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Q&A with Springer Nature’s Leslie Lansman: Ethical content sharing and the benefits of the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence

The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence is a collective licence covering millions of works from thousands of publishers, permitting UK professionals working in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector to make paper or digital copies of published content, subject to certain terms and conditions, from most books, magazines, journals and websites. The pharmaceutical and medical communications industry relies heavily on the use and dissemination of scientific journals, research papers, medical reports, and other publications, all of which are protected by copyright. These materials are the backbone of research, development, and dissemination, with journal articles providing insights into drug safety and side effects, case studies informing new treatment strategies, research papers sparking drug discovery pathways and regulatory reports shaping the future of patient care. This knowledge exchange ultimately accelerates innovation by ensuring reliable content is reused ethically and responsibly.

Copyright protects creators by giving them exclusive control over their original works, including if and how their content is used, copied or distributed. Publishers bring those works to market, and the economic incentives provided by copyright encourage the production of high-quality works that ultimately benefit consumers.

The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence offers a solution to the industry, simplifying content sharing for research development, regulatory processes, and internal collaboration, as well as collaboration with external partners. This licence is particularly valuable in the highly regulated pharmaceutical sector, reflecting this sector’s commitment to ethical practices and promoting reputations.

Pharmaceutical companies subscribe to thousands of journals from major STM publishers such as Springer Nature, Elsevier, Wiley, Sage and Taylor and Francis and employees worldwide often collaborate with external entities, pooling resources and expertise to advance research endeavours. Effective content sharing is vital, but it is crucial to guarantee the content you share is accurate and accessible across your reuse needs. The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence saves time and resources, mitigates the risk of copyright infringement, and streamlines regulatory compliance.

Being a compliant sector, pharmaceutical companies were among the first to approach CLA for a bespoke licence, to provide a solution for certain routine activities, such as research involving STM content, compliance, and pharmacovigilance.

The evolution of CLA’s Pharmaceutical Licence 

The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence was carefully developed in consultation with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and publishers, with engagement beginning in the early 1990s as a means of framing the licence and the key permissions that the sector was interested in. In 1995, virtually all major pharmaceutical companies took out licensing agreements with CLA following full endorsement from the ABPI, providing them with photocopying and scanning permissions. The Pharmaceutical Licence has further developed over time through consultations with key customers such as GSK and AstraZeneca and gained additional digital permissions in 2009.

Tailored licensing for the pharmaceutical sector 

Today’s licences are fully tailored for pharmaceutical, life sciences, biosciences, and medical communications organisations. They are an extension to the main CLA Business Licence, offering additional permissions designed for healthcare companies’ everyday information and regulatory needs. These include:

  • Permission to make copies from millions of works from thousands of publishers, including works from over 40 territories worldwide.
  • External sharing of single licensed digital and print copies with healthcare providers, patients and carers for medical information purposes.
  • Regulatory submissions and patent applications in any jurisdiction.

With the wealth of STM content published and the fast-paced nature of medical communications, understanding reuse rights and copyright compliance is critical.

Q&A with Leslie Lansman

Photo of Leslie Lansman in an orange cirlce

Today, we discuss these complexities with Leslie Lansman, Global Permissions Manager at Springer Nature, exploring how the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence safeguards companies and promotes ethical content sharing practices.

1. Springer Nature publishes a vast library of STM content. Could you elaborate on the key ways you see this content providing tangible value to pharmaceutical, life science, and medical communications professionals?

We recognise how important it is for pharmaceutical and medical communication (MedComms) professionals to be able to share, use, and reference reliable published content. Accuracy and relevance are essential, and no one working in the medical field wants to be sharing incorrect or outdated information. Whether it’s for internal communications, regulatory processes, or legal proceedings, we understand how important it is to ensure professionals are sending and receiving the ‘version of record’, or the most relevant material to the issue they are dealing with.

Compliance with international law is a top priority for our pharmaceutical and MedComms partners, which can be challenging in the complicated world of copyright, with its many national variations. The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence removes the need to be concerned about copyright restrictions for a wide swathe of necessary communications, thereby disincentivising any employee from searching for the ‘free to read’ or otherwise improperly circulated version of an article which may not represent the version of record.

Circulating trusted and verified content is our collective goal which the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence helps to facilitate.

2. This sector often needs to repurpose and share content for various medical communications. How do you think the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence helps ensure copyright compliance in these activities?

