Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Mon, 8 Apr 2002 08:10:41 -0400

on Fri, 5 Apr 2002 Jan Velterop <> asked:
> I would be interested to know what Albert Henderson thinks about the
> widespread requirement that authors of scientific papers hand over their
> copyright to the publisher, when they submit their papers for publication to
> scholarly journals, without sharing any of the often substantial profits of
> those journals.

        With the prices of journals the subject of so
        many complaints, it would seem provocative
        for authors, whose main income is research grants,
        to demand royalties. The circulation of journals
        is negligible by the standards of mass media. The
        royalty payments would be chicken feed by any
        standard. Yet royalties would undoubtedly increase
        publishers' prices.

        The preparation cost of each article is considerable,
        even before the first copy is distributed. With
        the doubling and re-doubling of R&D spending every
        15 years or so, and the consequent 'information
        explosion,' authors need recognition and dissemination,
        more than cash, from their publishers.

        Moreover, publishers typically return to authors a
        variety of rights to use their articles, satisfying
        authors' needs for dissemination. Many journals also
        have supplied reprints for this purpose. I would
        be glad to send anyone such a reprint of my editorial
        [SCIENCE. 289:243 2000].

        Authors' are guided by the desire for recognition
        and dissemination in their choices of where to
        submit their papers. Recognition is provided by the
        authority of established peer review. Dissemination
        comes from the readership which has been attracted
        by the journal's aim, scope, and record.

        In the context of the Urgent Inquiry below, it
        seems to me that a silent partner -- in effect
        some business manager -- whose main interest
        might well be to steer papers to co-owned
        journals would be anathema to the aims of
        authors and readers. Perhaps the most important
        aspect of joint owership is the unwelcome right
        of the 'silent partner' to interfere, perhaps
        even to censor the speech of the author.
        Industrial sponsors who consider research as a
        means to further marketing goals have
        reportedly withheld publication of important
        data. Now we have universities that wish to
        funnel papers to journals that they own through
        the SPARC consortium and university presses or
        to journals that they favor through overlapping
        commercial interests. The 'silent partner' is a
        potential demon in any relationship.

        Finally, I cannot understand the disparaging
        use of the word 'profit.' Even before Henry
        Oldenberg created the PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS,
        the first science journal, profit has been a
        welcome motive. Associations seek surplus
        revenues much as commercial publishers do.
        The main differences are (1) that editors
        and volunteers for association publishers have
        more influence on management decisions and (2)
        commercial publishers pay taxes and distribute
        their profits to shareholders.

        Excessive profits are more likely to be found
        among our private research universities -- U.S.
        institutions that cut library spending in half.
        They report bottom-line tax-free profits double
        that of publicly held publishers. They also
        retain miserly billions of dollars while
        subjecting libraries and their members to
        impoverished resources while trying to shift
        the blame with half-truths, innuendo, and
        lies. Indeed, they have made some librarians
        the medium for such propaganda.

        Thanks for asking.

Albert Henderson

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Albert Henderson []
> > Sent: 04 April 2002 17:03
> > To: Multiple recipients of list
> > Subject: Urgent inquiry re copyright
> >
> >
> > on 4 Apr 2002 "Rimi B. Chatterjee" <rimi_at_HSS.IITKGP.ERNET.IN> wrote:
> >
> > > I have a query regarding the copyright of works produced by
> > scholars when
> > > in employment, and i need answers soon because my institute
> > is about to
> > > pass a resolution on this, and i've only just heard of it.
> > > It seems that the Institute is making a rule whereby the
> > copyright of any
> > > scholarly work published by an institute employee will belong to the
> > > institute and the institute will take 60 % of the copyright
> > fee, with 40 %
> > > going to the writer. The memo talks about intellectual
> > property meaning
> > > patents, copyrights, tradermarks, design, new plant
> > varieties, circuit
> > > layouts etc, but in the rest of the document refers mostly
> > to patents. What
> > > i want to know is, what is the rule in 'proper'
> > universities (as far as i
> > > know scholars elsewhere are not forced to give up their
> > copyrights). Since
> > > this is a technical institute, presumably they are thinking of
> > > commercialisable technology, but i am afraid that we
> > humanities types will
> > > get caught in the net, and the Institute will automatically
> > bite into our
> > > pitiful royalties.
> >
> > It seems more than unfair to ask a faculty member to
> > turn over rights to the publication of research done
> > before employment, just because the work is accepted
> > for publication after employment begins. Monographs
> > and other works generated from graduate studies,
> > particularly doctoral thesis research, cannot be
> > claimed as the product of recent employment. Literary
> > works, based on life experience and education, would
> > also fall beyond the reach of any reasonable claim.
> >
> > Albert Henderson
> > Former Editor, PUBLISHING RESEARCH QUARTERLY 1994-2000
> > <>
> >
> >
Received on Mon Apr 08 2002 - 14:12:59 BST

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