Today is Copyright Transfer Agreement Day!

February 25, 2012

Hurrah for the Copyright Transfer Agreement, that happy convention that frees us authors from the wearisome encumbrance that is owning the copyright to our own work.  Back when I was young and foolish, I used to think that it was a good thing for us to hold our own copyrights; but fortunately I was put right by Kent Anderson of the Scholarly Echo Chamber blog:

Most authors want their reports published, and then want to move on, assured that their publisher has the ability to defend their works in perpetuity (or close to it). Copyright transfer allows this. Other approaches don’t. End of story. Are you just being obtuse? What isn’t clear about this to you?

Copyright transfer is required by many publishers because it makes so much sense. It’s only recently poorly informed opinions like some of those in this thread that have created doubt and some dreamed-up alternative that really isn’t nearly as good as you think — not as good for authors, not as good for integrity of the scientific record, not as good for dissemination (yes, believe it or not).

So now I know better.  When I transfer copyright in my work to publishers — or indeed when they just plain take it without my permission — it’s for my own good, and it actually helps my work to reach the widest possible audience, thanks to the magic of paywalls!

To celebrate all the wonderful benefits that mandatory copyright theft transfer brings us, the video below, created By Alex Holcombe and Michael Little, is Wikimedia Commons’s “Media of the Day” — a helpful piece that explains the benefits of copyright transfer to anyone else who is as foolish as I used to be:

For one day only, you can see it on the front page of WikiMedia Commons.  And here is that daily front page archived for posterity at WebCite.

Update (later the same day)

This just in from the You-Couldn’t-Make-It-Up dept:

More on the Wikimedia talk page: some knucklehead has decided that the video is a copyright violation.  (I would love it if it were because they thought copyright had been transferred to a publisher, but apparently it’s because they can’t find the CC0 dedication.  It’s right here, and it seems from the history page that it was in the first posted version.)

11 Responses to “Today is Copyright Transfer Agreement Day!”

  1. Melancholia Says:

    O, yes!

    By some reason, scientists treat Big Publishers as citizens treat a legitimate government. You can peacefully petition the government for a redress of grievances (as it is stated in the US Constitution), you can complain, sometimes you can refuse to cooperate with it, but it is out there. There is a subconscious reason for this: the power of the government is the power delegated to it by the people; the power of Big Publishers is the power delegated to them by the scientists. The latter happens when the copyright transfer agreement is signed; at this moment a scientist voluntarily gives up all rights to his or her paper.

  2. protohedgehog Says:

    And it’s for those reasons (amongst others) why I’m never going to publish in a non-fully open access format during (and after) this PhD.

  3. I think the admin who took it down acted reasonably – he saw the CC0 notice on the Commons page, but followed the link to the source, where CC0 was not stated back then. It was in another copy, over at YouTube, though, and when uploading the file, I knew that but didn’t include it in the description.

    In the end, the admin may even be right in that the terms of service at Xtranormal may not allow users to put stuff under CC0 if it was created using their text-to-video algorithm. To me, and with hindsight, their terms are not clear in this regard.

    In any case, this all just goes to show the importance of free licenses and of schemes like those by Creative Commons that clearly signal the essential licensing terms even to non-lawyers.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    I think that is a very charitable interpretation.

  5. […] When your manuscript is accepted by a journal for publication, many publishers will ask you to transfer copyright to them, often insisting that it is an absolute requirement for publication. They have a form for you to sign; once you have done this, you no longer own your work. (Since this post is supposed to be purely expository and not at all evangelistic, I will refrain from comment on this issue.) […]

  6. […] know that most academic journals and edited volumes ask authors to sign a copyright transfer agreement before proceeding with publication. When this is done, the publisher becomes the owner of the […]

  7. […] Second, plagiarism is an offence against the author, while copyright violation is an offence against the copyright holder. In traditional academic publishing, they are usually not the same person, due to the ubiquity of copyright transfer agreements (CTAs). […]

  8. […] web-sites. It’s always been so, because even though technically it’s in breach of the copyright transfer agreements that we blithely sign, everyone knows it’s right and proper. Preventing people from making […]

  9. […] No. Copyright is not a balance between competing interests; it’s a bargain that society makes. We, the people, give up some rights in exchange for incentivising creative people to make new work, because that new work is of value to society. To quote the US constitution’s helpful clause, copyrights exist “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” — not for authors, but for wider society. And certainly not of publishers who coerce authors to donate copyright! […]

  10. […] that underlies all the other bad things I’ve listed here. They own the copyright because researchers give it to them. And so can we honestly be surprised when corporations, given a resource, then exploit it for […]

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