When I complained, in a blog post written several weeks ago, about the contract I had signed, and regretted, for a book to be published by the American Library Association, I really did not expect the kind of reaction I got. Quite a few readers made comments about the unequal position of authors in publishing negotiations, and especially about the need for the library world to do a better job of modeling good behavior in this area; that was to be expected. A few people took me to task for agreeing to a contract I disliked so much, which was no more than I deserved. But I truly was surprised by the number of folks from the ALA, including current ALA president Jim Neal, who reach out to me and expressed a determination to fix the problem I had described.
NB: This is a guest post from David Lewis, Dean of the IUPUI University Library. David and the regular IO authors hope that this post will generate discussion, and we invite you to comment.
The 2.5% Commitment: Every academic library should commit to contribute 2.5% of its total budget to support the common infrastructure needed to create the open scholarly commons.
A number of things came at me at in late summer.
The final foible I wanted to write about in this series of posts involves a distressingly common situation – a copyright holder who does not understand what the rights they hold actually are.
This is not the first blog post to point out that Human Synergistics International is pretty clueless about copyright. Almost five years ago, the TechDirt blog made an effort to school Human Synergistics about fair use. Apparently it did not work; they seem to continue to misunderstand the copyright law.
The second folly I want to talk about is somewhat embarrassing, since it is my own. Publication contracts are always an adventure for academic authors, of course; we are routinely taken advantage of by publishers who know that publication is a job requirement and believe they have us in a stranglehold. I once read a comment by a lawyer who works with authors that signing an agreement with one of the major publishers was akin to getting into a car with a clearly intoxicated driver – no sensible person should do it. So in this story I have no one but myself to blame. Nevertheless, I want to tell folks about it because it was not one of the big publishers that treated me badly; it was my own professional organization, the American Library Association.
It’s been a busy summer for OA in Europe. On one hand, nationally coordinated efforts in places like Finland and Germany have sought (unsuccessfully so far) to pressure Elsevier into better subscription pricing and OA options. On the other hand, a group of early career researchers (ECRs) at the University of Cambridge are looking to mobilize fellow ECRs to embrace open models that are not controlled by commercial entities. In my view, these divergent approaches illustrate why we should focus our collective energies away from strategies in which commercial interests retain control under new economic conditions (see also, proposals to flip subscription payments to APCs), and towards working with ECRs and others who envision a return of scholarly dissemination responsibility to the academy.
It has been a while since we have posted to this site, and I want to catch up by sharing some thoughts about a few odd or disturbing developments from the past month or so.
Let’s start with a recent folly, the “settlement” in the infamous “Monkey Selfie” case. The New York Times proclaims the settlement proposed on Monday as “a victory of sorts” for the monkey and his friends. The “friends,” of course are PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who brought the case as Naruto’s “next friend,” trying to establish that the monkey, who they named Naruto, owned the copyright in the picture he apparently snapped. It is not at all clear that PETA even knows which monkey it is representing, since in court papers they identify Naruto as a six-year old male, but the original photographer whose copyright claim PETA is disputing, David Slater himself identified the photogenic macaque as a female.
Over the last two weeks, I have been putting together a syllabus to teach a course in copyright law at the University of Kansas law school. Although I have taught copyright a lot, I have never done so in a formal law school class, so this is both an exciting and intimidating process for me.
As part of planning a class session about the doctrine of first sale, I was doing a little bit of research about the Capitol Records v. ReDigi case, which squarely confronts the issue of whether or not first sale can survive in a digital age. The case has been going on for a while, so I will claim the process of creating a syllabus as my justification for writing about it now.
I came across this question on Twitter recently, and it got me thinking about something that I think about quite a bit:
I do a lot of work around diversity, inclusion, and representation in librarianship, publishing, and higher education. And I get a lot of questions like this from people looking to diversify their lists of potential collaborators, speakers, etc. I’ve even written a bit about ways to incorporate diversity into our programming and work.
This is a guest post by Barbara DeFelice, Program Director for Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing at the Dartmouth College Library.
Dartmouth offers a small number of MOOCs, selected from faculty proposals, through the DartmouthX infrastructure. This includes a cross-unit team of librarians, educational designers, students and faculty. Dartmouth is providing this level of support for faculty to develop MOOCs in order to influence long-standing teaching practices through experiments in the MOOCs that are evaluated and brought into the on-campus learning experience.
The lawsuit is really a rather local affair; an action brought by Louisiana State University against Elsevier alleging breach of contract. But the facts raise significant questions for all Elsevier customers, and especially for public universities that do business with the publishing giant (which is to say, all of us). Even more significant, I think, is what the specific circumstances, and some of the comments made about the lawsuit, tell us about the future of scholarly communications. In my mind, we have reached the “enough is enough” point with Elsevier.
Recently there has been a spate of comment expressing frustration about the allegedly slow progress of open access, and especially Green open access. It is hard to disagree with some of this sentiment, but it is important that frustration not lead us into trying to solve a problem with a worse solution. The key, I believe, to making real advances in open access is to walk away from the commercial publishers who have dominated the market for scholarship. Only if we do that can libraries free up money from our collection budgets to do truly new things. A new business model with the same old players, even if it were possible, would be a mistake.
Last month, I attended the Charlotte Initiative Open Conference. This Mellon-funded project brought together publishers, librarians, and technology providers to explore a reconsideration of the transactional models between publishers and libraries for eBooks. To quote the initiative, “Our starting premise is that permanent acquisitions of eBooks requires these licensing terms:
- Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
- Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
- Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.”
