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.)
The University of Michigan and Emory University have teamed up to create a Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship designed to aid in the publication of long-form digital scholarship according to open access principles. It’s a terrific new resource for authors and publishers alike!
Developed by a team of library and university press professionals, the model contract takes into account the needs of a variety of stakeholders. The contract is shorter and easier to understand than typical publishing contracts, and it offers authors more rights in their own work, while still allowing publishers sufficient rights for commercial uses and sales. Associated documents include:
An introduction to the project
A guide to using the model documents
A customizable contract template in Word format
A sample letter for requesting permission to create and distribute digital copies of a copyright owner’s work
A glossary of legal terms
All of the documents are available online under a CC0 license, so they can be tailored to meet an author’s or institution’s specific needs. Even for those not currently negotiating a publishing agreement, the model contract provides useful information and sample language demonstrating author-friendly terms.
The model publishing contract is a great complement to one of our current projects here at Authors Alliance. We’re hard at work on a guide to understanding publication contracts—the fourth volume in our series of educational handbooks, due to be released in 2018. Our guide will explain various contractual terms from an authors’ rights perspective. We recommend the model contract project as an excellent example of a fair and workable document with a special emphasis on open access scholarship.
The island nation of Iceland—about the size of Virginia, and with a population of around 300,000—might be one of the smallest in the world, but it enjoys a robust influence on literature and culture that’s out of all proportion with its size. Thanks to a long tradition of universal literacy, a booming publishing industry, and an enthusiastic reading public, Iceland is home to a great many authors, some of whom are eager to make their books available online.
To help address this need, Professor Ian Watson of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology undertook a project to help some of these authors release their out-of-print books online under Creative Commons licenses. His article, “Assisting Living Authors in Opening Access to Their In-Copyright Works: A Report From Iceland,” details his experience with author-by-author rights clearance. Watson worked with authors to digitize their books (if they were not already part of Google Books) and ensure that their permissions status in HathiTrust was fully open. Watson’s results were successful overall, with 31 of 36 authors responding favorably to the idea of opening their works. Ultimately, 28 works were made newly available online. (The difficulties that did arise were most often bureaucratic or technological, rather than the result of unwillingness by authors or publishers to cooperate.)
Authors Alliance: You are a longtime advocate for open access, as well as the former editor of an OA journal [Bifröst Journal of Social Science]. How did you first become interested in OA? What do you see as its main benefits?
Ian Watson:I got interested in open access in 2008, originally because I saw that it was the best way to publish written work by scholars at the university in Iceland where I was working. The university wanted to start a journal to help its employees get their research published. If we had held their work back and given it out only to those willing to pay for a paper copy, very few people would have ever read what they wrote, and administering payments and subscriptions would have taken hours of work. I offered to set up an open-access website for the journal using OJS, in addition to printing a few paper copies. This appealed to our open-minded rector. Later on, I also realized that open access was the right approach for many books and monographs in Iceland.
AuAll: How do you view the current state of OA? What changes have you observed over the years? What would you like to see in the future of OA publishing?
IW: Open access is well accepted and supported these days, and that’s wonderful. Still, too much new scholarship is being published behind toll barriers. Too many books and papers are still published in the old guard of high-prestige, toll-access presses and journals.
The rise of sites like SciHub that circumvent the existing legal framework signal that the market for scholarly journal articles is not yet in equilibrium; in the long run, I think it will just be very hard to sustain charging high prices for things that have a zero marginal cost. Just as users have long used public and university libraries for free, I think it’s inevitable that digital libraries will tend towards being free too.
It’s tremendously important to get the word out to authors that they can change the rights status of their work. At the same time, open-access advocates should be comfortable with the fact that there are many books that are still written to be sold and to make money, and that’s OK.
AuAll: You found that the majority of the authors that you contacted wanted to open up access to their works. Why do you think these authors were enthusiastic about making their works newly available online?
A Dictionary of American Slang, 1926 – One of the books in the Internet Archive’s new Sonny Bono Memorial Collection
Last month, the Internet Archive announced the launch of the “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection,” a set of digitized full-text books published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1941. The collection takes advantage of an obscure section of U.S. copyright law, section 108(h), which allows libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, and display books that are in the last twenty years of copyright, provided that the work is neither obtainable at a reasonable price nor being commercially exploited.
The provision was included in the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended U.S. copyright terms for works by individual authors by twenty years. CTEA resulted in a twenty year delay in some works entering the public domain: Works that were protected by copyright at the time the CTEA passed will not enter the public domain until 2019 or later. (The legislation is also known as the Sonny Bono Act because of Bono’s support of longer copyright terms during his tenure in the House of Representatives.)
