Media sources report that the Trump Administration is considering a policy to make the results of federally funded research immediately available for the public to freely access and use. Current policy requires results of federally funded research be made available in pre-print form within 12 months of publication. The rumored policy would eliminate the 12-month embargo. As an organization with a mission to advance the interests of authors who want to serve the public good by sharing their creations broadly, Authors Alliance strongly supports such a policy.
Many of our members are authors who rely on taxpayer dollars to fund their research and want the results of that research to be immediately available for potential readers to readily locate and access without being turned away by paywalls. Immediate and free online availability increases their works’ visibility, helping it to reach readers and benefit the public. Absent a federal policy, many authors simply do not have the bargaining power necessary to demand from publishers the level of access they want for their research.
Removing barriers to access creates a more hospitable environment for future scientific advancements. Medical patients and their family members have especially compelling needs for this information. Many students, teachers, researchers, and other professionals from low- and middle-income countries struggle to get access to prohibitively expensive subscription-based journals. Even individuals at U.S.-based institutions may find that their libraries do not have the resources to subscribe to relevant journals in their fields. By removing price barriers, it is easier for students, teachers, researchers, and practitioners to access the information they need to learn, teach, research, and practice in their fields.
The rumored policy change does not require publishers to make the final version of articles based on federally funded research free—just for authors to make the pre-publication versions available. Publishers can still charge subscriptions for access to the final published version of these articles, not to mention all of the articles not funded by taxpayer dollars. Or publishers can charge for their value-added publishing services to those institutions who want professional peer review. By paying for publishing services rather than paying for the right to read, institutions can use their budgets to pay for publishing rather than for subscriptions, publishers can earn a living, and the public can then read taxpayer funded research without paying for the privilege.
A policy requiring the outputs of federally funded research be made immediately available would maximize the value of investment in research by ensuring that more readers can access research results than if the works were available through restricted means alone. For these reasons, Authors Alliance supports a policy that would ensure that the public is not made to pay both to create and to read research and would open up opportunities for others to build upon research, accelerating the pace of innovation and discovery.
We are grateful to Anita Walz, Assistant Director of Open Education and Scholarly Communication Librarian at Virginia Tech, for sharing the following rights reversion and open access success story. Anita worked with the authors of an out-of-print textbook to make a digitized version available online under a Creative Commons license for a new generation of students—not only at Virginia Tech but around the world. This guest post is published under a CC BY-NC-4.0 license.
“I want to assign this book as required reading for my graduate class. However, there are 125 students and I can’t find enough copies for students to access, borrow, or purchase. You’re a librarian. Can you help?” Librarians often field such inquiries. Depending on the situation, such inquiries may lead to nuances of copyright, ebook acquisition, a search for substitute titles, assertion of fair use and exploration of more ideal scenarios: open access works and open educational resources. Sometimes such inquiries lead us outside of libraries to fact-find with authors and publishers on behalf of library users. The example of Veterinary Epidemiology: Principles and Methods is one such case.
In 2015 and 2016 I worked on my first rights reversion digitization project, inspired in part by the Authors Alliance’s publication Understanding Rights Reversion: When, Why & How to Regain Copyright and Make Your Book More Available. Of course, I didn’t know that it was a rights reversion scenario when I first started. A new faculty member had approached me with a copyright quandary: She wanted to use an out-of-print seminal work from 1987 for her class of 125 students. The six copies owned by the library and the several used copies available for sale would not be nearly enough. A thorough check indicated that a digital version was not available for purchase. We also explored working with the Copyright Clearance Center, but the cost was exorbitant. Wanting to honor the professor’s selection of this particular text, my colleagues and I aided her in conducting an informed fair-use analysis and the library displayed selected chapters one-chapter-at-a-time via the library’s secure eReserve system. With the book obviously out of print, and wondering who owned the rights, I contacted the book’s authors in September 2015.
Open Access Week 2019 takes place from October 21-27. To mark the occasion, we’re featuring a series of Open Access Success Stories that shine the spotlight on noteworthy OA books, authors, and publishing models. In today’s post, Barbara Kline-Pope, Director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, provides updates about the Press’ open publishing initiatives for scholarly books.
