Saturday, November 6, 2010

In the pretense of protecting me, Emerald stiffles my research

I received a rather unsettling message from Emerald Publishers the other day:

As an Emerald author, you will know that Emerald is dedicated to protecting the copyright of your work. For this reason, we use the Attributor service. Attributor automatically searches cyberlockers for unauthorized copies of works or illegal hosting and then issues legally-binding takedown notices. We are increasing Attributor's searches to the full breadth of the internet, to ensure maximum copyright protection.

For this to run as smoothly and efficiently, we are asking that you provide us with (if applicable):

1. your personal website address
2. your institutional website address
3. the website address of your company

This is so we can exclude these sites from the Attributor searches, whilst protecting your copyright. Upon provision of this information, we will of course ensure full data protection.

We look forwards to hearing from you.

I find this very disturbing. This message is telling me that this publisher is trying to enforce my copyright while in truth it is the publisher's copyright. And it tells me that I better preemptively alert the publisher where I apply the fair-use provisions of copyright before I get automatically accused of violating copyrights on my own work.

Now looking at Emerald's Author Charter, I find another few gems:

Assigning copyright of your work to Emerald allows us to act on your behalf to:

* promote your rights
* facilitate dissemination of your work by granting permissions for educational use or republication
* target other Emerald journals whose readership would benefit from access to your work
* endeavour to protect your work from any infringement of your rights which are brought to our attention.

It does NOT, in any way, restrict your right or academic freedom to contribute to the wider distribution and readership of your work. This includes the right to:

1. Distribute photocopies of your own version of your article to students and colleagues for teaching/educational purposes within your university or externally. Please note, this does not refer to the Emerald branded, published version.
2. Reproduce your own version of your article, including peer review/editorial changes, in another journal, as content in a book of which you are the author, in a thesis, dissertation or in any other record of study, in print or electronic format as required by your university or for your own career development.
3. Deposit an electronic copy of your own final version of your article, pre- or post-print, on your own or institutional website. The electronic copy cannot be deposited at the stage of acceptance by the Editor.

Note that Emerald may publish your article in another journal, if it thinks it increases its dissemination (or increases the impact factor). Nothing is said about the author agreeing to it. But Emerald is also fine if you try to publish your article elsewhere, although the condition of "for your own career development" is open to interpretation.

That said, all this business with copyright on academic research is really sad. These commercial publishers try to tell us that they do their possible to disseminate research while all they is the exact opposite: they gate the research and chase down ungated versions. Let's all move to open access. Much simpler, much less costly, and much better dissemination!


Anonymous said...

Never give away your copyright to a publisher. You can sign an addendum to the copyright agreement that gives you basic rights. There are details on the RePEc blog: link.

Anonymous said...

What does "stiffle" mean? And what about "jem?"

David Stern said...

My question is why there are only one (Theoretical Economics) or two (?) reputable open access journals in economics so far? Downside of open access of course is ability of authors in developing countries and poorer institutions to pay the fees. Nature Communications charges $5000 for example.

Economic Logician said...

Stiffle is an old form of stifle. Sorry for being so old-fashioned. I corrected the other typo.

Open Access does not need to be so expensive. Charges like $5000 have been calculated on the basis of paper publication, which open access in no way required. And commercial publishers have been successful in charging such fees because researchers in health and sciences have large budgets that can accommodate them.

Theoretical Economics and Empirical Economics, for one, do not appear to charge anything for publication. I believe everything is covered by Econometric Society dues.

I have mentioned previously that the American Economic Society should also have taken up this model instead of proposing a reduction in dues.