The term extension had the effect of locking away countless works that would have been eligible to enter the public domain just as the promise of digitization and online access was beginning to emerge. Section 108(h) was added as a safety-valve to help ensure that the extended copyright term did not restrict public access to commercially unavailable works, providing a limitation on copyright that allows libraries and archives to rescue these works and make them available for research, scholarship, and preservation.
While section 108(h) allows for a step in the right direction, it’s not a cure-all. Determining a work’s eligibility is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and there are a number of variables to consider. But thanks to automation, the Internet Archive plans to add thousands of volumes to the collection. Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard’s new paper gives libraries and archives guidance on how to implement section 108(h).
If your books are not eligible for inclusion in 108(h) collections, but you would like to see them freely available online, Authors Alliance can help. Our rights reversion and termination of transfer resources provide strategies you can use to regain your rights in order to make them newly available. And together with Internet Archive, Authors Alliance can even help you to scan previously undigitized works to add them to our online collection — just ask!
We hope that the Internet Archive’s leadership in implementing 108(h) inspires other libraries to create more “Last Twenty” collections and gives a second life to previously unavailable books.
Just in time for the start of the new academic year, Authors Alliance featured a series of Q&As with our members on the topic of open access and innovative academic publishing models. In celebration of Open Access Week, we’ve collected what these authors had to say about the benefits of making their works openly accessible.
“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.”
Read the full interview with Professor von Hippel here.
“…[T]he 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.
“[I]t is striking how much tangible benefit in terms of citation, influence, and so on that [making our book openly accessible] has yielded. When it comes to open access to scholarship, doing good can be very compatible with doing well.”
Read the full interview with Professors Boyle and Jenkins here.
Here at Authors Alliance, we like to keep up our copyright chops all year ’round, and we know that many of our readers do, too. In honor of Open Access Week, we’re re-posting this list, originally shared over the summer, of new books featuring Authors Alliance members. Best of all, three of the four titles are openly accessible and available to read in full online!
First up is Creativity without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property, edited by Kate Darling and Aaron Perzanowski, and published by NYU Press. This collection features essays about diverse creative communities by a number of noted IP scholars (and Authors Alliance members!), including David Fagundes, Aaron Perzanowski, Christopher Sprigman, Katherine Strandburg, Rebecca Tushnet, and Eric Von Hippel.
The book demonstrates how creative endeavors, from cinema and fanfic to fine cuisine and roller derby, push the boundaries and assumptions of intellectual property through community norms and self-regulation. As Perzanowski and Darling write in their introduction, “While IP is a crucial tool for maintaining creative incentives in some industries, scholars of creativity already understand that the assumptions underlying the IP system largely ignore the range of powerful non-economic motivations that compel creative efforts. From painters to open source developers, many artists and inventors are moved to create, not by the hope for monetary return, but by innate urges that are often quite resistant to financial considerations.”
In a similar vein is Made by Creative Commons, by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchliff Pearson. It’s a collection of real-life examples that highlights the advantages of using CC licenses, both for sharing work and for building a sustainable business model. Case studies include everything from the party game Cards Against Humanity to the Public Library of Science (PLoS) to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
“Part analysis, part handbook, part collection of case studies, we see Made With Creative Commons as a guide to sharing your knowledge and creativity with the world, and sustaining your operation while you do. It makes the case that sharing is good for business, especially for companies, organizations, and creators who care about more than just the bottom line. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share.”
Out in paperback from Australian National University Press is What if We Could Reimagine Copyright?, a collection of essays by international scholars about the possibilities of copyright, edited by Authors Alliance members Rebecca Giblin and Kimberlee Weatherall. Like Creative Commons, ANU Press offers the book as a free download, as well as in print.
“What if we could start with a blank slate, and write ourselves a brand new copyright system? What if we could design a law, from scratch, unconstrained by existing treaty obligations, business models and questions of political feasibility? Would we opt for radical overhaul, or would we keep our current fundamentals? Which parts of the system would we jettison? Which would we keep? In short, what might a copyright system designed to further the public interest in the current legal and sociological environment actually look like? Taking this thought experiment as their starting point, the leading international thinkers represented in this collection reconsider copyright’s fundamental questions: the subject matter that should be protected, the ideal scope and duration of those rights, and how it should be enforced.”
Finally, we recommend Free Innovation by Eric Von Hippel, available in full as an open access title from MIT Press.
“Free innovation has both advantages and drawbacks. Because free innovators are self-rewarded by such factors as personal utility, learning, and fun, they often pioneer new areas before producers see commercial potential. At the same time, because they give away their innovations, free innovators generally have very little incentive to invest in diffusing what they create, which reduces the social value of their efforts.
The best solution, von Hippel and his colleagues argue, is a division of labor between free innovators and producers, enabling each to do what they do best. The result will be both increased producer profits and increased social welfare—a gain for all.”