The Last Decade in E-Journal Licensing

by | Nov 9, 2012 | 0 comments


Kristin Eschenfelder

Kristin Eschenfelder, Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, reported on a study of licensing data that she has conducted.  Licensing refers to the terms and conditions under which content owners share their data with others.  It is important to remember that the data do not cover pricing, and because of the time lag in processing, it dates from 2009.

Two studies were done on the licenses (224 of them): one on perpetual access, and another on ILL, scholarly sharing, and e-reserves.  (The second study has been published in College & Research Libraries.)  The studies did a structure content analysis of the texts and compared their terms to terms suggested in model licenses by the California Digital Library, ARL, and other organizations.

The licenses were collected by Bergstrom et al., economists at UC Santa Barbara, through open records requests to large state universities and their consortia.  The perpetual access study looked at a subset of 72 licenses.  186 licenses were from commercial publishers such as Wiley, Blackwell, Elsevier, etc., and 38 came from 3 non-commercial publishers: American Chemical society, Oxford University Press, and Cambridge University Press.

Perpetual Access (PA) refers to the ability of libraries to obtain continuing access to materials during the time of the license and afterwards regardless of ongoing access charges.  The study asked if PA was provided on cancellation, if backfiles are included, and the location of the PA copy (publisher’s server, at the library, or somewhere else).  Most of the publishers provided some form of PA, but only 4 (21% of the total) included PA to backfiles if they were part of the original subscription.  Those that did not have a PA option offer their backfiles as a separate product for purchase or lease.  Commercial licenses were more likely to include backfile access.  Most publishers specified the location of the PA copy, and about half offer library PA.  These are the conclusions of the study regarding PA:


Scholarly sharing means peer-to-peer sharing of e-resources between colleagues across institutional boundaries without the mediation of a librarian.  Only 55% of the licenses acknowledge scholarly sharing, but 7 of 11 show lower levels of use of scholarly sharing terms.

The final issue studied was ILL:  Is use of secure delivery systems permitted, and what are the requirements?  Most licenses permit or require secure e-transmission for ILL:  8 of 11 publishers include this recommendation.  About 79% of licenses include a print requirement despite model licenses recommendations to avoid them.  Most of the time, libraries were required to print out a copy, then scan it for transmission to the requester–a requirement that most requesters find bizarre and unnecessary.

This work is continuing; more licenses will be gathered from a greater diversity of publishers, and standards, privacy clauses, and e-book licensing will be added.


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