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September 2014
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it’s too late for me, save yourselves (or your author rights, anyway)

I published my first two journal articles this year and because I was a coward and had never published before and was terrified of the whole thing I just signed everything they gave me and I never negotiated for open access or any of my author rights. I need to review the contracts I signed, but I suspect they are the regular old “the journal owns everything” boilerplate.

If I had found this website sooner I might not have been so rash:

Not only do they provide a lovely brochure, suitable for handing out to faculty members or including in an orientation package (or as a handout at a “writing for publication” workshop?), they also provide an “Author Addendum,” which would seem to make the process of negotiating your copyright much less scary:

The SPARC Author Addendum is a legal instrument that authors may use to modify their publisher agreements, enabling them to keep selected key rights to their articles, such as:

* Distributing copies in the course of teaching and research,
* Posting the article on a personal or institutional Web site, or
* Creating derivative works.

SPARC’s Author Rights brochure identifies the rights faculty have as copyright holders and encourages them to retain the rights they need to ensure the broadest practical access to their articles. It explains how to use the SPARC Author Addendum and even gives tips on what to do if the publisher rejects the Addendum. It also offers specific language authors can insert in a publisher agreement when their article will be deposited in NIH’s PubMed Central.

I guess it’s too late for the agreements I’ve already signed, but should I ever publish another article I’ll be using these resources.

(Found via the eIFL newsletter. eIFL encourages all authors to keep their authors’ rights and to make their research available via open access agreements, because open research plays a vital role in the effort to bridge information and wealth inequity in the world.)


Comment from Anonymous Reader
Time: January 2, 2007, 10:34 am

Hi Bess, not only did there seem to be no way to comment on your blog at, but there was no way to find your email address either! So I got it from the #code4lib-ers.

[editor's note: this is fixed. Thanks for letting me know!]

I wanted to tell you a good story related your author rights post. I am currently writing (if I ever get around to it anyway) an article for [name of publication withheld]. They first sent me a boilerplate contract that was AWFUL, that made my article a ‘work for hire’ where they would own the copyright and all rights, and I’d have nothing.

I emailed back saying “Gee, I’d like to write the article, but I don’t like the terms of that contract. Is it negotiable?” The person I was corresponding with emailed me back, “Here, look at this one and see if you like it better.” It was a completely different contract, NOT work-for-hire, said I held the copyright, they got a license to use it however forever, and an exclusive license for 6 months, but after 6 months I could do whatever else I wanted with it too. Not perfect, but MUCH better. And they had this contract too already written—apparently it was the contract held in reserve for ‘people who wont’ accept our evil contract’. All I had to do was ask for it!

Pretty crazy. I asked for it because I got that advice from a friend who is a freelance writer. So that’s some potentially good advice for people—even if you can’t or don’t want to bother trying to negotiate the perfect contract, it’s worth a try just to ask for the better one! Pretty crazy, huh?

Comment from bess
Time: January 2, 2007, 10:37 am

Hey, fellow #code4lib-er. This is really good advice. Thanks for letting me know about the problems with my comments, and thanks for the tip about asking for a different contract.

See you on irc!

Comment from Dorothea
Time: January 2, 2007, 9:29 pm

Heh heh heh, Anonymous. That sounds really familiar somehow.

Bess, good on you, as always.

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