Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Peter Suber <peters_at_EARLHAM.EDU>
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 14:17:55 -0400

At 01:29 PM 6/28/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>Dear Stevan,
>While I am fully aware of the distinction between the "give-away" literature
>and the writing-for-fee literature, I can't help but wonder if the US
>Supreme Court ruling (see below) will have implications for the scholarly
>literature, as publishers have been digitizing back issues of journal
>articles that were published before the arrival of electronic publishing and
>before there were electronic rights for authors to give away. In other
>words, could authors prevent publishers from digitizing the material that
>they do not have the electronic rights to, just as some publishers have been
>preventing authors from self-archiving? And what would this really mean, if
>Leslie Chan
>The Supreme Court ruled that freelance writers must be compensated
>when publishers reprint their works in electronic form. The high
>court sided with National Writers' Union President Jonathan
>Tasini, ruling that transferring freelance authors' articles to
>CD-ROMs and online databases creates totally new editions of
>those articles--not revisions, as publishers had argued. American
>University professor of law Peter A. Jaszi said, "This decision
>seems to be a wonderful reaffirmation of the central importance
>of the creative individual in our copyright system." However,
>historians Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin said the ruling
>will harm intellectual research if publishers remove freelance
>articles from databases.
>(Chronicle of Higher Education Online, 26 June 2001)

      Since the Tasini case was filed in 1993, major publishers have
protected their interests by asking for electronic publication rights
alongside traditional print publication rights. So the Tasini victory only
belongs to authors who signed agreements with publishers before 1993 or
so. If publishers in the future routinely demand and receive electronic
rights, then this could prevent self-archiving of postprints and other
forms of online distribution, or at least those forms of online
distribution that publishers believe would hurt their profits.


Peter Suber, Professor of Philosophy
Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374

Editor, The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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