Back in the early 1990s, I began to fight to retain the copyright to my scholarly writings. First, the publishers thought I was kidding. Then, when it was clear that I wasn’t, they thought I was nuts. Generally, they weren’t willing to negotiate. So, I sought out the few journals that would comply with this strange whim or that had editors who would "forget" to have me sign an author agreement. Unfortunately, some of the more liberal journals got gobbled up by megapublishers, limiting my options and casting some doubt on handshake deals. Once e-only journals by nonconventional publishers took off, they became my venue of choice, since they typically allowed copyright retention by default.
Things have changed, in large part do to the growing influence of the open access movement. Now, many publishers allow self archiving of e-prints (electronic preprints or postprints), and this, in theory, means that authors can cheerfully assign their copyrights to those publishers. How many publishers do this? Well we don’t know for sure, but according to Summary Statistics So Far (whose figures are based on the Romeo Project), 92% of the 8,450 processed journals are "green," (can archive postprint) or "pale green"(can archive preprint). (Gray means you can’t archive either one.)
If you want to self archive a scholarly article, the SHERPA Publisher Copyright Policies & Self-Archiving site is the place to go to determine whether the publisher of the journal you have in mind for your article will permit it. So, when approached recently about writing a paper for a library publisher (let’s call it X), I fired up Mozilla and looked X up. Good news, X is green, meaning "can archive pre-print and post-print." Not the dreaded white ("archiving not formally supported"), not yellow ("can archive pre-print (ie pre-refereeing)"), not even blue ("can archive post-print (ie final draft post-refereeing)"), but green. SHERPA did warn me of two conditions: "Published source must be acknowledged" and "Eprint server is non-profit." No problemo, right? Being ever cautious, I then used the handy link to the actual policy.
Here’s what I found. My "preprint distribution rights" allow "posting as electronic files on the contributor’s own Web site for personal or professional use, or on the contributor’s internal university/corporate intranet or network, or other external Web site at the contributor’s university or institution, but not for either commercial (for-profit) or systematic third party sales or dissemination, by which is meant any interlibrary loan or document delivery systems. The contributor may update the preprint with the final version of the article after review and revision by the journal’s editor(s) and/or editorial/peer-review board."
My publication page, check. We don’t have an institutional repository yet, but I assume that "other external Web site" will cover that when we do, check. Wait a minute, what if I want to deposit the e-print in a disciplinary archive like E-LIS or I want to put it in the Internet Archive’s upcoming "OAI-compliant ‘universal repository‘"? Looks to me like I’m out of luck. No way to immediately deposit the paper in an OAI-PMH compliant archive that will have a longer life than my Website and that can be harvested by OAI-PMH search services, such as OAIster.
The agreement also states that the e-print must contain a fair amount of information about the publisher and the paper: the published article’s citation and copyright date, the publisher’s address, information about the publisher’s document delivery service, and a link to the publisher’s home page. Guess I can do this when I’m modifying the article to incorporate the editorial changes. That should keep me off the streets.
So, what can we conclude from this brief dip into the murky waters of author agreements other than retaining rights may still be a good idea (if you can do it)?
First, There are swirling currents of complexity beneath the placid surface of color-coded copyright transfer agreement directories. This is not to say that such directories are not indispensible (or not doing a good job), but rather that, given the idiosyncratic nature of such agreements, authors still need to read the details if they want to be fully aware of their residual rights. They may not always like what they find, and what they find may affect their willingness to self archive if it’s too limiting or burdensome. "Green" may not always mean "go."
Second, it would be helpful if such directories could identify whether articles can be deposited in key types of archives. I know that we don’t want the color codes to look like SpeedyGrl.com’s Ultimate Color Table, but I think that this is an important factor in addition to the type of e-print permitted.
Third, if claims are going to made about the number of "green" journals, maybe more consideration about what "green" means is in order, and perhaps OA advocates should agree on their color schemes. Is "can archive pre-print and post-print" enough for "green," or should it be "can archive pre-print and post-print on the author’s Website or in any noncommercial archive or repository"? If the latter, the heat should be turned up on publishers that don’t permit it by authors and OA advocates.
Fourth, although copyright transfer agreements have always been a confusing mess, now we want authors to actually read and evaluate them, not just mindlessly sign them like they did when digital archiving wasn’t an issue. And institutional repository managers (or archive managers) need to make sense of them postfacto to determine if articles can be legally deposited and what terms apply to those deposits. So, maybe it’s time to tilt at a new windmill: a set of standardized copyright transfer agreements. I know, it’s like trying to herd several thousand hyperactive cats. But, a few years ago, getting standardized use statistics for electronic resources from publishers seemed hopeless, and some progress has been made on that score.
3 thoughts on “How Green Is My Publisher?”
THE LIGHT DOESN’T GET ANY GREENER — AND NEEDN’T’:
JUST GO AHEAD AND SELF-ARCHIVE!
— CB: “Hereâ€™s what I found [for a “green” publisher]. My “preprint distribution rights” allow “posting as electronic files on the contributorâ€™s own Web site for personal or professional use, or on the contributorâ€™s internal university/corporate intranet or network, or other external Web site at the contributorâ€™s university or institution, but not for either commercial (for-profit) orsystematic third party sales or dissemination, by which is meant any interlibrary loan or document delivery systems. The contributor may update the preprint with the final version of the article after review and revision by the journalâ€™s editor(s) and/or editorial/peer-review board.”