The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence provides assurance to industry professionals that they can legally and confidently share content in specific circumstances without needing to contact the rights holder directly. This leads to several benefits:

  • Reduced administrative burden: The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence is easy to understand simplifying sharing of high-quality material which in turn reduces administrative burdens and eliminates the need to ‘hunt around’ for an unverified version of a published work.
  • Ease of use: The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence clearly defines the activities it covers, thereby also helping those that work in the pharmaceutical industry understand when they need to seek further permission.
  • Reliability: As publishers work with CLA, those that use the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence may be assured they are sharing verified content subject to rigorous research integrity efforts. In turn, this means people can confidently reference and attribute correct versions of content, furthering the reliability of the scientific information shared.

3. Some pharmaceutical companies may not be aware of the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence. Could you explain the potential risks associated with content reuse without a proper licence, especially regarding copyright infringement?

The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence provides clear guidelines on sharing limits, therefore making it easier to know when additional permissions must be sought. The last thing that anyone wants is to discover they have been reusing other people’s content without permission. Improper reuse could not only lead to additional costs in time or expenses, but it can also damage key working relationships between publishers and those in the pharmaceutical industry.

Copyright extends to almost all literary (written) or artistic (images, graphs, tables) works, so it is easy to inadvertently make a copy of something you do not have permission to copy. When things go wrong, it is always best to try to immediately seek permission to rectify the situation. Using content without a licence can create a host of different issues including delays in patent applications, having to take out an image from every electronic communication, having to withdraw print products from the market, or additional permission fees of expenses. The CLA Pharmaceutical Licence helps businesses avoid many of these problems and bolster the partnership between publishers and those in the pharmaceutical and MedComms industry.

Publishers want to help people effectively and legally share verified information; however improper use of protected content may make it less likely that a publisher would support future reuses. Ultimately there is always a risk of a copyright infringement claim; it is an infringement of copyright to reuse content without permission (whether granted explicitly or by law). Avoiding litigation is always the best course of action.

4. How does having a CLA Licence show a pharmaceutical company’s commitment to ethical research and respect for researchers? What are common copyright misconceptions in this industry, and how can better awareness benefit everyone?

Ensuring employees are relying upon the verified version of an article is essential; publishers invest heavily in research integrity tools, and it is paramount that the health industry does not rely on false or misleading publications.

The biggest misconception we see is the myth that you can change a few things around or summarise an article ‘in your own words’ and therefore escape copyright or still be sharing dependable content. Copyright protects both literal copying and non-literal or derivative copying. You also want to avoid misrepresenting the underlying information by summarising or condensing material incorrectly. If you are reusing another person’s intellectual property in any fashion during the course of doing business, chances are you need a licence.

It is important to make employees aware of the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence as this licence also helps identify all the different types of works copyright is attached to. Another misconception is the idea that ‘since it is free to read on the internet, it is free for me to share with my colleagues/adapt into my presentation/include in my marketing campaign etc’. This is a myth. Content that is ‘free to read’ may not be ‘free to reuse’, and this is why the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence is a great asset in that it allows sharing of all types of content in a variety of business situations.

5. Springer Nature actively promotes responsible research practices. How does the CLA Licence fit into your broader efforts to ensure the integrity and accuracy of scientific communication?

Licences, such as the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence, are a key component of ensuring content is disseminated effectively and legitimately and play a part in helping to ensure the integrity and accuracy of scientific communication.

Accurate attribution is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the scientific record. A big part of that is for publishers to understand where and how content is being reused, and for people sharing content to know how to correctly cite or attribute the shared material. By facilitating and permitting the reuse of the correct version of a work, the CLA Pharmaceutical Licence supports better referencing and attribution. Referencing out of date, retracted, or otherwise problematic versions of content is a goal publishers share.

6. A strong relationship between STM publishers and the Pharma industry benefits both sides. What does the future hold for this partnership?

Publishers are keenly aware of their responsibilities to ensure proper ongoing management of their published content, both for their authors and to provide good stewardship over that content for global uses. This means publishers want to empower those who have legitimate interests in reusing their content to do so appropriately. Many publishers may even have dedicated teams to answer any rights related questions.

Licensing arrangements may change over time to keep pace with technological and legal developments. Holding a CLA Pharmaceutical Licence ensure that you will stay informed about any changes to the licensing landscape, as well as any new licensing offerings that CLA may provide to meet future challenges.

The future of this partnership lies in continued collaboration, adaptation to new technologies, and a shared commitment to upholding the integrity of scientific information.


About Leslie Lansman: Leslie Lansman B.A., J.D, LL.M has over 20 years of experience in copyright law and policy across various industries and in both London and New York. Currently, she holds the position of Global Permissions Manager at Springer Nature as well as serving as a Director of ALPSP and the Chair of the ALPSP Policy Committee. Alongside her professional commitments, she remains deeply involved in academia, continuing to teach copyright law at a variety of institutions all reflecting her profound interest in the nuances of rights.

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