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Re: university press rights assignment
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- Subject: Re: university press rights assignment
- From: "adam hodgkin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 18:46:21 EST
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John Cox's clear reply to Jim O'Donnell has a crucial error (call it a typo).
Where he says:
2. If the author contract specifically assigns copyright in the work to the author - so that it is published "C the publisher" - then the addendum is irrelevant, as the publisher already owns the copyright.He MEANT to say
If the author contract specifically assigns copyright in the work to the PUBLISHER.....
But I think there is a bit more to this. and to the leverage of scholarly authors than John's reply allows. So far as it goes, its correct on the legal position at present. But publishers who assert that they own scholars assigend copyrights should be very careful of the way that they exercise this ownership. If the ownership is exercised for the interests of shareholders rather than for the interests of the academy.....If the development of effective electronic libraries is hindered by the assertion of these 'assigned rights' there will be a significant backlash. There is concern from the authors side that scholarly and research work should be available in the most effective way possible. Getting the work read, accessed, consulted is a fundamental objective of scholarly research.... if commercial publishers or even worse university presses were to be seen as obstacles of the freer flow of scholarly communication, they would very quickly discover how limited and limp are the formal rights to which they are custodian. This is why Provosts, Deans, Librarians and Learned societies need to be very alive to the issues of effective communication with the web. This is why Jim O'Donnell is right to raise his eyebrows.
On 1/16/07, John Cox <John.E.Cox@btinternet.com> wrote:
Jim O'Donnell's question is, as ever, perceptive. But the answer has to be in two stages: 1. If the author contract is a licence to publish, with copyright remaining with the author, then the university press addendum makes no sense, as it requires the assignment of rights for the full term of copyright, whether the title remains in print or not. It is thoughtless and unconscionable. What is required is a simple extension of the right to publish in electronic/digital media as well as in print. In any case, there should be a clause, as Jim suggests, that, on the author's request, reverts all rights or licences granted to the publisher if the work goes out of print - usually if it has not been available from the publisher for two years or more. 2. If the author contract specifically assigns copyright in the work to the author - so that it is published "C the publisher" - then the addendum is irrelevant, as the publisher already owns the copyright. What the author agreement should provide for is the reversion of the copyright in the work to the author if the work goes out of print, along the lines in 1 above. There is a practical wrinkle in all of this. When works were published in print, and electronic publishing was in the future, it was easy to tell when a work went out of print. Today, with print on demand (POD), and e-book versions being published by publishers, books can remain "in print" for many years after the printed stock has been exhausted, simply because it is available in POD or in digital form. I am sure that literary agents are working on this, and a solution from general publishing will drift into the scholarly sphere long before we are in no position to care. One possible solution may be to agree that rights revert to the author when royalties generated from sales and due to the author fall below an agreed minimum for, say, two consecutive years, or the number of copies sold in any format fails to reach an agreed minimum over a similar period. John Cox Managing Director John Cox Associates Ltd Rookwood, Bradden TOWCESTER, Northants NN12 8ED United Kingdom E-mail: John.E.Cox@btinternet.com <http://www.johncoxassociates.com/>