Authors Alliance: We were interested to hear about the new HOP 100 and Encore Editions projects that JHU Press is working on with Project MUSE. Can you tell us more about these two projects?
Barbara Kline-Pope: HOP stands for Hopkins Open Publishing and is the overarching name for all of our open book projects. The HOP 100 represents a low-risk experiment to determine the effect on audience engagement and on sales when opening up books published by Johns Hopkins University Press on MUSE Open. We chose 100 books from our list that were near the end of their sales lives, having sold 10 or fewer copies a year for the past couple of years.
What happened when we opened up those books? Let’s first explore engagement. Of the 100 titles, 54 lived on Project MUSE as gated books prior to being opened. They were available to read for people whose libraries had purchased them either individually or in a collection. Once opened and available on MUSE Open, these books experienced an average of three times more engagement per month as compared with the time period in which they were gated on Project MUSE.
Open Access Week 2019 takes place from October 21-27. To mark the occasion, we’re featuring a series of Open Access Success Stories that shine the spotlight on noteworthy OA books, authors, and publishing models. Today’s post features Calvin L. Warren, Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. His book Ontological Terror: Blackness, Nihilism, and Emancipation (Duke University Press, 2018) examines how all humanism is based on investing blackness with nonbeing—a logic which reproduces antiblack violence and precludes any realization of equality, justice, and recognition for blacks. Ontological Terror is available under a CC BY-NC-ND license, supported by Emory University as part of the TOME initiative. We recently sat down with Professor Warren to discuss his decision to make Ontological Terror openly available.
Authors Alliance: Given that many (if not most) humanities monographs are still published via traditional channels, why did you choose open access publishing for Ontological Terror?
Calvin Warren: Unfortunately, academic knowledge is becoming increasingly inaccessible, and this “epistemological exclusivity” is resulting in disturbing patterns of asymmetry. Journals require membership to read current scholarship, and this financial barrier prevents students and scholars from resource poor institutions from acquiring information. The cost of academic books is equally exorbitant, reinforcing the dynamic that knowledge acquisition requires money. I’ve grown uncomfortable with this dynamic and had been searching for a mechanism to make my work more accessible to high school students, lay readers, community colleges, and institutions with limited resources. Open access provided such a mechanism and addressed the inequity of knowledge acquisition. Accessing my book for free has increased my readership and made it possible for black nihilism, as an idea, to expand its horizon.
AuAll: Did the subject matter of your research and/or your audience influence your decision to publish openly? If so, how?
CW: I’ve developed a philosophical perspective “black nihilism” that presents contemporary problems of black existence, anti black violence, and black suffering as deep philosophical issues. Because my work is in constant dialogue with the unceasing, ubiquitous, and regenerating problem of anti blackness, I wanted my work to reach as many people as possible—especially young people who live under the press of anti black terror. My subject matter required a platform widely accessible because people within and outside the academy were searching for answers to difficult questions.
AuAll: Before this book project, what was your impression of open access publishing?
CW: Open access was unfamiliar to me when I began my academic career, and I wish I’d known about it in graduate school. I do hope the [TOME] program recruits early career scholars, who are often producing the most provocative and groundbreaking work. I’m very grateful that Emory University invested time and resources for me to publish with open access.
AuAll: What results have you seen from publishing your book openly?
CW: Open access has widened my readership, exposing my work to artists, scientists, ministers, politicians, people I hadn’t expected to read my work. When access is open, more democratic, ideas can travel without restriction. And this has been my experience.
AuAll: What advice do you have for scholarly authors who want to make their ideas widely available?
CW: My advice to any authors with important ideas, especially those that speak to contemporary concerns, is to consider open access. Make an appointment with open access staff and discuss the possibility of this platform. It will create unexpected opportunities. Also, publishers often consider the open access funds “book sales” so it reduces some pressure from young scholars who need book sales for career stability. In short, open access is a gift to the academy and will lead the way in democratizing knowledge accessibility.
