5.0058 More on Copyright (2/138)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 15 May 91 20:59:56 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0058. Wednesday, 15 May 1991.

(1) Date: 15 May 1991, 17:55:34 EST (42 lines)
Subject: Copyright: "Parasitical" publishers and mooching authors.

(2) Date: Tue, 14 May 91 23:53:54 CDT (96 lines)
From: robin@utafll.uta.edu (Robin Cover)
Subject: Copyright: liberal permissions policies are irrelevant

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 15 May 1991, 17:55:34 EST
Subject: Copyright again. "Parasitical" publishers and mooching authors.

I find myself on all three sides of this fence. I am editor, publisher,
sometimes compositor, sometimes author for money, sometimes author for
no money, sometimes cited, sometimes neglected, sometimes refuted. I
sympathize with the publishers because they are pestered by the
slimy types that slither around academic hallways buying back review
copies to sell to college bookstore conglomerates. They are also
pestered by Kinkos, who in our university town moved in to the corner
right across from both college bookstores and began to peddle course
packets. They have mixed relations with the bookstore conglomerates
that buy back the used books from the slimy types and the students who
cash in their texts for ten percent back after using them ten weeks.
The publishers have Robert Maxwell breathing down their necks (doesn't
he own all of them now?), forcing them to squeeze every bit of profit
out of every text, lowering the royalty percentage and forcing authors
to pay for their own ads. And here are we self-righteous academics
calling *them* parasites. We have tenure; they have to flounder in the
marketplace or become amalgamated in order to buy into job security.

There are reasons for us to be mad at them. If you wrote a Cliff Note
as a graduate student twenty years ago, you got paid $700 and signed
away the rights; today Cliff is collecting fully on every word you
wrote, perhaps $3.00 on each one of the 10,000 copies he sells a year in
almost every college bookstore in the country. But a good publisher and
editor will help an author with scrupulous and sometimes quite unselfish
copy-editing, with production, design, sometimes even with indexing, and
then work out a decent percentage of sales as royalty.

There are academics who have struck it rich off textbooks and drive
around in Mercedes that they paid cash for: who is parasitical there?

Where am I leading? I just don't think we should throw stones or
protest too much that the words that we labor over should be free of
copyright restrictions that would divide the profits fairly between
labor and production. The author is entitled to royalties if the book
makes money for the publisher, but much of academic publishing is not
profitable: the author therefore should not bitch or become resentful if
he or she gets nothing out of a book the general public thinks
worthless. Roy Flannagan
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------106---
Date: Tue, 14 May 91 23:53:54 CDT
From: robin@utafll.uta.edu (Robin Cover)
Subject: Copyright: liberal permissions policies are irrelevant

Goerwitz, Hollander, Hart have referred to the apparently reasonable and
liberal policy of publishers in allowing a journal article to be
re-published elsewhere or to be circulated electronically after the
article's appearance in a scholarly journal. Hollander and Hart both
suggest that publishers are not much threatened by electronic copy because
no one is interested in it. In "HUMANIST 5.0032 Copyright (2nd batch)"
Hart wrote:

> (I checked with publishers) ". . .and the result was always that unless
> I meant (re) publishing them in *another journal* that it really didn't
> make any difference to them, though it was a condition that any self
> publishing not be before their publication date which didn't seem too
> much of an objection. . . They, like Bob Hollander, don't perceive much
> interest in the etext/email methods of publishing and don't view it as
> a threat."

These observations may be correct as far as they go, but we should not be
fooled into thinking nothing is therefore at stake in surrendering
copyright (ownership) to publishers. What you surrender is theirs to
keep for 50 years - until after you are dead, probably. So long as
nothing economic is at stake, of course they are not interested, are not
threatened, and will grant such permission. The relevant fact is that
they have total control: to say "yes" today and "no" tomorrow.

So, Hart and Hollander slightly miss the point. There is not much at
stake in the "electronic journal" market now, but the AAP and similar
publishing consortia are not stupid. They are pouring creative energy
and substantial finances into policy positions which assure that the
**MODEL** of print publishing (copyright assignment >> publisher =
owner) gets carried over into the arena of electronic publishing. THAT
is the relevant issue, not prevailing policies on "granting permission"
for this or that request by the author. It's maneuvering to control the
economics of the future:

"In today's tomorrow, the International Federation of Reproduction Rights
Organisations (IFRRO) proposes in the "Report of the IFRRO Working Group
on Electronic Copying" that the definition of electrocopying include
storage, display, manipulation, dissemination, and reproduction" -- as
rich a scenario as one could imagine. Not only would one pay by the drink
but one would be charged for walking up to the bar and leaning on it."
-- Ann Okerson, "Scholarly Publishing in the NREN," ARL 151 (July 1990) 2.

We are dreaming (or deliberately blind) if we fail to think the
electronic vendors will NOT charge just as much as the market will bear
once full-text articles in electronic media become marketable. Now we
pay fifty cents or seventy-five cents "per record" to display the full
bibliographic information on items retrieved in an online database
search, and it takes only a few seconds of search or online time. Does
anyone want to guess the magnitude of the gouge when you say that you
want to READ or COPY the full text of the article from these vendors -
who have to kick back heavy royalties to the publishers? In this world,
the rich will be able to pay, and the other three-fourths of
legitimately interested students and scholars will be cut out.

A great deal is at stake in the surrender of copyright/ownership, even
if we do not perceive the economic realities now. We should linger over
these contracts a little longer and more thoughtfully, realizing what we
are forfeiting for the rest of our lives. More critically, we need to
reflect on the significance of this decision, cumulatively, for the
entire body of published academic writing, as ownership of the corpus is
given away:

"Copyright Assignment: Whereas The University of Chicago, acting
through its Press, is undertaking to publish the Contribution in
its journal, named above, and whereas you desire to have the
Contribution so published, now therefore you grant and assign the
entire copyright for the Contribution to the University for its
exclusive use. The copyright consists of any and all rights of
whatever kind or nature now or hereafter protected by the
copyright laws of the United States and of all foreign countries,
in all languages and forms of communication, and the University
shall be the sole proprietor thereof. The University, in turn,
grants to you the right to reprint the Contribution in any book of
which you are the author or editor, subject to your giving proper
credit in the book to the original publication of the Contribution
in the Journal. To protect the copyright in the Contribution, the
original copyright notice as it appears in the Journal should be
included in the credit." (grabbed from somewhere, 1990 I think,
probably typical of most publishers in broad outlines; corrections,
updates or parallel examples solicited)

At the risk of belaboring the point, it seems well that we see the
"Manifesto of the Status Quo" as proclaiming very poor economic and
political models for managing our intellectual property, and an even
poorer ethical model if we wish to guarantee for "electronic citizens"
democratic public access to our written scholarly creations:

SCHOLAR: creator (producer) and user (consumer)
PUBLISHER: validator, arbiter, packager, legal owner, marketeer
UNIVERSITY: subsidizer, purchaser

Robin Cover