NO 53 -- October 16, 1992

Editor: Marcia Tuttle

ISSN: 1046-3410


53.1: FROM THE EDITOR , Marcia Tuttle

53.2: RESPONSE TO TRLN COPYRIGHT DOCUMENT , Sandra Whisler and Janet Fisher


Marcia Tuttle,

I have three newsletter changes to announce in this issue. The most obvious is that we have begun to number the articles within an issue. In addition, we have archived the back issues of the newsletter. Finally, we have changed the name used with the listserver to subscribe, unsubscribe, and retrieve back issues. Here is a fuller explanation.

After puzzling for more than three years over citation and identification of items in the newsletter, the editorial board and I decided that the numbering system first used in this issue would be useful. I hope you find it so.

Once the postmaster and I got started, it didn't take long to make the back issues of the newsletter available through the listserver. Larry Mason was able to arrange them in the order of publication, no matter how the numbers wanted them to fall. We have named each issue "prices.xx." In other words, this issue will be named "prices.53" and should be requested in that way. A list of all back issues is available by sending the command:

index prices

to: To retrieve a specific issue, send the command:

get prices prices.xx

Yes, the word "prices" is repeated.

Now, about the name. Back in February 1989 when we began the newsletter, electronic lists and discussion groups customarily had "-L" at the end. This worked just fine until we moved to the supercomputer and people were able to subscribe and unsubscribe themselves. According to the postmaster, people were constantly keying the number "1" instead of the letter "L" -- so, we just dropped it. The whole idea of the extension sounded strange to him, anyway.


This document appears in no. 46 of the newsletter.

>From Sandra Whisler, Director, Journals Division, University of California Press,

Predictably, I suppose, I find much of the discussion regarding returning copyright to the authors chilling and depressing. Partly this is a result of the effect that eliminating publishers' copyright would have on the revenues essential to maintain publication. Like many of the journal editors who have so far written, I, and most other University Press Journals Departments I know of, manage the publication program to break even. For many small publications -- even very good journals -- the margin is very thin. The lack of reprint fees would in some cases make the difference between breaking even and losing money. This is increasingly the case, as new media begin to generate additional income.

More important, however, is how inefficient the world in which each author held the rights would be. Think for a moment about how complicated it is now to assemble classroom readers, even with most journals published by fewer than 100 publishers and with organizations like the Copyright Clearance Center. What will it be like when one has to hunt down every individual author? And what if someone wants to do a service for the field (and make some money) by compiling all the resources in a particular discipline into a single CD-ROM (or other electronic format)? The rights work, which is already intense for combined projects like this, would become almost overwhelming. Do scholars and libraries REALLY want one huge undifferentiated database with rights held by every individual author? I believe that authors uniformly retaining rights would in fact decrease the dissemination of knowledge, not increase it.

Finally, I am distressed by the reductionary understanding of what it is publishers do. If all we do is "handle the merely mechanical aspects -- printing," why are my staff and I -- and everyone I know in scholarly publishing -- working so hard? The many details managed by publishers add real value to the scholar's research, both by making it more accessible and by offering some assurance of quality control -- starting with peer review and editorial gatekeeping; including copyediting (and often substantive editing bordering on rewriting); design and production which improve accessibility; prompt, attractive, permanent production on acid-neutral paper; marketing to make potential users aware of the publication; dealing with the post office; and, yes, accurate and responsive fulfillment, agent relations, and customer service. It is hard for me to imagine that scholars actually would want to handle all the things that publishers do. And if in the new world these things go undone, scholarly communication will be the worse for it.

Scholarly communication is enhanced by the selection, categorization, and access tools which libraries offer and by the selection, standards, and indexing functions which publishers add to increase access. By and large, I find the models based on "taking back" scholarship and copyright to be apparently ignorant and/or unappreciative of the substantial value added in the publishing process. If we are to work together to design a future which works, surely we need to plan for all the functions -- even if they are performed by publishers who are sometimes profit-making commercial enterprises.

>From Janet Fisher, Journals Manager, MIT Press,

Dear Mr. Byrd:

I am responding to the draft proposal called "University Policy regarding Faculty Publication in Scholarly Journals" that was presented in the _Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues_, no. 46. I believe that the adoption of such a policy would have the opposite effect of what you say you want: "to reduce or eliminate the current barriers to the effective dissemination of new research, especially in science and engineering scholarly journals." Instead, if such a policy were adopted, barriers would be increased and access to scholarly information would be greatly reduced.