Jeanne Fromer and Christopher Sprigman of NYU Law School recently published their new casebook Copyright Law: Cases and Materials as an open access work. A PDF of the book is freely available to everyone to read and download under a Creative Commons license, and may also be purchased as a low-cost print-on-demand book. Instructors who register on the site can also access model syllabi and participate in a discussion forum.
In this Q&A, we asked them about publishing the casebook openly instead of as a traditional textbook, and the benefits of that decision.
Authors Alliance: Given the many incentives to publish textbooks via traditional channels, why did you choose open access for Copyright Law?
Jeanne Fromer and Christopher Sprigman: As law professors, we are concerned about the high price of law school textbooks. Many of our students are already taking on significant debt to fund their law school education. The high cost of commercially-published textbooks makes a tough situation worse. We wanted to see if we could provide a high-quality textbook, in both digital and print formats, that would provide professors and students with a free or low-cost option.
AuAll: How did you select which Creative Commons license to apply?
JF & CS: We chose a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) license. We selected a non-commercial license because we didn’t want people charging money for a book that we meant to be available for free (or, in printed form, at cost). And we selected a license that restricted derivatives because we did not want people altering our book to express views on copyright law that we would not endorse, while attributing those views (misleadingly) to us. Just to be clear, we are willing to approve most derivative works. For example, we are willing to approve derivatives that re-arrange our materials in ways that particular professors find helpful. All people have to do is email us, tell us what they want to do, and so long as we feel that it fairly represents our views, we’ll approve.
AuAll: What results do you see from publishing your books openly? What do you see as the pros and cons of embracing this model?
JF & CS: Since we released the book a few weeks ago, we’ve learned of adoptions by professors at Cardozo School of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Harvard Law School, National Law University Delhi, New York University School of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Notre Dame Law School, Saint Louis University School of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, and William & Mary Law School. We are very grateful to the professors who have adopted it thus far.
The pros of publishing the book under a CC license are pretty obvious: we get the book out there at no cost for those who download it from our website and at very low cost for those who order a printed copy from Amazon. There another important benefit: we can update our book more frequently than is typical for commercially-published textbooks.
As for cons … it’s difficult to think of any. We don’t think that commercial textbook publishers do much editorial work to make their casebooks better. They are mostly marketing organizations … and, frankly, between us we know most of the people who teach copyright in the U.S. and many who teach it internationally, and we find it easy to reach them. For those reasons, a commercial publisher’s marketing capacity isn’t very useful to us, as it likely would not be to most legal academics.
AuAll: Could you share some lessons learned and/or other suggestions for authors on how they can make their works available in the ways that they want?
JF & CS: One lesson is that it’s fun to write a textbook with a friend! We both enjoyed working on this together. Another lesson is that writing a textbook isn’t quite the slog that people may think it is. We spent a lot of time structuring the book and selecting and editing cases, and doing so gave us a nice opportunity to think anew about which cases – and which parts of cases – were most important and most helpful to students. And then we spent a good bit of time writing the parts of the book that frame the important questions in copyright law. There is a good deal of creativity involved in how you do this … you have to be clear, and thought-provoking, and engaging, and fair. At the end of this process, we’ve produced a casebook that we feel proud of.
AuAll: We are pleased to count both of you among the members of Authors Alliance. Could you say a few words about the value you find as a member?
JF & CS: We both appreciate the work of Authors Alliance, an organization that works on behalf of authors who write to be read. We are both very much in that camp: we’ve written our textbook because we value our role as teachers and scholars, and we want to lower the barriers to students who are interested in learning about copyright law. There are a lot of authors whose motivations are similar to ours, and Authors Alliance speaks for them.
Jeanne Fromer is Professor of Law at NYU, specializing in intellectual property including copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, and design protection laws. She is a faculty co-director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy.
Christopher Jon Sprigman is Professor of Law at NYU, where he teaches intellectual property law, antitrust law, torts, and comparative constitutional law. His research focuses on how legal rules affect innovation and the deployment of new technologies.
Earlier this year, the University of California (UC) made headlines when it chose to end its journal licensing deal with publishing giant Elsevier. The UC negotiation team recently released a toolkit for other institutions wishing to make changes to their own publishing agreements. The following announcement of the toolkit is excerpted from a post on the University of California (UC) Office of Scholarly Communication website, which originally appeared in May 2019 under a CC-BY license.
