Re: Authors "Victorious" in UnCover Copyright Suit

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PRINCETON.EDU>
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 12:07:37 -0400

I agree with Al that Steve is missing the point of the decision.
The authors in this suit are not the authors of scholarly journal articles,
they are the authors of articles in relatively high-circulation periodicals
(like his example of New scientist) who are paid specifically for their work,
article by article. What's more, unlike the authors in scholarly periodicals,
they have in many cases expressly NOT transferred the copyright to the
publisher, but sold the publisher only "first serial rights." A particular
journal of this sort will typically contain articles to which the publisher
has all rights, and articles to which the publisher does not.

Uncover had been reprinting these materials, whose copyright they neither
owned nor licensed. They paid royalties to the publisher, who in many cases
did not own the copyright, and had no legal right to the royalties. The
publisher of course, should have forwarded this money to the people entitled
to it.

I hope that as scholarly authors increasingly retain copyright in their own
work rather than transferring it to the publisher, that we can find ways to
make it clear to services like Uncover that in most such cases we do not
expect them to pay us or anyone royalties, without causing difficulties to
authors who have the right to such payment, expect it, and make their living
from it.

Albert Henderson wrote:
> on Thu, 10 Aug 2000 Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_COGLIT.ECS.SOTON.AC.UK> wrote:
> >>From LJ Digital
> >>
> >>Authors Victorious in UnCover Copyright Suit (July 31, 2000)
> >>
> >>A group of authors have won their two-year-old copyright suit against the
> >>UnCover document delivery operation. A California court ruled on July 26
> >>that UnCover must secure copyright permission from and pay royalties
> >>directly to an author before using that person's work to fill requests from
> >>customers, instead of relying on the original publisher to compensate the
> >>authors. UnCover said it will set up licensing agreements with authors for
> >>semi-annual payments. A web site -- -- is
> >>being launched July 31, so authors can search to see if their work was
> >>illegally resold and to provide abused authors with information in
> >>collecting their share of the $7.25 million settlement.
> >
> >Insofar as books are concerned, nolo contendere.
> >
> >But insofar as refereed journal articles are concerned, this lawsuit
> >and its "victorious" outcome for researchers represents nothing but
> >short-sighted nonsense.
> >
> >Journal articles are author GIVE-AWAYS;
> Harnad confuses the exchange of copyright for
> valuable recognition and dissemination with the
> fact that money does not change hands. Authors
> work hard for acceptance and each has a selection
> hierarchy for submissions if the first choice
> will not publish. R. K. Merton has made this
> point at length. I believe any economist would
> agree that an exchange, not a give-away, takes
> place.
> > the average refereed journal
> >article (this is a free estimate, but unlikely to be far from the
> >truth) has, let's say, 25 readers, and zero citations (apart from
> >self-citations), in its entire life-cycle. (Authors for whom UnCover
> >raises that number by 1 or 2 are not "abused"!)
> Not relevant to "hot papers" that score hundreds
> or thousands of readings and citations -- the
> latter a regular feature in THE SCIENTIST.
> Albert Henderson
> <>

David Goodman
Biology Librarian, and
Co-Chair, Electronic Journals Task Force
Princeton University Library
phone: 609-258-3235            fax: 609-258-2627
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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