Having been released at the same time as the first announcement of Plan S, a very important modification of the Belgian copyright law has gone somewhat unnoticed and it should not have! It is indeed a major groundbreaker in the open access to public research communication. The law now allows authors of publicly funded research articles to retain the right to make their original manuscripts freely available, even if otherwise specified in their contract with the publisher.  In terms of the legal protection of the researchers facing the increasingly frequent constraint on the part of funding bodies to make their publications available in Open Access, this law is of paramount importance. To my knowledge, it is the most progressive exception to a national copyright law worldwide to date.

The law, published on 5 September 2018 in the “Moniteur belge” (the Belgian Official Journal), complements and reinforces the most recent decree of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (French-speaking Community of Belgium), which already requires the immediate Open Access deposit of scientific articles in institutional directories. Together, they form a real legal arsenal in favour of researchers and Open Access in Belgium.

The text of the law specifies that:

  • The article must be at least 50% financed by public funds.
  • The article may be distributed free of charge even if the authors have already assigned their rights to the publisher.
  • The embargo period is 12 months after first publication for the humanities and 6 months in the other fields of science; or less and even none if authorized by the publishing contract.
  • The source of the first publication must be mentioned in all subsequent reuse.
  • The rule also applies to all articles published before the publication of the law.

Full text: Le Moniteur Belge/Het Belgisch Staatsblad. 2018-09-05, p. 68691, Art. 29

Source: ORBi, ULiege.