In “Open Access Mandates and the ‘Fair Dealing’ Button,” Arthur Sale, Marc Couture, Eloy Rodrigues, Les Carr, and Stevan Harnad discuss the provision of a “fair dealing button” on research that is deposited in a funder’s or institution’s repository. The fair dealing button developed out of the longstanding tradition of individuals writing to authors to request a copy of their article. With the fair dealing button, this process is automated. But how does this function connect to the open access movement, and fair dealing in general?
Obviously, articles that are already open access do not need a fair dealing or request button, as they are readily available for download from the repository. It is the closed-access articles that require this provision. When authors deposit a closed access article in a repository, all that is available for others to see is the article’s metadata. With a fair dealing button, users can still review the metadata but can also generate an automated request to the author for access to the full article. Even if an article is closed access, the fair dealing button and process provides the reader with a single copy of the article for personal, research, creative, or journalistic use. Sale et al. call this procedure “almost open access” (191).
The fair dealing button is indeed a creative workaround for providing access to closed off materials. As the authors note, this is also a good strategy for dealing with embargoed articles (as those who manage the repository can simply flip the switch on articles as they come out of embargo periods). Green OA and repository deposit more generally would become much more streamlined in this way, as institutions could put in place mandates for their employees to deposit all articles upon or just prior to publication, regardless of their status as open, closed, or embargoed. However, I do wonder if the provision of a fair dealing button could backfire on the open access movement. What is holding publishers back from using this provision as a way to argue that they should continue to hold rights to articles and charge for their subscription, if they are simultaneously allowing for indexing by institutions and on-demand copies of articles? The longterm effects of the fair dealing button, in this regard, are yet to be seen.
Sale, Arthur, Marc Couture, Eloy Rodrigues, Les Carr, and Stevan Harnad. 2014. “Open Access Mandates and the ‘Fair Dealing’ Button.” In Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online, edited by Rosemary J. Coombe and Darren Wershler. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 189–200.