Royalty Fees Part IV: Authors' Rights

By Ardito, Stephanie C.; Eiblum, Paula | Online, November/December 1998 | Go to article overview

Royalty Fees Part IV: Authors' Rights


Ardito, Stephanie C., Eiblum, Paula, Online


In previous columns, we examined how royalty fees for print products are established by publishers and collected and disbursed by document delivery clearinghouses. We explained the functions of the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) and other international collective licensing agencies in protecting publishers' rights. But what about the creators of the content, the authors without whose intellectual property there would be no printed or electronic materials? As we reported, clearinghouses have a vehicle for compensating the publishers for royalties, either directly or through a reproduction rights organization such as the CCC. However, most clearinghouses and licensing agencies do not keep records or report usage to publishers at an article level, leaving authors without a channel through which to receive royalty payments for reproduction of their works.

OWNERSHIP OF RIGHTS

We are completing this series by reporting on the results of a survey with 14 authors who write about information and library issues in the 12 publishers' journals we have been tracking. These authors represent a wide spectrum of specialists in our industry, including editors (2), freelance writers/consultants (2), online searchers/consultants (3), and library and information sciences academicians (7). Six authors agreed to be quoted by name in this column, five agreed to be quoted, but did not want us to attribute their responses by name, and three authors asked us not to quote them at all. Since eight authors would not grant us permission to quote them by name, we have decided to generalize the responses to our survey

RETENTION OF RIGHTS

We were curious to learn authors' attitudes about the ownership of their words. Our first question asked whether or not the authors retain their own copyrights or assign them to their publishers. The responses were mixed. Five authors retain their rights, three turn them over, and six do both. Of the five authors who retain their rights, four are academicians and one is an online searcher. Two authors (a freelance writer and an editor) told us that they have never been asked to sign an agreement or contract regarding their rights. Five authors (two freelance writers, one editor, one online searcher, and one academician) retain or sign over rights depending on the publication for which they are writing.

In retaining their rights, two authors register their articles with the Authors Registry. Three directly handle permissions requests. One online researcher retains rights so that she can make copies for her own personal use, primarily for marketing purposes. An academician told us that she retains rights so that she can directly license publishers to use her works, grant permission to readers to make copies as long as they are not resold, and place her articles on her Web site.

When asked if all rights to print and electronic reproductions of articles are turned over to publishers, six authors responded that they sign over all rights, one author signs over print rights only, and one author signs over print rights and some electronic media rights. One online searcher said that articles will "show up online in the usual aggregator databases" whether or not she signs over her rights. This same author, instead of negotiating online rights that may "stop electronic publication," negotiates personal republishing rights in order to place her articles on her Web site.

One editor in our survey "would not normally separate rights by format," but pointed out two exceptions. If writing a book, she would negotiate a contract separating print rights from online rights. This same editor made the fascinating observation that if an article is written for an online publication, separate negotiations should be made for possible publication of a print version at a later time. When designing our survey, we did not think to ask about the negotiation of print rights for primarily electronic journals. …

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