[Lingtyp] European Commission on authorship transfer agreements

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Tue Dec 22 20:09:46 UTC 2015

On 12/22/2015 03:49 PM, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
> The statement about ownership of copyright needs to be interpreted in
> the context of "fair open access" publication. 
> Most publication in
> linguistics is not (gold) open access, so publishers need to restrict
> access in order to stay in business.

this is not necessarily true. There are enough publishers who return the
copyright after 2 years. Non-exclusive licenses are another option.

> Hence, they need authors to
> transfer the copyright to them.

A non-exclusive license would be sufficient. Transfer of copyright is
not a necessity.

> Frankly, I do not understand why retaining the copyright is important
> with open access publication. 

It is indeed not important for OA publications. If, for whatever reason,
an author cannot publish as OA, they should still strive to
- keep their copyright
- if not possible, limit the time of the copyright transfer (e.g. 2 years).

At any rate, the clause called "Buy-out" in German (apparently not in
English) should be avoided. It reads something like "all existing or
future technologies on all media to all ends in any country, forever".
Signing a contract with this clause is one of the safest ways to be sure
that your work will suffer the fate of Martin's morphology book.

> Not owning the copyright is frustrating
> when the publisher refuses to give access to a work (for example, my
> 2002 book "Understanding morphology" is no longer available, but the
> publisher refuses to return the copyright to me, so it's unavailable, at
> least through normal channels).
> But when the publisher has agreed to make a book available in open
> access, with a liberal license, then it doesn't really matter who owns
> the copyright (it seems to me).

I agree with Martin. But then, there is also no need for the additional
legal act of transferring the copyright to the publisher, since this
will change neither party's position.

> What matters most, it seems to me, is who owns the labels. Is the label
> "Linguistic Typology" still owned by the Association for Linguistic
> Typology? Or was it signed over to De Gruyter in exchange for favourable
> conditions? If the former, then ALT can shop around for even better
> conditions. If the latter, then each time we publish (or cite) an LT
> paper, we increase De Gruyter's income, independently of their services.

Of course, ALT wants their journal to reside with a competent service
provider, which comes at a cost. I am very much in favour of paying
service providers. But they should be paid for the services they
provide, not for the services ALT provides itself. And building up the
brand "Linguistic Typology" is done by the association, not by the
publisher. It would be unwise to find oneself in a position where you
have to pay a third party for using a brand you created yourself in the
first place.


> Martin
> On 22.12.15 13:49, Sebastian Nordhoff wrote:
>> Dear list,
>> following up on the discussion about copyright and availability, I
>> offer a recent blogpost by the European Commission
>> (https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/content/fair-open-occess-and-future-scientific-publishing)
>> """
>> * Fair open access could also be seen as a question of ownership. Who
>> owns publications? Who has the copyright? Probably authors. As a
>> matter of principle, copyright should therefore probably not be signed
>> over to other actors such as publishers. Therefore, open access
>> publications should be licenced in adequate ways. Creative Commons
>> licences could be a good way to do this systematically.
>> """
>> Note that you can leave comments on the page, which will actually be
>> read by the relevant people in Brussels, so this is a nice opportunity
>> to make your voice heard.
>> Best wishes
>> Sebastian
>> _______________________________________________
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>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
>> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

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