Category Archives: Reaching Readers

Spotlight on Open Access and Academic Publishing:
James Boyle & Jennifer Jenkins’ Open IP Casebook

Posted August 29, 2017
“The 1950’s distribution mechanism for the casebook…
needs to go the way of the whale oil merchant,
the typing pool and the travel agent.”
— James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins

Cover of IP textbookThis summer, Authors Alliance founding members James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins released the latest legal supplement to the third edition of their law school casebook, Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society – Cases & Materials. As part of our series on innovative publishing models, we are featuring their insightful examination of the pros and cons of their model, and why they ultimately chose to forgo traditional textbook publishing.

Boyle and Jenkins have written extensively about their experience with writing a casebook and distributing it freely online under a Creative Commons license, and in 2015, when the book was first released, they co-authored a law review article of FAQs on open legal educational materials:

“Why do we do this? Partly, we do it because we think the price of legal casebooks and materials is obscene. Law students, who are already facing large debt burdens, are required to buy casebooks that cost $150–$200, and “statutory supplements” that consist mainly of unedited, public domain, Federal statutes for $40 or $50. The total textbook bill for a year can be over $1500. This is not a criticism of casebook authors, but rather of the casebook publishing system. […] Legal education is already expensive; we want to play a small part in diminishing the costs of the materials involved.”

“This is a broken market and one that reflects troubling pedagogical and, to be quite frank, moral choices on the part of both authors and publishers.”

We highly recommend the entire FAQ article for its thoughtful approach to an alternative publishing model, and—thanks to open access—it is available to read in full. We recently caught up with Boyle and Jenkins to ask specifically about their experiences from the authors’ perspective; here’s what they had to tell us:

Authors Alliance: What kind of feedback have you received from your students?

Boyle & Jenkins: They have generally been very positive. Obviously the price is nicer, particularly if it is free, but the benefits of openness come out in other surprising ways.  For example, visually impaired students have told us they really appreciate an open electronic text that can be customized using their favorite programs—to produce a machine-generated audiobook, for example, in whatever format they choose.  Other students like the ability to grab chunks of the textbook and paste directly into their notes.  For law students who often can’t get electronic versions of their—very heavy—casebooks, being able to take the casebook home for Thanksgiving is a plus.

AuAll: Do you have a key piece of advice or encouragement for other authors looking to follow your example? Anything you wish you’d known before you started?

Boyle: Just do it! As far as things we learned—I’d been doing open publishing since I was part of the founding of Creative Commons, so I probably had a head start—but we were surprised and delighted by the way in which openness changes the adoption of a textbook from a 0/1 decision—you do or you don’t—to something in which someone can grab our chapter on the history of copyright, or the economics of intellectual property, and pop it into their class without disrupting anything else.  As we say in the article, it is the shift from the “album” version of textbooks, in which you must by all or none, to the iTunes version where you can take a single track.

AuAll: Are there any other comments/insights that you would like to share with your fellow Authors Alliance members?

B&J: Both of us would say that we believe in Authors Alliance because we think open access to scholarly work is a moral imperative wherever it is reasonably possible.  But in our own lives, it is striking how much tangible benefit in terms of citation, influence, and so on that strategy has yielded.  When it comes to open access to scholarship, doing good can be very compatible with doing well.

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. Jennifer Jenkins is a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.



Spotlight on Open Access and Academic Publishing:
A Q&A With Eric von Hippel

Posted August 15, 2017

headshot of Eric von Hippel

Just in time for the 2017 back-to-school season, we’re featuring a series of posts on alternatives to traditional publishing models. Earlier this year, Authors Alliance advisory board member and MIT professor Eric von Hippel released his book Free Innovation under a Creative Commons license—the newest addition to his online collection of freely available works. We asked him about his experiences with rights reversion, open access, and how academic authors and publishers can help to make books openly available.

Authors Alliance: You successfully regained the rights to your 1988 book The Sources of Innovation from Oxford University Press (OUP). How did you secure a reversion of rights? What have you been able to do with your book since reversion?

Eric von Hippel: When I contracted with OUP for my first book in the 1980s, I was not aware of open access as a possibility, so I simply signed a standard contract giving all rights to OUP. About 20 years later, I had become very interested in open access. I therefore asked OUP to allow me to conduct an experiment. OUP would allow me to post a free electronic version on my MIT website. If hard copy sales declined in the next period, I would pay OUP $1,000 as compensation for lost sales. If they went up, OUP would keep the profits and allow me to keep posting the free version. OUP agreed to these terms. Happily, sales of printed copies went up, so I was able to keep posting the free version from then on.

