March 06, 2009

Copyright policies up to date?

The SherpaRomeo tool is great and I know that there are some development plans in the offing. Here are my thoughts on what would make a real difference!

1) Publishers don't keep Sherpa up to date about changes in their policies... or even their policy in the first place. Wouldn't it be great if all publishers kept us all informed through Sherpa? Some publishers are better than others, of course!

2) Sherpa don't attempt to include detailed publisher statement texts. These vary more often than the policies themselves, so it is sensible of Sherpa to link us to publisher websites. I don't think there's much that Sherpa can do on this score.

3) Data at the level of each journal title: this is even more complex to manage and maintain than the publishers' policies, so its entirely understandable why Sherpa haven't attempted to do this. It is irritating to find out the publishers' policy on Sherpa and then have to double check which collection the journal title is a part of, to see how long the embargo period is. It is doubly irritating to find the general policy on SherpaRomeo which allows repository deposit, but when you check the publisher's website and then finally find the actual journal's copyright information page, you find that this title is an exception to the general policy!

Policy variations at individual journal title level mean that we have to do checks anyway. Again, I think that this is not so much a weakness of SherpaRomeo as of the data they are presenting to us...

4) It would be great if Sherpa could track previous publisher policies for each journal title: titles change hands between publishers and publishers change policies. Being able to check the policy at journal title level, and for a specific year/date would be a real benefit if we are trying to be as accurate as possible in what we allow into the repository.

Of course, none of this would be quite as necessary if our authors kept copies of the agreements that they signed and submitted those along with their articles. Then we could refer to the actual source, and at the same time drive home the importance of the copyright agreement to our authors. But it's hard enough to get them to submit even the paper, never mind the copyright agreement as well... :-)

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