All entries for Tuesday 08 July 2008

July 08, 2008

Negotiating with publishers

There's a very interesting example on the lis-copyseek jiscmail list that a law academic has posted, of a letter he has sent to explain that he wishes to retain copyright in his post print and not to sign the agreement as sent by his publisher.

Publishers' copyright transfer agreements and licences to publish are bamboozling. There are plenty of examples on their websites. It is very difficult to work out whether, as an author, you are retaining the right to do all the things you might want to do with your own article. Like sharing it with colleagues, re-publishing the content elsewhere, putting your own version into your institutional repository.

So, there are some tactics that academics can try, to retain these rights:

1) Ignore any such agreements unless and until chased to respond. The publisher might publish your article without you needing to sign the agreement!

2) When chased, explain that you do not wish to sign their form, but would like your work to be published without that requirement. If the agreement is still an issue, seek clarification on anything that is not plainly stated. Write back with your own agreement rather than using their form (as with the example sent to lis-copyseek).

3) If you must use their form, read it and amend it as you see fit.

4) Or else offer to withdraw your article from their journal. Charles Oppenheim of Loughborough did this with Elsevier and his work was published anyway.

It would be great if all authors were aware of what rights they were signing away, and chose to negotiate with publishers rather than signing whatever they are sent without ever keeping even a record for themselves of what they have signed... but perhaps such advice is likely to be for the keen few only.

Copyright law is complicated to understand, publishers don't make it any clearer, and I'm quite sure that academics have other concerns that are more pressing on their time than entering into such negotiations, which will require them to be clued up about their rights in order to stand their ground. Not least of which is boosting their number of publications and citations...

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