With respect to actually getting back the copyright for Sources of Innovation so I could go fully open access: About 5 years ago, my excellent activist OA colleagues (thanks especially to Ellen Finnie Duranceau of MIT) told me that I had a window of time in which I could get the copyright returned to me. That window was fast-approaching in the case of my 1988 book, so I simply wrote to my editor at OUP, asking him to give me back the copyright without my having to go through the formal process as dictated by the law. Sales were low at that point, so he simply said “fine,” and wrote me a letter transferring all rights back to me.

AuAll: We’ve written previously about MIT Press’ pioneering approach to open access. To date, you’ve published two books with MIT: Democratizing Innovation and Free Innovation. Your publication contract with MIT gave you the right to post free ebooks from the very beginning, ensuring that both books were “born open access.” Based on your experience, can you offer some advice to other authors—and publishers—who want to embrace this model?

EvH: In response to your question, I talked to my editor at MIT Press to see if they had by now evolved a standard set of OA practices. Turns out they have not. They are still experimenting. Sometimes, depending on specifics of a book—for example, is it a textbook?—their experiments result in negative financial consequences for the Press relative to their sales projections. Sometimes the consequences are financially quite acceptable. Things are also changing quite rapidly in terms of book-reading behaviors. Specifically with respect to my own books with MIT Press, the 2005 book had very acceptable print sales despite the availability of a free eBook version. The jury is still out on my new 2017 book.

Frankly, these days authors have to insist on an open access eBook option if they are to have a hope of getting a publisher to agree. And, they very well might be turned down even if they do insist. As we know, academic presses are not hugely profitable, and they cannot afford to take big risks. I have a feeling that a standard OA option that may emerge in the end will be something like the model now increasingly offered by publishers of academic articles: If authors want open access, they may increasingly have to agree to pay a fee to compensate publishers for (possibly) lower print copy sales.

AuAll: How did you select which Creative Commons license to apply to these books?

EvH: I really did not know which one to use—I just sort of chose the license others seemed to be using without really understanding the pros and cons. I will be able to make a more informed choice using information supplied by Authors Alliance by the time decision-making for my next book comes around. [Chapter Four of Authors Alliance’s guide to Understanding Open Access has additional information about selecting an open access license.]

AuAll: What results do you see from publishing your books openly? What do you see as the pros and cons of embracing this model?

Like most academic authors, I write books to have them read, not to earn royalties. The increase in readership I have experienced by going OA is really worth it to me—it makes me very happy. Evidence to date is that about 10 times more eBooks are downloaded than print copies are sold, so I guesstimate that I am reaching about 10 times more people with the ideas I find exciting than I could have done in the pre-OA era. It especially makes me happy that now teachers can assign even a single chapter of one of my books in a class in a developing country if they wish, without worrying about burdening students with any purchase costs.

Personally, I don’t see any negatives with respect to going OA—only positives. I actually feel very proud that I can contribute to my colleagues and to scholarship in this enhanced way. I am very grateful to the Authors Alliance for making it easier for me and many others to accomplish an Open Access outcome.

AuAll: Do you have any other suggestions for authors on how they can make their works available in the ways that they want?

EvH: Open Access is a wonderful goal—but as a young academic, please don’t feel guilt or failure if you cannot negotiate open access agreements right from the start. At the beginning of an academic career, very few of us have much leverage with publishers to negotiate for open access. Certainly, in the case of my first book I was at the start of my academic work and had zero leverage. In fact I was just very happy to get published by a good academic press like OUP, and would have signed pretty much any “standard terms” they asked for.

If this is your case too, I would urge you not to feel badly if you have to sign a traditional contract assigning all rights to your publisher. Better to survive the academic rites of passage. You will have a long academic career, and will have increasing abilities to demand and negotiate open access for your work as your reputation grows.

AuAll: We are honored to count you among the advisory board members of Authors Alliance. Thank you for sharing your experiences with our readers!

EvH: I am totally proud to serve on the Advisory Board. Pam Samuelson, as we all know, was a crucial founding member of Authors Alliance. She was the one who asked me to join. In my experience, Pam has wonderful instincts about what will help scholars and scholarship with respect to openness, and I signed on to support both her and this wonderful idea.

