Who owns a peer-reviewed, revised, accepted manuscript? YOU DO!

May 13, 2013

Suppose that, for some good and sane reason, you need to place a paper in a paywalled journal.

You do some research. You write a paper and prepare illustrations. You send it off to a journal, and a volunteer editor sends it out to volunteer peer-reviewers. You handle the reviews, revise your manuscript, write rebuttals as necessary, send in the revised version, and the editor accepts it.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a peer-reviewed, revised, accepted manuscript which will shortly become a published paper that you can put on your CV and show to grant reviewers and job-search committees and tenure boards.

Note the key point here: you are the owner of the accepted manuscript. Not the journal, not the publisher. You, the author.

Any minute now the publisher is going to ask you to sign a copyright transfer agreement. Once you do that (if for some reason you decide to acquiesce) they will own your work. From that moment on, whatever you’re allowed to do with your own work, if anything, is only by their grace.

Here’s the point: in between getting your acceptance and signing away all your rights, you have a window in which you own a completed scientific work, lacking only copy-editing (if any) and typesetting. So that is your moment to make sure the world sees it. Release it now. Put it it up on arXiv or on PeerJ Preprints or on FigShare or on your institutional repository or on your own web page. There are lots of places you can post it — take your pick. Either place it in the public domain or licence it as CC BY, and do it explicitly: both options make work available for the world to use, and either way academic norms will ensure that you get credit for your work.

Of course, once you sign over copyright, you’re playing by the publisher’s rules. They may well have crazy, complex, self-contradictory rules such as Elsevier’s you-can-deposit-it-unless-mandated-to rule — they can forbid you from making the accepted manuscript available.

That’s why it’s so important to release it to the world, with a clear statement of licence, before signing the copyright transfer. Once it’s out there in the public domain or as CC BY, it can’t be rescinded. The world can see and read and use and benefit from your work, and the “publisher” can’t prevent it.

So you can ignore Elsevier’s crazy requirements — just so long as you do it before you sign up to them.

(Once your work is out there for the world to use on liberal terms, you can of course go right ahead, sign the transfer, and let the publisher publish your article behind their paywall. That’s OK: the work is out there fore people to use. And if the publisher adds significant value in their copy-editing and typesetting, people will keep buying their subscriptions.)

 

Advertisements

31 Responses to “Who owns a peer-reviewed, revised, accepted manuscript? YOU DO!”

  1. Samuel Says:

    You could do this, I guess. But…

    It’s obviously ok to publish a preprint.

    It’s obviously ok to submit to and publish in an OA journal.

    It seems a bit scummy to get people to do work for you in the expectation that they’ll be paid by the eventual readers, and then renege on the deal. I mean, if you don’t think what they do is worth anything, then why involve them in the process at all?

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Samuel, I think you’ve misread the post (which I admit suggests I didn’t write it clearly enough). I didn’t mean to suggest that you should pull out of the agreed publication — only that you should make your accepted manuscript available via Green OA before you pull the copyright-assignment trigger. Having done so, there’s no reason not to allow the journal to proceed. I’ll update the post to make that clearer.

    (For myself, I only use OA journals anyway. But I know that not everyone does this.)

  3. Graham Says:

    This is close, but not necessarily entirely accurate.

    Take for example, this Wiley CTA:
    http://onlinelibrarystatic.wiley.com/central/cta/UKscta.pdf

    And of note, the line “e. If the Contribution is not accepted for publication, or if the Contribution is subsequently rejected, this Agreement shall be null and void”.

    Clearly worded such that the CTA can be presented / signed prior to any review taking place. And as such, it’s pretty easy for publishers to demand a CTA be signed before the review process is started – thereby removing any window where an author might legally publish the post-print before signing a CTA.

    If you are going to encourage people to make available a version of a paper prior to signing a CTA, then you should really be encouraging that it is the pre-print that is made available, and at the time of submission to a journal. Not only is it cleaner ethically (and it’s pretty unethical to delay a CTA in order to create a “window of opportunity”), it benefits the timeliness of availability too (but potentially has drawbacks too).

