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Re: Electronic Resources

   About authors and electronic resources: 

   I mostly lurk on this listserv, because often it seems to be about
academic journals.  Things like being charged $1000 for a copy of an
article seem almost like science fiction to me, and appalling. 

   As a professional writer, though (one who also uses research
libraries), I want librarians to realize that although in academic
publishing (scholarly journals, etc.) the authors traditionally give up
the copyright and get no income from their writing (realizing their income
from tenure, teaching jobs, etc., and living in a "publish or perish"
world), that is absolutely not true with professional writers, which
includes the authors of many, many books and articles important to the
advancement of knowledge and understanding. 

   Not all authors make their primary living by not writing.  Many of them
make their living entirely or mostly by writing.  Traditionally and by
U.S.  copyright law, if a freelance writer's article is published by the
New York Times, the writer holds the copyright and licenses first-time use
of the article to the Times, for a fee. (The Times holds the copyright on
articles written by staff writers.) The writer as copyright holder can
then re-license use of the article to other publications (including
newspapers in other regions, or to book publishers, as part of a book, or
to anthologizers, etc.).  That ability to recycle material is
traditionally what allows many writers to keep working.

   General-circulation newspapers and magazines aren't sure how they are
going to make their money in this new electronic world but publications
like the New York Times figure that (like the academic publishers) their
best bet is to "own" everything they publish.  So they are saying to
freelance writers, effectively, "we are no longer licensing your article;
we are buying all rights to it, now and in perpetuity, in any medium,
including those not yet invented."  And many writers are saying, in
response, "We own the copyright, we are not willing to assign it to you,
and if you start collecting a fee for use of the article from online
services and electronic archives (services like Dialog and Lexus-Nexus,
etc.) the author is entitled to at least half of that fee."  This is also
what the Tasini case is all about. 

   This is a very important fight for writers, and all I ask is that
librarians be aware of it and be supportive of writers, because unless
writers can afford to write, there won't be material to have this debate

   Pat McNees
   (freelance writer/editor, member of board of American Society of 
Journalists & Authors)
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