Author-Rights Language in
Library Content Licenses
Ellen Duranceau, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing Consultant,
MIT Libraries, and Ivy Anderson, Director of Collections,
California Digital Library
Introduction and Background
Tnegotiatedincluding
he idea of author-rights language in content licenses has
recently been gaining ground, particularly in light of the contracts
by the Max Planck Society and the University of California
(UC) with the scientific publisher Springer.1 These attempts to leverage content
licenses to secure author rights reflect the fact that it is unrealistic to expect the
rights environment to change solely through individual authors’ contract
discussions with publishers. Faculty promotion and tenure processes depend on
publishing in particular journals, and authors therefore often do not feel
empowered to push back on standard publisher policies; nor
is debating points of copyright a natural fit for many authors. Anecdotal reports
as well as surveys2 confirm that authors do not routinely negotiate the terms of
their publisher copyright agreements and do not retain copies of them. For the
most part, this means that universities and research funders face significant
barriers to storing and sharing copies of research output that they have either
paid to develop and/or whose dissemination is essential to their missions.
At a gathering hosted by ARL in January 2009, a small group of experts from
ARL member libraries and National Library of Medicine staff discussed how to
RLI 263 33
APRIL 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Note: The varied arrangements regarding authors’ rights to their manuscripts result in limitations on sharing
information across repositories. An emerging strategy for addressing author-rights language is to incorporate it into
publisher contracts for licensing content. In this article, representatives from MIT Libraries and the California Digital
Library provide background on the utility of this approach and describe their recent experiences in negotiating their
Springer contracts.
—Julia Blixrud, Assistant Executive Director, Scholarly Communication, ARL
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