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    You are right, Graham, that journals could change the rules by asking authors to sign a transfer at submission time. I hope if they ever did that, even the most spineless of authors would be outraged enough to throw off the shackles once and for all. We only tolerate the current system because we grew up with it: if it were proposed de novo as a modification of a more natural system not derived from decades of entrenched publisher privilege, it would be laughed out of town, and I trust the same will be true of any attempts at new land-grabs.

    If you are going to encourage people to make available a version of a paper prior to signing a CTA, then you should really be encouraging that it is the pre-print that is made available, and at the time of submission to a journal.

    I strongly disagree. Other researchers give their time for free to improve my work by editing an reviewing. It’s absolutely wrong that only the publisher should benefit from their work, and people reading my open-access versions should miss out.

  5. arcidae Says:

    Reviewers give their time for free, but there is a cost to managing that process. Even a not-for-profit publisher has to recoup their costs, and the others are doing it in order to make a profit.

    As long as the publisher formally supports OA distribution, then people reading the OA version won’t miss out on the benefit of the reviewers work – but they may have to wait until after the embargo period.

    “Gaming” signing of the CTA can’t work long term – either the publisher will close the loophole or simply close down if it is threatening their revenue. And if it isn’t threatening revenue, then it probably isn’t having the effect that you hope for.

    Like everyone else, you are entitled to your preference regarding post-print OA. I don’t have a desire to push it one way or another. I just feel strongly that either:

    a) You pay for immediate “Gold” OA.
    b) You publish with a journal that supports immediate archiving of the post-print
    c) You respect the embargo specified by the publisher
    and/or
    d) You deposit your pre-print

    Any of the above are fine by me. But willfully ignoring a CTA, or deliberately delaying signing it in order to release the material you are signing over is the wrong way to go.

  6. Chuck Magee Says:

    Mike, many of them already have (e.g. Wiley, above).


  7. The problem is that in many circumstances (mostly, except when the copyright transfer agreement states that you can deposit the peer-reviewed manuscript), you will not legally be able to sign the copyright form: it usually starts with a statement where you ensure to have the right to grant the publisher the rights stated in the form. Once you have realesed your paper, you have no right to grant exclusive diffusion rights to the publisher, hence you cannot legally sign the form.

    I do not know the theoretical implication of this, and I know that the practical implication are probably empty (for now, and maybe not in some humanity fields where they may be quite picky about this kind of stuff), but I feel uncomfortable signing forms that I should not be able to sign (even if I did at least once).

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    Lots to deal with here!

    First, arcidae writes:

    Reviewers give their time for free, but there is a cost to managing that process. Even a not-for-profit publisher has to recoup their costs, and the others are doing it in order to make a profit.

    As noted above, the cost to managing the peer-review process is carried not by the publisher, but by a volunteer editor. (A very small proportion of journals pay dedicated editors to do this: those journals you can treat differently if you wish.)

    As long as the publisher formally supports OA distribution, then people reading the OA version won’t miss out on the benefit of the reviewers work — but they may have to wait until after the embargo period.

    In other words, they miss out of the benefit of the author‘s work. Do you not see how completely ludicrous the notion of embargoes is? If you buy a cabbage, do you expect to wait 6-24 month before you can eat it? Then if your tax pays for science to be made, why should you wait 6-24 months before you can use it? Embargoes destroy value. They pour it down the toilet. That’s unacceptable.

    “Gaming” signing of the CTA can’t work long term — either the publisher will close the loophole or simply close down if it is threatening their revenue. And if it isn’t threatening revenue, then it probably isn’t having the effect that you hope for.

    That doesn’t follow. A publisher that is genuinely adding value through its proofreading and typesetting will continue to benefit from subscription revenue from those who prize these things. In the mean time, those who care about the content of the paper can get on with their work.

