded programme to reform copyright laws and regulations that enable libraries to provide significantly improved access to and use of copyrighted works. Knowledge Rights 21 aims to promote change at European, national and local levels providing valuable examples for the rest of the world. The programme is driving reform in six key areas, including improving rights retention and open licensing policy and practice. 

Europe has seen a significant growth in activity to establish and advance Open Access (OA) policies. However, copyright has been the thorn in the side of many authors, funders and their institutions who wish to publish OA since publisher policies and processes are no longer fit for purpose. Today, we require the rights to publish, share, adapt and reuse material for research, educational or multilingual needs. Governments, funders and institutions are responding in different ways to counteract publisher deadlock or restrictions as regards rights retention and open licensing. National policies have been set up in France, Spain or the Netherlands and umbrella organisations are calling for legislation like LIBER with its Draft Law for the use of publicly funded scholarly publications.  

Above all, publisher copyright policies often stand in the way of authors complying with today’s funder requirements. A SPARC Europe 2020 study provided insights into copyright policies of 10 large publishers and numerous smaller ones showing the disparities between publishers, and shining a light on the complexities that authors are faced with when seeking the right to publish OA. Research funders such as the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme and the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy require authors to retain publishing rights to enable them to share their work more broadly, open access and openly licensed. Funders are currently developing and implementing their strategies although more funders will need to introduce policies until publishers change their rights retention policies. It is also, however, the institution that is closest to the author, that can set publication policies to better ensure that publication rights are secured for OA as demonstrated by the Harvard model all those years ago, and now by the UK (Edinburgh) or Norway (Tromso). Others are piloting rights retention action as at the University of Cambridge. However, more efforts need to be undertaken by institutions to make it easier for their authors to legally publish OA.

Knowledge Rights 21 intends to accelerate the uptake of rights retention and open licensing to enable researchers to share their work openly. It will do this by calling for publisher, institutional and funder policy change and by empowering authors to refuse to cede their IP. The first year is building the evidence-base building on previous work, and above all it is looking at funder and institutional publishing policies and implementation journeys with the view to stimulate change amongst these stakeholders and authors. This presentation will provide some highlights of some of the good practices learnt so far amongst publishers, institutions and funders. 

Knowledge Rights 21 aims to mobilize change in copyright reform in Europe and a copyright network of strong and active individuals from the library field and beyond is essential to support this. The development of grassroot capacity across countries will raise the voice of libraries on copyright and build new alliances with other sectors such as researchers, access to knowledge advocates or knowledge service providers to form long-lasting change. This presentation will outline how we are building this network and how you can get involved, also to stimulate reform and action in the area of Rights Retention and Open Licensing.

Vanessa Proudman
SPARC Europe
Veenendaal, Netherlands
ORCID ID: 0000-0001-5623-9051

Stephen Wyber
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Utrecht, Netherlands


Skip to content