The University of California’s (UC) 2018-19 journal contract negotiation with Elsevier has been widely followed. In response to ongoing demand for information, this negotiation toolkit was created to provide support and insight for institutions, particularly university librarians/directors and faculty in North America, interested in restructuring their publisher contracts for journal content.
[The toolkit provides] a North American framework for creating transformative change in the scholarly publishing industry based on initial insights from the University of California’s 2018-2019 negotiations with Elsevier.
Authors Alliance is committed to updating our readers on new developments in open access and scholarly publishing policies. Our OA resource page features information and tools about OA publishing, including our Guide to Understanding Open Access. Earlier this spring, we featured an interview with Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, an Authors Alliance board member and one of the lead negotiators in the effort to restructure UC’s contracts with Elsevier.
We’re pleased to announce that our educational guidebooks for authors—which cover rights reversion, open access, fair use, and publication contracts—are now available on Project MUSE, a repository for monographs and journals created by Johns Hopkins University in cooperation with libraries and university presses. Founded in 1995, Project MUSE is a non-profit home for scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, and now contains over 674 journals and 50,000 books.
The full range of titles on the platform is available via library subscription; many works (including all Authors Alliance titles) are also freely available to everyone on open access terms thanks to the Open Access Books Program, an initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with the goal of enabling OA works on the platform to be “broadly shared, widely discoverable, and richly linked.”
Starting with the publication of Understanding Rights Reversion in 2015, each Authors Alliance guide has been made freely available to view and download on our website and via the Internet Archive. For those who prefer a traditional book format, the guides are also available for purchase in print.
Now, thanks to Project MUSE, our guides also contain rich metadata to make them discoverable and available to libraries. The PDFs also meet the Project MUSE standards of accessibility for print-disabled readers. We are grateful to Kelley Squazzo and Philip Hearn at Project MUSE for their assistance in making our guides available via the Project MUSE platform. Publishers interested in adding their titles to the Open Access Books Program at Project MUSE can learn more here.
We thank Jill Cirasella and Polly Thistlethwaite of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York for contributing the following guest post, which provides some background on their recent book chapter “Open Access and the Graduate Author: A Dissertation Anxiety Manual.”
For years, we have encouraged researchers at our institution, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, to consider the benefits—for others, themselves, and their fields of study—of making their scholarship available open access. In doing so, we have found allies, some already committed to open access and some newly swayed by our arguments.
But, like many librarians advocating openness, we have also met resistance—disinclination to make time to upload works to repositories, confusion about variations among publishers’ policies regarding authors’ rights, certainty that niche work has no broader audience, concern about the viability of scholarly societies in an open-access world, etc.
Most of all, we have heard apprehensions about open access dissertations. Specifically, we have heard students and advisors express fear that making a dissertation open access would sink the author’s chances of publishing a book based on the dissertation.
We could have responded to these worries with our usual refrains about the many benefits and moral necessity of open scholarship, but we felt the weight of our responsibility to our students. We wanted to be able to provide them with confident, informed answers about open access dissertations, especially their effect on the publishing prospects (and, in turn, job and tenure prospects) of their authors. We quickly learned that there were very few research studies on this topic. Rather, blog posts and non-research articles predominated, giving anecdotes and rumors outsized influence. We decided to embark on some research ourselves, to review what was being said and examine, to the extent possible, whether it held up to scrutiny.
In our research, we found a wide array of misgivings about open access dissertations, but we were able to sort them into six categories:
anxieties about finding a publisher for a book based on an open access dissertation
anxieties among publishers about sales of dissertation-based books
anxieties about misdeeds, such as plagiarism and idea theft
anxieties about dissertations not being “ready” for wider audiences
anxieties about having work “online,” whether or not open access
anxieties about corporate monetization of student work
More research on all these matters is necessary, but we were pleased to be able to pull together some (reassuring!) statements by publishers and provide some (reassuring!) data about sales of dissertation-based books. We hope we dispelled some myths, clarified some ambiguities and misunderstandings, and inspired some more formal studies. Our research is available as “Open Access and the Graduate Author: A Dissertation Anxiety Manual,” a chapter in the book Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Communication: Implementation, edited by Kevin L. Smith and Katherine A. Dickson. (Needless to say, we also made it openly available.) We also recommend another chapter in the book that covers similar ground, “From Apprehension to Comprehension: Addressing Anxieties about Open Access to ETDs” by Kyle K. Courtney and Emily Kilcer (also openly available).