(As a side story in closing—I should mention that I tend to regard Pam Samuelson as akin to an unstoppable force of nature when she gets behind something she believes in. I still remember hearing about and worrying about the (ultimately defeated) proposed settlement between Google and commercial publishers a few years back. At a certain point, Google felt the agreement was in the bag. They then began sending lawyers around around the country to inform academic authors and others about how we could expect to function in the new world they envisioned. Indeed, they said, they were sure we would learn to love that new world over time. In fact, many academics were strongly against that proposed settlement for very good reasons, but things looked very bleak for the resistance at that time.

Then one day I heard that Pam had taken up the cause and was working hard against it with a few others. To the inexperienced eye, Pam and her colleagues were a small and lonely academic crew against mighty Google legal phalanxes that extended to the horizon like an endless sea of Orcs. However, as soon as I heard Pam was in the fight I immediately relaxed. Indeed, I remember thinking as I listened to a talk at the Boston Public Library by the very confident Google lawyers: Can’t they see what is coming next? Don’t they know they are now the walking (actually, limousine-riding) dead—about to experience the equivalent of the Lord of the Rings Ghost Army?)

So, in sum: Right on Pam, and right on, Authors Alliance! Keep it up! We are proud to be in this battle for Open Access with you!

Eric von Hippel is T. Wilson Professor of Innovation Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and is also Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT.  von Hippel graduated from Harvard College (BA), MIT (MS), and Carnegie Mellon University.  He is the recipient of three honorary doctorates, and numerous honors and academic prizes, such as the Humboldt Foundation Research Prize (2013), and the EU “Innovation Luminary” Award in 2015. 

von Hippel is known for his research into the sources of and economics of innovation. He has written three books on these topics, and also has published many articles in innovation management, ranging from the theoretical to the very practical.  Digital copies of all his books can be downloaded for free online from his MIT website at

Internet Archive’s Open Libraries Project:
A Treasure Trove for Readers and Authors

Posted July 11, 2017
Photo of book and Open LIbrary card

Photograph courtesy of the Internet Archive

In February of this year, the Internet Archive was chosen as one of eight semi-finalists in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change grant competition, which will award the winner with $100 million to address an urgent problem of worldwide importance. The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries proposal is a bold and ambitious plan which would digitize over 4 million books and put them in the hands of readers around the world, many of whom face significant barriers to accessing knowledge. Making works available on this unprecedented scale would clearly be a tremendous benefit not only for students, scholars, researchers, and the general public—but also for authors.

As an organization dedicated to widespread access to information for the public good, many of our members have firsthand knowledge of the issues the Open Libraries project aims to solve. The Internet has made information and creative works available in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, but its potential in this regard is still largely unrealized. Authors face a host of technical, legal, and financial barriers that prevent them from sharing their works that are out of print, un-digitized, and/or subject to copyrights signed away long before the digital age. Rights reversion and terminations of transfers may be an option for some authors to regain rights (as the Authors Alliance collection of books in the Internet Archive can attest), but the fact remains that millions of books—especially those that have fallen out of print—are, for all intents and purposes, unavailable.

For many readers around the world, digitized books are not merely a more convenient means to access works—they may be the only way to do so. Even if a book happens to be available in a local library, there are many readers who are nonetheless unable to access it due to infirmity or a print disability. Readers in the developing world are hungry for knowledge, but their access to it is often severely limited. Online books may well be their only route to an education and its lifelong benefits. Many authors care deeply about making sure their works are available to these readers, and worry that gaps in digital availability prevent these readers from accessing their books.

Digital libraries also create new opportunities for authors from under-represented communities to reach readers. Communities of color, the disabled, students, seniors, the incarcerated, LGBTQI people, and religious minorities are just some of the voices that have historically been at the margins of mainstream publishing. By proactively identifying and including vast numbers of works that may be largely unavailable via traditional channels, the Internet Archive would dramatically increase the diversity of knowledge available online, and put it in the hands of those who would otherwise have limited or no access.

A new round of finalists for the 100&Change grant will be announced in September. We at Authors Alliance wish the Internet Archive success as the competition moves forward throughout this summer and fall!

Digitizing the MIT Press Backlist: A Q&A With Amy Brand

Posted June 27, 2017

Headshot of Amy Brand, Director of the MIT Press

Earlier this year, the MIT Press and Internet Archive announced a partnership to digitize books from the Press’ backlist and make them available online. We caught up with Amy Brand, Director of the Press, to ask about the collaboration and how publishers can help to make books openly available.

AUTHORS ALLIANCE: We’re thrilled to hear that MIT Press is making some of its backlist openly accessible.  Can you tell us about the project?