    Like everyone else, you are entitled to your preference regarding post-print OA. I don’t have a desire to push it one way or another. I just feel strongly that either:

    a) You pay for immediate “Gold” OA.
    b) You publish with a journal that supports immediate archiving of the post-print
    c) You respect the embargo specified by the publisher
    and/or
    d) You deposit your pre-print

    Any of the above are fine by me. But willfully ignoring a CTA, or deliberately delaying signing it in order to release the material you are signing over is the wrong way to go.

    And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have a perfect demonstration of Academic Stockholm Syndrome: the assumption that just because we’ve been used to giving out work for free to publishers who destroy value, we’re somehow obliged to keep doing that. This I utterly reject. We owe them nothing. They owe us everything. What I’m proposing in this post isn’t even that we stop giving them things — only that we change the terms on which we do so. But even that is too much for some people, mired in the traditional exploitative system, to swallow.

    Bottom line: we owe the world much, much more than we owe publishers. When publishers’ interests are opposed to those of the world (which is pretty much always in the cases we’re describing here) we have to choose whether to serve publishers or serve the world.

    That’s not a hard choice.

    I’ll reply separately to other comments.

  9. Mike Taylor Says:

    Chuck Magee is right: I see that the Wiley CTA reads as follows (emphasis added):

    Thank you for submitting your Contribution for publication. In order to expedite the editing and publishing process and enable Wiley-Blackwell to disseminate your Contribution to the fullest extent, we need to have this Copyright Transfer Agreement signed and returned as directed in the Journal’s instructions for authors as soon as possible.

    Just take a moment to see what they’re saying here. In order to offer them a paper, you have to sign copyright over.

    I’m out of words for how iniquitous this is. I already used “exploitative” in the last comment, but it’s more than that. It’s an attempt to make researchers into the publishers’ slaves.

    The only possible response is never sign an agreement like this. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so offensive. With this, Wiley goes right to the top of my Predatory Publishers list, ahead of Elsevier and the other contenders.

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    And finally (for now), Benoît Régent-Kloeckner writes:

    The problem is that in many circumstances (mostly, except when the copyright transfer agreement states that you can deposit the peer-reviewed manuscript), you will not legally be able to sign the copyright form: it usually starts with a statement where you ensure to have the right to grant the publisher the rights stated in the form. Once you have realesed your paper, you have no right to grant exclusive diffusion rights to the publisher, hence you cannot legally sign the form.

    Of course, much depends on the actual wording of the form. But if it’s a copyright transfer form (which I believe is by far the most common), there’s no problem here. The publisher assumes copyright, but can do nothing about the terms under which earlier copies were released.

    By the way, if you want to talk about parties assuming rights that are not theirs, I’d still like to know what the hell made the Geological Society think they could stamp “© The Geological Society 2010” on my paper when I had explicitly told them that I was not transferring copyright. And the answer of course is entrenched arrogance and privilege built up over decades or maybe even centuries.

  11. Graham Says:

    Do you not see how completely ludicrous the notion of embargoes is?

    No, but I do see how damaging – or at least how disruptive – they can be.

    But the author has a choice. They can choose to pay for Gold OA. They can choose to publish in a journal that supports immediate deposit of the post-print in a repository.

    If the author chooses to publish in a journal with an embargo period, then it isn’t the journal / publisher that is to blame – it’s the author’s fault in choosing where to publish.

    Either accept what you are signing up to, or make a better choice. You have the options.

    And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have a perfect demonstration of Academic Stockholm Syndrome: the assumption that just because we’ve been used to giving out work for free to publishers who destroy value, we’re somehow obliged to keep doing that.

    Not at all. Nobody said you have to carry on with what you have been doing. In fact, I explicitly gave you four options to legitimately provide Open Access (and potentially retain all copyright), if that is what you want to do (and, as someone who has been professionally involved with Open Access for 13 years, I do consider OA a “good thing”)..

  12. Graham Says:

    But if it’s a copyright transfer form (which I believe is by far the most common), there’s no problem here. The publisher assumes copyright, but can do nothing about the terms under which earlier copies were released.

    You are misreading / misinterpreting Benoit’s comment. Which says nothing about what a publisher can do (and you are right – they can’t legally do anything about previous distribution).

