Annual Meeting Reports

Copyright Best Practices: From Traditional Transfers to Liberal Licenses

The session’s first speaker, Carolyn Brown, indicated that the open access (OA) movement did not originally touch on rights; instead, it was only about reader access. OA has evolved to include authors’ and users’ rights, which Brown referred to as “open copyright.” Under traditional international copyright conventions (at least for scientific journals), copyright rests with the author and is transferred first to the publisher and then to the user. Authors are allowed to retain some rights (e.g., reproducing figures and tables from the article in other publications).

Some publishers have moved to a license-to-publish model, whereby authors retain copyright but publishers are allowed to publish, republish, reproduce, and disseminate the work; the only restriction on authors is that they cannot republish the article in another journal. Many publishers, however, continue to use the traditional copyright-transfer model. OA journals and publishers adopt a third model (OA/open copyright), in which the author retains copyright and grants users a Creative Commons (CC) license, and the publisher may or may not have a license agreement with the author. Confusion often exists between authors’ and users’ rights. Authors retain copyright or more limited rights specified in copyright transfer agreements (CTAs). Users typically only have the rights to to read the article and make photocopies for research purposes. The CC licenses allow authors to grant extensive rights, including the right to distribute directly to users without going through the publisher. CC licenses have four components: attribution, sharealike, non-commercial, and no derivatives. Brown ended her presentation by asking whether all authors should sign the copyright or license form. Answering the question requires considering principles (e.g., all parties to a contract should sign it) and practical matters (e.g., manuscripts sometimes have many authors).

Tracey DePellegrin stated that the Genetics Society of America publishes two journals with distinct missions and author groups. Genetics is a mature journal using the copyright-transfer model, whereas G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics is a newer OA journal using the most liberal OA license (CC-BY 3.0). For Genetics, the corresponding author used to sign the CTA on behalf of all authors, and authors were not allowed to deposit articles in institutional repositories or distribute articles. She explained, though, that these restrictions were not policed and that authors were sharing their articles anyway. She also pointed out that the language in the CTA was not easy to understand. To clarify authors’ rights and choices, Genetics moved to a license-topublish model, which has saved editorial office time (fewer questions about permissions) and allowed authors to retain control. Genetics also now requires all authors to sign the license. G3 uses the CC-BY license for all articles. DePellegrin recommended that publishers read the legal code on the CC website. She noted that there are some problems even with the liberal CC-BY license. For example, authors can deposit articles in institutional repositories but may not deposit the right version, and corrections to the published article may not be reflected in the institutional repository version.

Christopher McKenzie began his presentation by stating that Wiley’s standard CTA stipulates allowed uses for the submitted, accepted, and final published versions. For submitted and accepted versions, authors may post to personal websites and institutional repositories and share with colleagues; for the final version, authors may send copies to colleagues, reuse in other publications, and post privately for teaching purposes. Christopher indicated that it was desirable but not always feasible or necessary for all authors to sign the CTA. Copyright violations typically consist of misappropriation of content, posting on open/semi-open websites, and unauthorized republication (books). Remedies include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice-and-takedown rules, cease-and-desist orders, litigation, and statutory damages. Print fraud may consist of counterfeits (books), unauthorized scanning, and instances in which someone uses aliases to purchase subscriptions at the individual or member rate and then sell them for a profit to institutions at a discounted institutional rate. Electronic fraud typically consists of IP overlaps and unauthorized sharing and massive or dispersed downloading. In attempting to mitigate copyright violation risks, Wiley undertakes several steps including (in escalating seriousness) investigation (very important because of the need for accurate records), negotiation, threats, partnerships with peer publishers in group actions, litigation, and criminal prosecution. McKenzie concluded by noting that the CTA is critical as proof that the publisher is the authorized repository of the version of record. When versions are not under the publisher’s control, corrections and retractions may be missing, with potentially serious implications such as dosage or chemical formula errors.