AMY BRAND: Sure thing. We’re partnering with the Internet Archive, with funding support from Arcadia, to digitize hundreds of deep backlist MIT Press books where we have the rights to do so, and to enable open access where legal and practical as well. At a minimum, the digitized books will be available for free one-at-a-time lending through and through libraries that participate in the broader OpenLibraries project, which is intended to enable libraries that own the physical books to lend digital copies to their patrons.

AuAll: What motivated MIT Press to undertake this project?

AB: When I started as Director of the MIT Press a couple of years ago, one of my top ambitions was to make sure that everything we’ve published and have the rights to digitize be made accessible, searchable, and discoverable, now and in perpetuity. When I connected with Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, we realized that partnering to achieve this made great sense for both parties. Brewster is looking to bring as many print-only books online as possible, and working directly with publishers is a key part of his strategy. For the MIT Press, the relationship means we get back digital files for our own use. That’s a significant cost savings, considering we were planning to digitize all these works on our own. In addition to making older works newly available and to growing our open access program, I also see this effort as one way to get out in front of widespread circulation of unauthorized digital files for these works.

AuAll: What can you tell us about the collection that will be included?  Are there any titles or authors you are particularly excited to see newly available to readers?

AB: We’re just at the start of this effort, targeting older and out of print books, reaching out to authors and their estates to make them aware of the project and to give them the opportunity to opt out (so far, no one has). There are so many gems on the list, but one that jumped out at me was a 1973 re-issue of a 19th-century work by Frederick Law Olmsted that tells the story of his plans for New York City’s Central Park. If you search online for this book today, you’ll find it sells for about $500 in the used book market.

AuAll: What were the biggest hurdles to realizing this project, and how did you overcome these obstacles?

AB: It took us several months to agree on contractual terms that both the Press and the Internet Archive felt comfortable with. In particular, the Press wanted an agreement that allowed us to designate some works in the program as completely open access and others for lending only, and that’s where we landed. I hope that this negotiation process and resulting agreement will serve as a model for other publishers who grasp the many benefits of this opportunity.

AuAll: Do you have any words of wisdom for other publishers who want to follow MIT Press’ example?

AB: We’re all in the knowledge dissemination business, so take every opportunity make the content in your authors’ books, past and present, available and useful. What I also sometimes point out to other university presses is that there is so much unauthorized copying and sharing of our publications that we’re fooling ourselves to think that we can lock them down. Our business models need to take that into consideration. Even for new books, digital open access plus paid print can be the right model for certain academic authors. And, where feasible, we can take the wind out of the pirate sails by putting into circulation files that the publisher authorizes and that include explicit information about the authors’ intended use of the content.

For more information about regaining rights to previously published work, and about open access publishing, please see the Authors Alliance Resources page. We will continue to follow the MIT Press project and provide updates on books as they become newly available online.

Amy Brand was named Director of the MIT Press in July 2015. Previously, she served as VP Academic and Research Relations and VP North America at Digital Science. Brand serves on the DuraSpace Board of Directors, the Board on Research Data and Information of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and, was a founding member of the ORCID Board, and regularly advises on key community initiatives in digital scholarship. She holds a B.A. in linguistics from Barnard College and a PhD in cognitive science from MIT.

DMCA Takedown Notices: Know Your Rights

Posted June 22, 2017

Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices targeting APA articles on 80 university websites in an attempt to restrict unauthorized use of submissions to APA journals. In some cases, this resulted in the removal of academic authors’ articles from personal websites and university repositories. In response to the outcry from authors, the APA altered its pilot program to focus on removing articles from piracy sites rather than also targeting individual authors. APA also reiterated that authors may post their pre-print submissions (not the final version as published by an APA journal), as per their publication agreements with the APA.

This is not the first time that a journal publisher has targeted academic articles on university websites with DMCA takedown notices. In 2013, Elsevier, publisher of nearly 2,000 research journals, began sending takedown notices to individual researchers and universities targeting articles posted on university-hosted pages. Like the APA, Elsevier distinguished between authors posting the final versions of articles from those posting earlier versions.

Although these publishers may have acted within their rights to send these takedown notices, for authors looking to share work broadly, it is hard to imagine a situation more frustrating than not being being able to share their own works. In the face of the possibility that DMCA takedown notices targeting institutional repositories may increase, what can authors do?

