February 19th, 2014
|…decided to write my own…|
In a previous post, I proposed that open-access journals use the CC-BY license for their scholar-contributed articles:
As long as you’re founding a new journal, its contents should be as open as possible consistent with appropriate attribution. That exactly characterizes the CC-BY license. It’s also a tremendously simple approach. Once the author grants a CC-BY license, no further rights need be granted to the publisher. There’s no need for talk about granting the publisher a nonexclusive license to publish the article, etc., etc. The CC-BY license already allows the publisher to do so. There’s no need to talk about what rights the author retains, since the author retains all rights subject to the nonexclusive CC-BY license. I’ve made the case for a CC-BY license at length elsewhere.
Recently, a journal asked me how to go about doing just that. What should their publication agreement look like? It was a fair question, and one I didn’t have a ready answer for. The “Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing” provides a template agreement that is refreshingly minimalist, but by my lights misses some important aspects. I looked around at various journals to see what they did, but didn’t find any agreements that seemed ideal either. So I decided to write my own. Herewith is my proposal for a model OA publication agreement.
I had various goals for the agreement to achieve (enumerated here with the paragraph number that achieves each goal). First and foremost, the agreement should lead to a CC-BY license in the article being granted (¶2), so that the journal and the general public as well get broad use and reuse rights to the text — though all other rights in the work should stay with the authors (¶4). The attribution aspect of the CC-BY license makes sure that the authors get credit for their work, but the journal should get some credit as well for having provided the services culminating in the article’s publication (¶3). Those services may include editorial revision of the article. Of course, authors should have say in any changes made to the article, and the license should unambiguously cover not only the submitted manuscript, but the final published version of the article as well, even in the (unlikely) case where the publisher’s changes could be construed as constituting a separately copyrightable derivative work (¶5). The authors have a responsibility in this contract as well, to act in good faith: the article should be original, proprietary, and legal (¶6); if there are, in fact, multiple authors, a single one should be able to act as corresponding author on behalf of all (¶1). Finally, the agreement should only have force if the publisher actually publishes the article in a timely fashion (¶7).
Some of the provisions of the agreement cover issues that are apposite at the time of submission — especially the requirements in ¶6 of originality and single submission — other provisions upon acceptance — in particular, the license provisions. The agreement is intended for use at the time that an article is accepted for publication. In a sense, the authors’ warrants of ¶6 are thus a bit late in coming. But I expect there’s little problem in this. It’s unlikely that authors will go through the entire process of submitting an article that violates ¶6 merely because they were not aware that journal submissions were required to be original, proprietary, and legal, especially if the journal posts those requirements in its submissions policy on its web site along with a copy of the publication agreement that authors will eventually be required to sign. The alternative is to rephrase the agreement with much of it moved to a kind of conditional language (“If the article is accepted for publication, you will…”) and have it signed upon submission rather than acceptance. Personally, I prefer the simplicity of the approach taken here.
The signature block at the end is formatted as if the agreement will be signed by the corresponding author and countersigned by the publisher. These days, such signature is likely to be handled through a clickthrough web form. The signature block can be updated accordingly for that context, for instance, by placing a radio button in front of the statement “I HAVE READ AND AGREE FULLY WITH THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT” and a Submit button at the end.
Journals should feel free to make use of this model agreement in any way they see fit; it is, after all, itself provided under a CC-BY license. (I myself benefited from language in the JMLR publication agreement.) If you do make use of the agreement, please let me know; I’d love to track if and where it gets used. And of course I’d be interested in any suggestions that people have for its improvement.
(Thanks to Michael Carroll, Jonathan Hulbert, Sue Kriegsman, Peter Suber, and Caroline Sutton for their advice on earlier drafts of the agreement and post. However, the wording of the agreement and opinions expressed in the post are my own; they bear no responsibility for the result.)
[This is version 1.2 of 8 January 2014. It is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. The license's attribution requirement can be satisfied by including language conveying at least the following: “The language of this publication agreement is based on Stuart Shieber’s model open-access journal publication agreement, version 1.2, available at http://bit.ly/1m9UsNt.” If you intend to use this agreement, I request as a courtesy that you notify me so that I can track usage.]
This is a publication agreement (“this agreement”) regarding a written manuscript currently entitled […] (manuscript title) (“the article”) to be published in […] (“the journal”). The parties to this Agreement are: […] (the corresponding author on behalf of any other authors, collectively “you”) and […], (“the publisher”).
- By signing this form, you warrant that you are signing on behalf of all authors of the article, and that you have the authority to act as their agent for the purpose of entering into this agreement.
- You hereby grant a Creative Commons copyright license in the article to the general public, in particular a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which is incorporated herein by reference and is further specified at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode (human readable summary at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0).
- You agree to require that a citation to the original publication of the article in the journal be included in any attribution statement satisfying the attribution requirement of the Creative Commons license of paragraph 2.
- You retain ownership of all rights under copyright in all versions of the article, and all rights not expressly granted in this agreement.
- To the extent that any edits made by the publisher to make the article suitable for publication in the journal amount to copyrightable works of authorship, the publisher hereby assigns all right, title, and interest in such edits to you. The publisher agrees to verify with you any such edits that are substantive. You agree that the license of paragraph 2 covers such edits.
- You further warrant that:
- The article is original, has not been formally published in any other peer-reviewed journal or in a book or edited collection, and is not under consideration for any such publication.
- You are the sole author(s) of the article, and that you have a complete and unencumbered right to make the grants you make.
- The article does not libel anyone, invade anyone’s copyright or otherwise violate any statutory or common law right of anyone, and that you have made all reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of any factual information contained in the article. You agree to indemnify the publisher against any claim or action alleging facts which, if true, constitute a breach of any of the foregoing warranties or other provisions of this agreement, as well as against any related damages, losses, liabilities, and expenses incurred by the publisher.
- This is the entire agreement between you and the publisher, and it may be modified only in writing. It will be governed by the laws of […the Commonwealth of Massachusetts…]. It will bind and benefit our respective assigns and successors in interest, including your heirs. It will terminate if the publisher does not publish, in any medium, the article within one year of the date of your signature.
I HAVE READ AND AGREE FULLY WITH THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT.
- Corresponding Author:
- Signed: _________________________
- Signed: /signed by the publisher/