Copyright Rule vs. Communality Norm in the Scholarly Publishing Market: Institutional Overlap as a Barrier to publishing in Open Access journals?

Jaele Bechis (Université de Lorraine)
Sophie Harnay (Université Paris Nanterre)
Giovanni B. Ramello (Università del Piemonte Orientale)


The scientific publishing market is governed by a complex set of both norms- and law-based intellectual property systems. In the literature these two systems are strictly counterposed, with legal rules equated to closed access publishing, and the social norms of the scientific community corresponding to open access. This article provides new insights into scholars’ decisions to publish in open vs. closed access, arguing that the co-evolution of these two intellectual property systems has shaped scholarly publishing over time. In particular, norms-based and law-based intellectual property systems influence scholars’ behaviors, which in turn shape the content of those very norms and rules. Today, the predominance of copyright has caused knowledge enclosure--in the form of closed-access publication--to become accepted as the new norm. This shift in the social norm to align with copyright explains the limited success of legal framework reforms aimed at promoting wider use of open access publishing, and the reluctance of most researchers to choose open access tools.

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