  • Review the terms of your publishing agreement: Many journal publishing agreements allow for journal authors to self-archive pre-print versions of their articles on personal websites, university repositories, and author networking sites (sometimes with an embargo period). Check the terms of your agreement to see whether this is permitted, and, if so, replace your article with an allowed version.
  • Review your institution’s open access policy: If your institution has an open access policy, it may allow you to deposit a copy of your work in your institutional repository without infringing on your publisher’s rights. If in doubt, check with your institution’s Copyright or Scholarly Communications Office.
  • Retain the rights you need to make future works available in the ways you want: When presented with a publishing contract, review the terms of the contract and don’t be shy about negotiating for terms that allow you to share your work on personal websites, university repositories, and author networking sites. For more information on how to negotiate with your publisher to allow you to share your work, see Chapter 6 of our guide to Understanding Open Access. You can also review journal publishers’ standard policies regarding self-archiving on the SHERPA/RoMEO database and opt to submit your work to journals that give you more control of your work.
  • Reach out to your institution’s Copyright or Scholarly Communications Office:  Copyright and scholarly communications staff can help you understand what rights you retained in your publication agreement, whether any version of your work can be posted online, and whether a copy can be uploaded to your institution’s repository. They can also help you understand your publishing contract before you sign.

For more information, check out our FAQ on copyright, which outlines some of the ways that authors can manage their copyrights in innovative ways, including with regard to academic journals. And our guide to Understanding Open Access provides even more detail about OA publication strategies.

“A Good Guy Offering a Good Product at a Fair Price”:
Cory Doctorow on Fair Trade E-books, Publishing, Copyright, and the Optimism of Disaster

Posted May 9, 2017
photo by Jonathan Worth

portrait of Cory Doctorow by Jonathan Worth | CC BY-SA 2.0

As part of our mission to empower authors in the digital age, Authors Alliance encourages authors to embrace new strategies for publishing and ensuring the ongoing lifespan of their work, both in print and in digital formats. Best-selling novelist, blogger, and Authors Alliance founding member Cory Doctorow epitomizes this innovative spirit in myriad ways. We sat down recently with Cory for a wide-ranging talk about his newly-launched platform for selling fair trade ebooks, the pros and cons of traditional publishing, and his brand-new novel, Walkaway.


AUTHORS ALLIANCE: At the London Book Fair this past March, you announced your new model for selling fair trade ebooks, affectionately known as “Shut Up and Take My Money.” What was your inspiration for this new platform? How does it address some of the issues with traditional retailing?

CORY DOCTOROW: There are ongoing disputes among publishers and writers about the equitable way to share ebook royalties. I kept hearing from people in publishing that hell would freeze over before publishers would pay 50% instead of 25% for ebook royalties. Now, “never ever” is a long time, and things do change, but if this is a thing you want to feed your kids with, you shouldn’t hold your breath. I got started by retailing my own audiobooks on my website with a modest shopping cart program after I had been kicked out of the traditional audiobook market by refusing to agree to DRM [digital rights management, which controls users’ access to, and use of, copyrighted material]. When I sell my audiobooks directly on my website, I get paid twice: I get the retail cut, as well as the royalty from my publisher, which is pretty damn close to 50%. The same is true for the ebook fair trade model: if you sell an ebook on your website, the royalty plus your retail cut is close to 50%.

There is also the fact that, in the time since Creative Commons licenses were negotiated, publishers have entered into agreements with the large ebook retailers that allow for price matching. This is in part an artifact of anti-trust litigation, but it means that if someone somewhere offers the book at $0, it technically allows all of the other ebook stores to offer the book at $0 as well.

Thus far my publishers have been good about grandfathering in the CC-licensed books that I already had, but for the last couple of books I haven’t done CC licensing, in part because of the real fear that Amazon could set the price at $0 and there would be no recourse for my publishers—not even the recourse of not letting Amazon sell the book, because of deals ensuring that if Amazon sells one book of a publisher’s, they have to sell the whole catalog.

So I thought, “What can I do to accommodate the CC books and the non-CC books that will maximally benefit all the entities here, and play within the Realpolitik of these regulatory settlements?” And I came up with this fair trade ebooks idea.

Continue reading Termination of Transfer Tool

Posted October 31, 2016

In October of 2016, we launched a new online tool at, made with our allies at Creative Commons and designed to help authors navigate the “termination of transfer” provisions of U.S. copyright law.

Complementing our efforts around rights reversions, the area of the law our tool helps clarify allows authors (or, in some cases, their family members) to regain rights to creative works signed away many years ago. Though these termination rights are an extremely powerful boon for authors and creators, exercising them can be daunting. The law is complex and difficult to navigate, requiring attention to detail and careful timing.