Jill Cirasella is Associate Librarian for Scholarly Communication & Digital Scholarship at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her research focus is scholarly communication, broadly construed: recent projects examine anxieties surrounding open access dissertations, benefits of transforming dissertation deposit into a scholarly communication consultation, attitudes about practice-based library literature, and the professional experiences of hard-of-hearing librarians. She serves on the boards of three open access journals, including the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, and is driven by a commitment to open scholarship.
Polly Thistlethwaite is Professor and Chief Librarian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is co-author (with Jessie Daniels) of Being a Scholar in the Digital Era, a work that urges scholars to publish their work openly and to engage in the debates of the day. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, while working in NYC academic libraries, Polly also worked with the Lesbian Herstory Archives and the AIDS activist group ACT UP. She became a conduit for non-academics seeking access to medical and scholarly work sequestered behind library doors and paywalls. Polly is an advocate for free, publicly available scholarship.
Open access is a key issue at Authors Alliance. Our OA resource page features information and tools about OA publishing, including our Guide to Understanding Open Access. We are featuring this article to provide context on the end of journal licensing negotiations between the University of California system and Elsevier and what this could mean for professors, researchers, and the public. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason is a member of the Authors Alliance Board of Directors.
The following post is reprinted with the permission of author Gretchen Kell, and originally appeared on the UC Berkeley Media Relations website on February 28, 2019.
Earlier today, the University of California ended negotiations
with Elsevier, one of the world’s largest scholarly journal publishers.
UC’s main goal since negotiations began in July had been to secure
universal open access publishing of UC research, so that anyone in the
world could view it, free of charge — as well as to curb the rising
costs associated with for-profit journals. Talks heated up after Dec.
31, when UC’s multimillion-dollar subscription expired.
Berkeley News asked University Librarian Jeffrey MacKie-Mason,
co-chair of UC’s negotiation team, more about what’s happened and what
it means for UC scholars and the public.
Why did UC decide to end negotiations today?
Elsevier made a new, quite complex, but novel proposal to us at the
end of January. On Monday, our negotiating team gave them a written
response outlining our appreciation for Elsevier’s effort, but saying
that conditions had to be met for us to sign a contract, and that we
thought we were pretty far apart. We knew if they couldn’t accommodate
us, there was not much point in continuing to negotiate at this time.
Elsevier wanted to keep meeting with us, and we have a meeting
scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), but yesterday they approached our
faculty directly — faculty who are editors of Elsevier journals, who
they have working relationships with — and also the media, and presented
a rosy view of the offer they’d made to us. Their characterization of
the offer left things out, and they didn’t mention what we’d proposed as
conditions. They went public with it. So, we announced the end.
We knew all along it was going to be difficult for Elsevier to change
its ways to our satisfaction. We had hoped they’d see the light, that
the publishing industry is changing, and that they could help lead the
What did each side want the most, and why?
From the very beginning, we had two goals: a reduction in costs — we
pay about $11 million a year to Elsevier in subscription fees, which is
25 percent of UC system-wide journal costs — and default open access
publication for UC authors: that is, that Elsevier would publish an
author’s work open access unless the author didn’t want to. This is
consistent with the UC faculty senate’s goal of all work being published
We also wanted a contract that integrated a paid subscription with
open access publishing fees. It would have been a transformative
agreement, one that would shift payments for reading journal articles
into payments for publishing them, and publishing them open access.
Elsevier eventually offered to do something like what we wanted, for
open access, but they wanted to charge us a lot more. Our current
calculations are that they would have increased the amount of our
payments by 80 percent — an additional $30 million over a three-year
Open access would eventually mean fewer subscriptions for Elsevier.