That is exactly right for a green publisher: The final, accepted draft may be self-archived in the author’s own institutional archive.
That’s what only 15% of authors are doing today.
That’s what 100% of authors ought to be doing, to maximize research usage and impact (and ought to have been doing yesterday!).
— CB: “what if I want to deposit the e-print in a disciplinary archive like E-LIS or I want to put it in the Internet Archiveâ€™s upcoming “OAI-compliant â€˜universal repositoryâ€˜”?… No way to immediately deposit the paper in an OAI-PMH compliant archive that will have a longer life than my Website and that can be harvested by OAI-PMH search services, such as OAIster.”
The restrictions on 3rd-party archives are perfectly reasonable and no problem whatsoever at this time. The problem today (just so we keep our eyes on the ball!) is the non-archiving of 85% of articles, hence their inaccessibility to all those would-be users whose universities cannot afford access to the journal’s official version! It is cheap and easy for any university to create an OAI-compliant institutional archive, and OAIster can happily harvest the metadata. http://archives.eprints.org/eprints.php?action=browse
(And worrying about the preservation of non-existent contents is rather putting the cart before the horse. The self-archived OA versions of a goodly portion of the 15% of the articles that have been self-archived in the past 15 years are still online and OA to tell the tale to this day. All their publishers’ official versions are too. So fussing about the permanence of the non-contents of cupboards that are in any case meant to be access-supplements, not the official version of record, is rather misplaced, when what is immediately missing and urgently needed is their presence, not their permanance.)
— CB: “The agreement also states that the e-print must contain a fair amount of information about the publisher and the paper: the published articleâ€™s citation and copyright date, the publisherâ€™s address, information about the publisherâ€™s document delivery service, and a link to the publisherâ€™s home page.”
That’s just fine too. It is only good scholarly practice to provide the full reference information and to link to the official version of record for the sake of all those potential users who can afford it. What is wrong with that, and why would any author not want to do that?
— CB: “First … “Green” may not always mean “go.””
Not a single one of the points raised by CB in any way implies that “green” means anything other than “go.”
— CB: “Second, it would be helpful if [OA Archive] directories could identify whether articles can be deposited in key types of archives.”
They already do. The main distinction is the author’s own institutional archive versus central (3rd-party) archives. It is the former that are the critical ones. The rest can be done by metadata harvesting.
— CB: “Third, if claims are going to made about the number of “green” journals, maybe more consideration about what “green” means is in order, and perhaps OA advocates should agree on their color schemes. Is “can archive pre-print and post-print” enough for “green,” or should it be “can archive pre-print and post-print on the authorâ€™s Website or in any noncommercial archive or repository”? If the latter, the heat should be turned up on publishers that donâ€™t permit it by authors and OA advocates.”
The answer is that the former is abundantly enough, and the ones the heat should be turned up on are the authors, to go ahead on green, not the publishers, who have already done as much as it is reasonable or necessary to ask them to do, to allow authors to provide the OA that they purport to need and want so much. (Enough, for example, for 34,000 authors to do the keystrokes to sign a petition threatening to boycott publishers that don’t make their journal contents OA, but not enough, apparently, to do the keystrokes to make their own articles OA. That, by the way, is the real koan:
— CB: “Fourth… maybe itâ€™s time to tilt at a new windmill: a set of standardized copyright transfer agreements.”
No, it’s not more windmills or red herrings that researchers, their institutions, their funders, and research itself need: What they need is to go ahead and self-archive.
Moderator, American Scientist Open Access Forum
I do agree with Charles Baily that ‘green’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘go’. Being a repository manager myslef, I never just ‘go’ when I encounter ‘green’ on the (invaluable) SHERPA Romeo list. First, I need to check whether the publisher allows archiving into an institutional repository, rather than just on a personal or departmental website. Secondly, I need to check the permitted format: some publisher object to using the publisher PDF, other publishers require the use of the publisher PDF. Thirdly, I need to check on publisher policies every time I deposit, since publishers may change their policy from day to day. So, could the light get greener than it is now? I believe, it should.
Johanneke Sytsema Says:
JS: “I do agree with Charles Baily that ‘green’ doesn’t automaticallymean ‘go’. Being a repository manager myslef, I never just ‘go’ when I encounter ‘green’ on the (invaluable) SHERPA Romeo list.”
But it is authors who must go or not go, with their own articles, not repository managers. That is why it is called *self*-archiving. Someone else may do the keystrokes, but the one to decide on going or not going is the author.
JS: “First, I need to check whether the publisher archiving into an institutional repository, rather than just on a personal or departmental website.”
Why? The distinction is completely empty! We are talking about how
institutions label disk sectors! “Copyright agreements may state that eprints can be archived onyour personal homepage. As far as publishers are concerned, theEPrint Archive is a part of the Department’s infrastructure for your personal homepage.”
JS: “Secondly, I need to check the permitted format: some publisher object to using the publisher PDF, other publishers require the use of the publisher PDF.”
Why? The default option is to self-archive the author’s refered,
accepted, final draft (the postprint). The PDF is unnecessary. Better
just to link to the publisher’s version.
JS: “Thirdly, I need to check on publisher policies every time I deposit, since publishers may change their policy from day to day.”
Why? Why not let the publisher notify if there has been a change?
So, could the light get greener than it is now’ I believe, it should.”
What research needs today is more author self-archiving, not more needless fussing.
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