    This is a question of whether you, as an author, can legally sign the CTA. Depending on the agreement, having previously distributed may mean that an author can’t legally sign the CTA. And without the CTA, the journal won’t publish your paper.


  13. To Mike Taylor’s “Of course, much depends on the actual wording of the form. But if it’s a copyright transfer form (which I believe is by far the most common), there’s no problem here. The publisher assumes copyright, but can do nothing about the terms under which earlier copies were released.”

    The following is an excerpt from the last “Consent to publish” form I signed (by Springer, who does agree the post-review preprint to be in the arXiv, so this example only goes half-way):

    “Author warrants that he/she is entitled to grant the rights in accordance with Clause 1 “Rights Granted”, that he/she has not assigned such rights to third parties, (…)”

    This is the kind of statement that makes me view a problem in your proposal.

  14. Nathan Myers Says:

    Claims that posting before publication is unethical are ludicrous. You are paying all the costs for them to publish. You are the customer, and they claim to be offering a service. Subscription charges reduce the value you get for your money, because it limits the distribution you thought you were buying.

  15. Graham Says:

    You are paying all the costs for them to publish.

    Paying? If you are publishing in a closed access journal, then you are not paying the journal / publisher. They only get revenue to pay for the services they provide from selling the content later.

    You are only paying the journal to publish if you have chosen Gold OA. In which case, you are not prohibited from depositing to an IR – ever – and the publisher is not reducing the value by applying a subscription charge and/or limiting the distribution.

  16. Hikaru Amano Says:

    “Paying? If you are publishing in a closed access journal, then you are not paying the journal / publisher. They only get revenue to pay for the services they provide from selling the content later.”

    If the paper/s came form a public institution, then shouldn’t that be freely available to the masses? After all, the general public is the one who funded those research so the lay people are entitled to have them for free! This scheme of predatory publishers especially afflicts research and academic development in third world countries such here in the Philippines (where majority of people can’t afford to pay for stupidly high subscription rates!). Add it to the fact that (as Dr. Taylor has described over the past 13 or 14 months) that many reviewers give their effort and time for FREE, only to be preyed upon by those publishers, and with the general public who funded them ending up as the victims! If some those locked papers have the information that may well turn out to as solutions to huge problems that seriously plague different parts of the world, SHAME ON THEM! They have wasted solutions that may have saved countless lives! May they be haunted by the blood of people on their hands!

  17. Graham Says:

    If the paper/s came form a public institution, then shouldn’t that be freely available to the masses?

    Yes, they probably should. But as I have said:

    a) You can (pay and) publish in a Gold OA journal
    b) You can publish in a journal that supports immediate post-print repository deposit
    c) You can (almost always) deposit your pre-print when you submit to a journal.

    All of these options exist, and the power is with the author to choose to go down those routes. Nobody forces the author to publish in a closed-access, restrictive journal. They choose to. They could just as easily choose to boycott them.

    many reviewers give their effort and time for FREE, only to be preyed upon by those publishers

    Oh dear god. Anyone would think that publishers are running slave galleons, with all the reviewers (and authors) manacled to the oars.

    These people have FREE WILL. If they don’t like the terms under which they are conducting the reviews, and/or don’t like the policies of the journal who is organizing the reviews, then they can choose not to do them (or rather choose who they will review for).

    Just as the authors have free will to choose who they submit their paper to.

    Sure, some publishers have “bad” policies. Some publishers engage in a lot of FUD (“granting licenses” for pre-prints?). Some publishers make profits that could be considered obscene compared to the amount of work they do – and take that money from research / public bodies.

    By all means be critical of publisher policies. Advocate authors publish in ways that allow them to exercise open access rights. It just isn’t necessary – or helpful – to advocate authors do things that are impossible or illegal.

  18. Hikaru Amano Says:

    “Nobody forces the author to publish in a closed-access, restrictive journal. They choose to. They could just as easily choose to boycott them.”

    and

    “Oh dear god. Anyone would think that publishers are running slave galleons, with all the reviewers (and authors) manacled to the oars.”