The tool provides basic information about how the eligibility and timing of a right based on user input, along with suggestions on next steps that a creator may wish to take in securing rights. To learn more, view our demo video, featuring Professor Sidonie Smith of the University of Michigan that goes through the tool step by step.

As always, you can contact us directly with any questions or suggestions. We are excited to share this  resource with you, and look forward to your comments.

Authors Alliance Partners With the Internet Archive to Make Books Available

Posted October 26, 2016

IA-AA logos

Since the release of our guide to Understanding Rights Reversion in 2015, we have featured a number of “Rights Reversion Success Stories”—books that have been given a new life thanks to their authors’ efforts to regain publication rights and share their work widely.  Many of our members’ titles are already discoverable through the HathiTrust digital library, and we are now partnering with San Francisco-based Internet Archive to make public domain and Creative Commons-licensed works available in full on our new Authors Alliance Collection.

If you’re interested in making your own works more available, see our Resources page for information about rights reversion and open access. We also encourage you try out the beta of our brand-new Termination of Transfers engine—a step-by-step tool developed in partnership with Creative Commons that can help with regaining rights. Internet Archive has also created a handy DIY Guide to Sharing Your Book, with a list of handy links.

And if you have already regained rights to your previously published book(s) and would like to feature them in the Internet Archive, contact us! We can help our members sort out the details, including the scanning and ingest of pre-digital works.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Internet Archive on this initiative. Contact us to get started, and help us build the Authors Alliance collection page in the Internet Archive!

Is it time for authors to leave SSRN?

Posted July 17, 2016

Since we first heard of mega-publisher Elsevier’s acquisition of SSRN, the popular social sciences pre-print and working paper repository, we have expressed concern. Elsevier is not known to be an avid supporter of the open access publishing practices favored by many of our members, and has historically taken a restrictive stance toward author control and ownership of scholarship.

In response, we reached out to Elsevier and to SSRN with a set of principles the service could adopt that would reassure authors that SSRN could continue to be a go-to resource for those looking to refine and share their work. We have since heard back from SSRN: they would not commit to adopting even one of our principles. They offered more general reassurances that their policies would continue as before. We were not satisfied, but we decided to wait and see whether our fears would be borne out.

As feared, it now appears that SSRN is taking up restrictive and hostile positions against authors’ ability to decide when and how to share their work. Reports are surfacing that, without notice, SSRN is removing author-posted documents following SSRN’s own, opaque determination that the author must have transferred copyright, the publisher had not consented to the posting, or where the author has opted to use a non-commercial Creative Commons license. One author, Andrew Selbst, reported that SSRN refused his post even though the article’s credits reflected his retained copyright.

This policy fails to honor the rights individual authors have negotiated in order to put their work on services like SSRN. It misreads the Creative Commons licenses authors adopt in order to share their work. And it is a marked departure from the standard notice and takedown procedures typically used to remove user-uploaded copyright-infringing works from the web, eliminating both any apparent notice from the putative copyright owner and any clear recourse for the affected authors.

SSRN authors: you have not committed to SSRN. You can remove your papers from their service, and you can opt instead to make your work available in venues that show real commitment to the sharing, vetting, and refinement of academic work.

Just recently, SocArXiv—a new social sciences preprint archive built on the model pioneered in physics by arXiv—opened their doors to submissions. SocArXiv is supported by the University of Maryland, not run for profit, and formed with an explicit commitment to openness in academic writing. They are still in early days, but appear to be building a promising successor community to SSRN.

It is also important to remember that your work does not need to be restricted to any one venue. Try SocArXiv, but also see if you can host your work in an institutional repository or on a personal website. Make your work available wherever it can best reach your readers. It is also worth protesting the practices that would restrict your work’s availability and reach by leaving the services adopting them. If the reports about SSRN’s new practices are accurate, then it may be time to leave SSRN and adopt more author-friendly alternatives. Authors, tell us about your experiences with SSRN and other repositories by sending a note to

Authors Alliance Presents Elsevier With Principles for Openness in SSRN

Posted June 2, 2016

The recent purchase of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) by Elsevier has caused a great deal of concern among our members and in the scholarly community. In response, Authors Alliance has created a list of principles that could be adoped by Elsevier to reassure authors that SSRN will remain open and author-friendly. Today, we presented those principles to the leadership of both SSRN and Elsevier for consideration. We will continue to scrutinize the transition in ownership and any changes in SSRN’s policies, and look forward to engaging in a constructive conversation in response to our concerns.