I was invited to be on the project’s advisory board two years ago and I’ll admit the premise seemed like quite a stretch at that time. In a climate where the rhetoric of accountability is paired with market-optimizing tools like DDA and EBA, the idea that libraries will only buy our most successful books and then insist on broad usage terms like the Charlotte Principles just felt like a non-starter. As John Unsworth mentioned in his conference keynote, publishers operate in the world of risk and libraries have historically helped academic publishers mitigate risk by building deep monograph collections. Predatory publishers figured out how to game this system, forcing libraries to use “accountability” as a reason to reduce monograph purchases despite the arrival of digital platforms making them less expensive and more accessible than ever. As a director at a public university press, I can attest to the acute pain that strategy has had on mission-driven non-profit publishers and on the humanities and social science disciplines we support. More on that in a moment.
It might be necessary to remind readers that the copyright lawsuit brought by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Sage Publishing against Georgia State University is still going on. It began in 2008, and after losing all of their major points at every level of the litigation, it would be easy and sensible to conclude that the publishers had walked away, as most sensible plaintiffs would have done. But these are not sensible plaintiffs; they, or the folks who call the shots and pay the bills for them, are fanatically determined to push their alternate view of copyright law ever up the hill, no matter how often it rolls back on them.
On March 15, founding editors Stacy Konkiel and Lily Troia, both of Altmetric, and Nicky Agate of the Modern Language Association, will officially launch The Idealis, a portal for connecting to curated open access library and information science scholarship. Operating on the WordPress plugin Press Forward, The Idealis will include annotated lists of open access scholarship written by, for, or of interest to information professionals. Curation will be done by volunteer editors with expertise in the field. Each editor will serve on two-week rotations during which they will nominate pieces for inclusion in The Idealis platform using the Press Forward plugin. Initially, the collection will consist entirely of works focused on scholarly communication, but the hope is that The Idealis will soon grow to include scholarly work from a wide-range of library interests, including critical librarianship, public librarianship, school librarianship, and more.
I have a conflicted relationship with the idea of moral rights in copyrighted works. Because I saw my work as a scholarly communications librarian as focused on helping academic authors understand their rights and use them to further their own goals and the goals of scholarship writ large, I have often been sensitive to the lack of a real attribution right in U.S. law. I even wrote an article in 2010, in which I suggested such a right as a potential improvement of our law. Nevertheless, the difficulties associated with incorporating moral rights into U.S. copyright are substantial, so this topic has remained unresolved in my own mind.newrambler.net/ramblings/wp-content/uploads/essay
The Electrochemical Society, a small nonprofit scholarly society founded in 1902, has an important message for all of us who are concerned about access to science. Mary Yess, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Content Officer and Publisher, could not be clearer about the increased urgency of ECS’ path: “We have got to move towards an open science environment. It has never been more important – especially in light of the recently announced ‘gag orders’ on several US government agencies– to actively promote the principles of open science.” What they committed to in 2013 as an important open access initiative has become, against the current political backdrop, truly a quest to “free the science.”
This is the Conference Report from the Symposium on Open Access : Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs that was held at the University of Kansas last fall. The symposium generated international attention and some great conversations. This report was written by Robert Kieft, Ada Emmett, Josh Bolick, and Rebecca Kennison.
On November 17-18, 2016, the University of Kansas Libraries (KU), Open Access Network (OAN), Allen Press, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sponsored an international symposium, Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. The symposium brought together a group of 18 panelists and 9 respondents and offered a first session livestreamed for a worldwide audience. The remainder of the meeting was structured as an “unconference” focused on key ideas raised by participants’ statements and the ensuing discussion during the opening event. The symposium asked the participants to consider current models available for achieving an expansive, inclusive, and balanced global open publishing ecosystem, one that does not depend on the payment of article- or book- processing charges (APCs or BPCs) for publication.
Last month I was invited to participate in a panel on Open Access at the annual American Historical Association meeting in Denver. One of my colleagues led their presentation with the astute comment that the way most historians react to OA is with apathy. After all, the economics of traditional monograph publishing work pretty well in history and the book is still the coin of the realm in this field. If OA is a solution to an economic crisis, then history should be the last place we need it, right?
This quote is from a 1996 letter written by then-Register of Copyright Marybeth Peters to Senator Orrin Hatch of the Senate Judiciary Committee about why the Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress:
Put simply, copyright differs from industrial property in fundamental respects. Most other countries, like the United States, have recognized this difference, handling copyright issues in their ministries of culture or education, and patent and trademark issues in their ministries of commerce or trade. While copyright, like industrial property, has important commercial value, it also has a unique influence on culture, education, and the dissemination of knowledge. It is this influence that logically connects copyright to the Library of Congress in contributing to the development of our nation’s culture.
This post is co-written by Michael Elliott (Interim Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University), Christopher Long (Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Michigan State University), Mark Saunders (Director, University of Virginia Press), and Charles Watkinson (Director, University of Michigan Press).
As part of an initiative to explore the potential benefits of open access modes for disseminating academic monographs, we have found ourselves returning to basic questions about how we want to measure and understand what it is we do when we send a monograph out into the world. Every book is created from our basic scholarly impulse to enrich some aspect of the complex world we share. Yet when we seek to tell the story of its impact, we too often rely on narrow, dull, and/or inadequate measures — citation counts; print runs; downloads.