    Many (but not all) publishers don’t force those scientists to publish in them. They TRICK researchers into publishing and/or reviewing in them with conditions, which, if one did not carefully take the details(i.e. wordings used) fiber by fiber, could easily fool researchers into thinking that their work would be freely available to the masses (Dr. Taylor already alluded to this practice in the link in one of his comments above).

  19. Karen Shashok Says:

    Researchers don’t know much about copyright (if only they would all read
    https://svpow.com/2012/11/24/tutorial-19e-open-access-definitions-and-clarifications-part-5-copyright/#transfer), and because of pressure to publish, are motivated to jump through the publisher’s hoops.

    Interesting thoughts on the role of copyright in the context of open access appeared here http://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/pdf/open_access_publishing_and_scholarly_societies.pdf . For example, “In the
    traditional, subscription-based publishing model, copyright is used to make articles artificially scarce, so that money can be made selling them, or selling access to them” (p. 20).

    If a publisher requires full copyright transfer in order to “ensure the widest possible dissemination” (the whole point of publishing research) and then charges nonsubscribers for access, would that constitute a sort of breach of contract with the authors? The deal is, in theory, that the authors provide the content and the publisher makes sure people can obtain it. But only people who have paid for their right to access?

    I’d agree that some of the language used to explain to authors why copyright transfer is “necessary” or “required” is misleading. Licensing is much better, but until researchers continue to willingly provide the content for free and jump through the hoops, publishers will have little motivation to change their policies.

  20. Hikaru Amano Says:

    Arigatou, Gozai Masu, Karen!

    Your comments are exactly what I’m referring to here…I hope your message will expose the predatory acts of many publishers on unsuspecting scientists (who assume that their work will be freely available to the masses).

  21. Sheogorath Says:

    […] I’d still like to know what the hell made the Geological Society think they could stamp “© The Geological Society 2010″ on my paper when I had explicitly told them that I was not transferring copyright?
    Oh gee, I don’t know. Publisher’s UK typographical copyright?

  22. Mike Taylor Says:

    From that Wikipedia page:

    The publisher’s (separate) copyright, in the typographical arrangement of a printed work, lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which publication occurred. This protects a publisher’s copyright in all printed works: including books, magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals.

    Wow. I admit I did not know about that.

    Still, that can’t be what the Geologic Society’s copyright notice refers to — it would need to be much more explicit. (And if that was all they meant they wouldn’t have needed to ask me for my copyright in the first place.)

    Or try this thought experiment. I copy a copyrighted passage from a GeolSco publication, re-typeset it in the font of my choice, and claim to own the copyright on the result. How well do you think that would go down?

  23. Sheogorath Says:

    Well, of course there would be a problem, the issue lies in the fact that the original is copyrighted. Derivative work, much? If you were to do that with Romeo and Juliet or A Little Princess, however, nobody in the UK would think twice about it.

  24. Mike Taylor Says:

    Precisely. And my original was copyrighted — copyright owned by my wife — so there is similarly no justification in the Geologicial Society claiming that copyright for themselves.

  25. Sheogorath Says:

    Actually, this situation is more similar to the one in which J.K. Rowling owns the copyright of Harry Potter, and when Bloomsbury published the books, they got a typographical copyright on the work, but the author could still offer her work to publishers in North America and Australia for publication there. Basically, typographical copyright is a copyright on the way a work is presented, not a claim on the underlying content. Do you understand now?

  26. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yes. But there is no “Copyright © Bloomsbury” notice on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Sorcerer. And quite right, too.

  27. Sheogorath Says:

    But there is no « Copyright © Bloomsbury » notice on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Sorcerer
    Perhaps because there’s no such book, but in my copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury has printed such a notice, although it’s not as prominent as the one declaring J.K. Rowling’s copyright.

  28. Mike Taylor Says:

    Perhaps because there’s no such book

    Really?!

  29. Sheogorath Says:

    Really. I bet if you google Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Sorcerer, you’ll find Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK) or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (US) instead.

  30. Sheogorath Says:

    DNFTT. See ya!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: