December 15, 2015

A note on our copyright statements

When Library Juice Press or Litwin Books signs a contract with an author, the contract is typical for the publishing industry in most ways. One of the commonalities in publishing agreements is that the publisher doesn’t end up owning the copyright to the work, but they do get a temporary exclusive license to publish it. As a result, the copyright statement in the actual book can be misleading to readers who might want to republish or reuse part of the book. Our copyright statements make it clear that the author is the owner of the copyright, but it would be an error to infer from that that the author is the one who has the right to give permission to use the work. They may or may not be; that right is contingent on whatever the agreement is between the author and the publisher. That agreement is likely to be too complex to fully state on the copyright page of the book (at least in a print format). I am not sure what to do about this problem other than to make sure that authors pay attention to the contract when they sign it, so that if they are approached about reusing their work they understand what they rights situation is. I think this is an issue with copyright statements in books in general. Copyright agreements are often complex, and ownership of the copyright, as opposed to ownership (temporary or permanent, exclusive or non-exclusive) of various rights therein, is not that relevant to the question of a right to republish or reuse.

(I made a follow-up to this point on February 21st, 2016.)

2 Comments »

  1. This seems to go against so many of the ideas espoused in the books you publish, Rory. Why not use a Creative Commons license in your books? Why not make your books open access after an embargo period? Your book aren’t exactly cheap, either. Why not price them so everyone can afford them? Or why not change your contract so that authors can use their own material, that they created, for whatever purpose they please?

    Comment by Teresa — February 20, 2016 @ 11:15 am

  2. I think things are a little better than you suggest. Regarding rights, contracts with contributors to collected volumes always give them a right to do whatever they want with their chapters at least after a certain period and most of the time right away. And they always get the right to put it in an institutional repository right away. Contracts with book authors give us an exclusive right but only temporarily. After a few years the full rights revert back to the author.

    Regarding pricing, we are charging about half what competing LIS publishers charge for our books, and our intention is to price them so people can afford them. When publishing for a small niche it’s not possible to price books like books on the trade market. The margins don’t allow it. So I think we are doing a good job of keeping prices low.

    I think we are giving a good amount of openness balanced against our need to break even as a publisher. Open Access journal publishers almost always charge authors hundreds of dollars to publish and article and thousands of dollars to publish a book. We are not about to charge authors to publish, so we have to do our best to make the money by selling books. Our ability to do that is limited by the rights situation. I have tried to find a good balance. I think authors end up with more rights than you’re suggesting. But as to the point of my blog post, the rights situation is more complex than it’s possible to relate in a simple copyright statement.

    Comment by Rory Litwin — February 20, 2016 @ 12:19 pm

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