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Non-exclusive licenses & copyright

As a reminder, I've reproduced the previous messages in a related thread
that debated the notion of shared copyright (good idea or bad), because
that particular discussion is now a few weeks old. 

That thread lays the foundation for my somewhat different question.  It
regards the current practice on the part of no small number of publishers,
say of newspapers, journals, and reference works, to give non-exclusive
electronic licenses to different aggregators or vendors (for example, IAC,
Lexis-Nexis, OCLC, Blackwell).  These licenses enable the aggregators or
vendors to deliver the materials to their customers, often packaged with
other like materials that the vendor believes their customer will want or
need.  (Incidentally, these vendors or aggregators are competitors or at
least potential competitors with each other, except that their current
offerings overlap only somewhat but nowhere near even 50%, let alone

In any case, it is now becoming possible for a library to access the
same work from more than one on-line provider.

I am curious about Liblicense-l readers' thoughts on the following
questions (because they seem genuinely interesting and in some cases

o What is the effect of this new development on library customers?  You
might think that confusion would be one of them, as the same material
becomes available from multiple sources:  a very different situation than
in print on paper, isn't it?  Or is it? 

o What is its effect, practically speaking, on creators/authors/copyright
holders?  Remember that the ownership plot thickens up under such a
situation and looks like this:

1.  Copyright may be transferred to the publisher by the author -- or 
increasingly, it may be retained by the author with either an exclusive
or non-exclusive right transferred to the publisher.

2.  The publisher offers a non-exclusive license to a vendor/aggregator
to distribute (re-license) the materials to the library customer.

o How does an author or publisher decide where their best financial
interests lie, in such an environment?  How do they decide upon a fair
charge or pricing model now that their revenue is coming from this rather
more diverse financial base? 

This new trend to non-exclusive online distribution feels to me as or much
more important than the notion of authors hanging on to their copyrights.
At least it seems parallel to it in that the vendors have only (mostly) 
non-exclusive licenses from the publishers.  Actually, I don't know
how anyone can keep ownership straight in this kind of new environment.
Is it important to do so?

I welcome additional insights and ways to our thinking about this matter. 

Ann Okerson
Associate University Librarian
Yale University
Co-Moderator, Liblicense-l

Chris Zielinski wrote:

> As a former long-time publisher, I find the concept of jointly-held
> copyright as unappealing as, say, a co-publication where the publisher
> designation is shared - it is not a good solution for those (librarians,
> multimedia producers, etc.) who want to make subsequent arrangements with
> the rightsholder. 


> Chris Zielinski
> --------------------------------------------------
> >Indeed, a joint copyright arrangement would be more equitable for the
> >author with respect to the unforseen future applications of information
> >technology.  However, would this not complicate the granting of reprint
> >permission if dual consent was required for every request (i.e. the
> >acquiescence of BOTH the author and publisher)? Additionally, how
> >would such joint ownership be expressed, practically speaking, in the
> >language of the copyright agreement without being uselessly vague ?  
> >
> >Thomas J. Shelford
> >Regional Sales Office - Elsevier Science Inc.
> --------------------------------------------------
> >Reference contributions from Chris Zielinski and Peter Goldie - would not
> >several problems (typically potential problems rather than actual!) be
> >solved if the author had joint copyright with the publisher?  That would
> >allow the author to share in unforeseen exploitation through other media
> >and put the author in a position to overcome misdemeanours in the 'out of
> >print' area.
> >
> > At this point in time it could be genuinely advantageous to both sides
> >since it would avoid the necessity to attempt to hhave the contract cover
> >technical and commercial developments - which noone can forecast
> >reasonably for the next few years.
> >
> >Shared copyright would not necessarily imply shared royalty payments; 
> >but it would imply the author's right to be consulted and to agree.
> >
> >* John Sumsion
> >* Senior Fellow,  Dept. of Information and Library Studies,
> >* Loughborough University
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