Saturday, August 25, 2007

Publishers and "their" peer reviewed articles

The PRISM anti-OA lobbying effort asks people to write letters to House and Senate members. One of their key points?

I ask that you oppose any effort that would require not-for-profit and commercial journals to surrender their peer reviewed articles....

First, it is important to point out that there are no efforts underway to require publishers to surrender publishers' version of articles; mandate policies refer to the author's own version.

However, something else to think about: publishers have a lot of nerve claiming that these peer reviewed articles are theirs.

What about the authors? One of the purposes of copyright law is to protect creators; it is the authors who are the creators of these articles, not the publishers. Scholarly works are not work-for-hire; scholars do not receive compensation for these articles.

Authors do not have to give their copyright to publishers, in order to publish. All that an author needs to do, is to give the publisher permission to publish.

I am an author. Here is a link to a collection of my works, in E-LIS. Various publishers, editors, reviewers, co-writers and presenters have helped in a variety of ways with my works, all of which is very much appreciated; but, make no mistake - this is my work.

Shakespeare must have had a publisher - or many. Shakespearean scholars may know who they were. I don't! I do not hesitate, however, to use the term "Shakespeare's works". Even though these works are now long in the public domain and there is no more copyright, they will forever be, in many senses, the author's own works.

Peer reviewers, also donate their time. In scholarly publishing, it is also not unusual for editors to provide voluntary services, or to be paid on an honorarium basis, at far below the market value for their work. Some publishers maintain their own offices, however universities provide a great deal of office and administrative support for scholarly editors, often for free.

When the taxpayer has paid for the research that the article is based on, it makes sense that the taxpayer has a right to see the results. These articles reflect the fruits of the taxpayer's labours, too; in this sense, all of these articles should be seen as to some extent theirs - the taxpayers, that is.

With medical research, what about the human subjects who participate in the research, and the family members often involved in providing permission? Sometimes people participate hoping for relief from a medical condition, of course; but others undertake inconvenience, risk, and/or discomfort for the sake of expanding knowledge and helping others. Are the results not theirs, too?

For a balanced view, follow Peter Suber on Open Access News. Peter Suber reports on and links to the actual statements of the opposition before thoroughly refuting them.

Here is a link to the PRISM letter. Recommended reading for open access activists who are needed to counter the anti-OA lobby, and for students of misinformation.