Princeton Bans Professors From Giving Journals Copyright
In a shot across the bow of the current publishing model, Princeton is requiring professors to retain rights to their published work so that it may be freely distributed.
The Conversation (“Princeton bans academics from handing all copyright to journal publishers“):
Prestigious US academic institution Princeton University has banned researchers from giving the copyright of scholarly articles to journal publishers, except in certain cases where a waiver may be granted.
The new rule is part of an Open Access policy aimed at broadening the reach of their scholarly work and encouraging publishers to adjust standard contracts that commonly require exclusive copyright as a condition of publication.
Universities pay millions of dollars a year for academic journal subscriptions. People without subscriptions, which can cost up to $25,000 a year for some journals or hundreds of dollars for a single issue, are often prevented from reading taxpayer funded research. Individual articles are also commonly locked behind pay walls.
At a September 19 meeting, Princeton’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy adopted a new open access policy that gives the university the “nonexclusive right to make available copies of scholarly articles written by its faculty, unless a professor specifically requests a waiver for particular articles.”
“The University authorizes professors to post copies of their articles on their own web sites or on University web sites, or in other not-for-a-fee venues,” the policy said.
“The main effect of this new policy is to prevent them from giving away alltheir rights when they publish in a journal.”
Under the policy, academic staff will grant to The Trustees of Princeton University “a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all copyrights in his or her scholarly articles published in any medium, whether now known or later invented, provided the articles are not sold by the University for a profit, and to authorise others to do the same.”
In cases where the journal refuses to publish their article without the academic handing all copyright to the publisher, the academic can seek a waiver from the open access policy from the University.
The last is, of course, a rather huge loophole. But this is a huge step in the right direction.
Professors often spend months, if not years, producing the articles in question–usually at taxpayer expense. Other professors serve as unpaid (by the journals, anyway) peer reviewers. The journals’ editorial staffs are typically housed in a university department somewhere and unpaid or paid only a modest stipend.
The publishing companies behind the current model contribute essentially nothing to the process, aside from the prestige of an established name. It makes no sense that they’re allowed to hide away the research behind elaborate paywalls.
Given modern technology, I’m not sure why journals in the classic sense continue to exist at all. There’s no need for printing, binding, and distributing physical volumes anymore.It’s not at all clear what would be lost if scholars continued to research and serve as peer reviewers and editors in exactly the manner they do now but then place approved articles online for all to read.