But we don’t think they would lose, in the long run, by charging for
publishing rather than by charging for reading. The transition the
industry is making to open access is a feasible path forward, so that
more universities don’t cancel their licenses for the same reasons we
If the whole world switches to open access, which we think it will at some point since the scholarly community wants this, it would be a world without subscriptions. But it would be a world where people would still want and need to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals, and there’s always a cost for that.
Have other universities made the same decision?
In the U.S., we’re the first university system to do this with open access as the main issue.
But all of the universities in Germany canceled two years ago for the
same reason. The Max Planck Society (the leading research organization
in Germany) also did. The university alliance in Sweden canceled last
spring, and the university alliance in Hungary canceled in December.
Several other national alliances in Europe are trying to negotiate a
similar contract with Elsevier.
Is this a goal of UC, to be a model institution for open access?
It’s always been one of our goals to help lead the U.S. from paywall
publishing to open access publishing. We’re trying to transform the
entire industry. We’re trying to design a contract that works under a
U.S. funding model that can be replicated by other universities. We’ve
been communicating actively with other U.S. universities and are being
very closely followed by our peer institutions. The Association of
Research Libraries, the largest group of research and university
libraries in the U.S. and Canada, just scheduled a video conference with
us for next week, and I’ll be sharing our goals and experiences with
leaders of other university libraries.
What does the outcome of today’s decision mean for professors and researchers?
If Elsevier proceeds to cut UC’s access to articles, which we fully
expect any moment now, they will eliminate immediate access directly
from Elsevier’s server to articles published since Jan. 1, 2019, and to a
small fraction of historical publications for which we don’t have
perpetual access rights. We have perpetual rights for about 95 percent
of the material our scholars use.
If people want to read journal articles but can’t access them through
Elsevier, we can help here at the library to gain access in other legal
ways. It may take a few minutes to a few days longer to get the
articles. In extreme cases, for a small fraction of the articles in
demand, it might be necessary to purchase an article at a very high
price from Elsevier.
The decision today does not affect publishing. This is all about
reading. Authors can still submit their work to Elsevier; Elsevier isn’t
going to deny a submission, because it wants our articles. But despite
the good journals it publishes, Elsevier is not a good actor in the
scholarly communications field.
What about for the public?
We are a public library and, under our license, the public can come
to us and access Elsevier articles on-site. A number of people in public
health in the Bay Area come here to read journal articles, for example.
They will also lose direct access to a 2019 publication.
The main thing for the public to know is that we’re taking a major
stand with the power of UC to transform the scholarly journal publishing
industry for the benefit of our scholars and the public. We remain in
negotiations with other publishers of UC research articles. The industry
is not going to change overnight, but we want the public and the world
to have access to research — to our UC research — that is funded by the
public in the first place. That is core to our mission at the University
To celebrate Open Access Week, we’ve compiled a list of resources that you may find helpful in learning about OA and putting it into practice. Whether you are new to open access, looking for more resources to increase your collection of OA content, or interested in openly publishing your work, this list is a great place to start.
Speaking of preprints, ASAPBio has a new preprint licensing FAQ to help researchers compare different Creative Commons licenses and make informed decisions about how to apply them to preprint articles.
Another approach to learning about and managing rights is available thanks to the SPARC Author Addendum. Authors can request that the Addendum be incorporated into the publisher’s agreement to ensure that authors retain certain rights in their own works. As SPARC says, “Be a responsible steward of your intellectual property. Retain vital rights for you and your readers while authorizing publishing activities that benefit everyone by making scholarship more widely available.”
We couldn’t agree more—which is why we encourage authors to check out our publication contract resources, including our new guide to Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts. The guide provides an overview of key copyright issues and presents strategies that authors can use in their contracts to increase the openness of their books, both now and in the future. The guide also features contract success stories from authors who successfully negotiated with their publishers for more open terms.
In honor of OA Week, we are offering free shipping on purchases of the book version of Understanding Open Access. Visit the Authors Alliance store and enter code OA2018 to receive free shipping.
The discount is valid from October 24-29. While you’re there, you can also pre-order your copy of Understanding and Negotiating Book Publication Contracts. (The contract guide is currently in production, and will ship in November.)