As I understand the policy, your assumption is that dissemination of scholarly works is suffering because of high subscription prices. The thesis of the proposal is that allowing free "noncommercial reproduction of [scholarly articles] for educational and research purposes" will cure this problem. Presumably research purposes includes library purposes, so that libraries would be able to copy freely for such use and in effect pool their subscriptions. There is theoretically no limit, and the proposed policy suggests no limit, on the size of the "pool" or the amount of photocopying allowed. A hundred research libraries could share one subscription by means of photocopy machine, fax, and electronic mail. Journals of both non-profit and commercial publishers and in all disciplines would be driven out of business by such pooling.

The economic consequences of such a policy need to be carefully evaluated. Would the prices of subscriptions come down in the face of wholesale reprint distribution without compensation to the original publisher? I don't believe so. MIT Press, for example, is a non-profit publisher of medium size as journals publishers go, but even we have substantial fixed costs for staff and plant, and the costs of good typesetting and printing are high. Furthermore, most of our journal contracts give significant subvention to the editors and their assistants, either as royalties or as a fixed fee. These fees result from editors' requirements and the support available from their institution or sponsoring organization. None of these costs is reduced if subscriptions drop. Editors and their sponsoring institutions are generally unwilling to take reductions in fees. The need for their work and peer-review would not decline as subscriptions dropped. We would eventually have to abandon publication or raise subscription fees to compensate. Ironically, the journals that are most used and desired by readers would be in the most danger of elimination if your policy were put into widespread use.

What about the question of dissemination? Publishers currently do many things to enhance distribution of an author's work, among them the following:

   authorize reprinting in books by individuals other than the author
   authorize translations of an author's work
   authorize commercial photocopying for classroom use
   authorize reproduction in other forms such as microfilm, microfiche,
      CD-rom, commercial document delivery
   authorize electronic display of the articles
   authorize abstracting/indexing services to include the journal

These are all responsibilities that authors would assume if the proposed form were used. Secondary publishers (such as University Microfilms, Information Access, Mead Data, Bowker) would not be able to include these articles in their products because it would be impractical and unwieldy for them to get permission from every single author. Microfilm/fiche editions would cease. CD-rom products that display full text of articles from a large number of journals and different publishers would cease. Photocopy shops would have to receive permission from the author of each article requested before copies could be made for classroom use. Classroom anthologies would become impractical.

In addition, each professor would have the responsibility to register copyright with the Library of Congress. Registration would take the same form it currently takes for a journal issue -- the filing of a form per article and a $20 applciation fee per form.

At MIT Press, we have a copyright transfer form for each article of each journal. In the rare case that an author refuses to sign that form, we ask that he/she sign an agreement that allows the author to retain copyright but gives up the ability to handle licensing of specific subsidiary rights: reprints, abstracting, and inclusion in our photocopying agreements with Copyright Clearance Center. We are unable to grant a photocopy shop permission to copy these articles for classroom use. We do not have the current address of the author to aid the requester in following up with the copyright owner. My sense is that in these cases the material is simply not used because of difficulties in finding the author and time constraints.

Generally income from our rights agreements is a very small percentage of revenues. Our most used journals receive about 10% of their revenue from subsidiary rights. Income from subsidiary rights sales is, like all other income, used to offset the costs of the journal's editorial office as well as our costs in producing and promoting the journal. If that income did not exist, there are no direct expenses we could cut in response without reducing the quality and exposure of the journal. We would simply have to make up the income from other sources, and, of course, the only source left for most scholarly journals is the subscription price.

I believe publishers should, via their copyright transfer form, give authors the right to use their own material in their classes and in other works authored by them. Publishers have the responsibility to clearly state on the article who the copyright holder is and if material is in the public domain (i.e., in the case of government employees). And publishers have the responsibility to license secondary publication in order to enhance the dissemination of the material. Your proposed policy, however, would not be in the best interests of any of the players in the scholarly communication system -- be they publishers, authors, librarians, secondary publishers, or students.

I would be happy to discuss this further with you or anyone on your committee. I believe we should all work together to find a middle ground that will allow material to be widely disseminated and continue to support economically the publication process.

Readers of the NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES are encouraged to share the information in the newsletter by electronic or paper methods. We would appreciate credit if you quote from the newsletter.

The NEWSLETTER ON SERIALS PRICING ISSUES (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor through the Office of Information Technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, Internet:; Paper mail: Serials Department, CB #3938 Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill NC 27599-3938; Telephone: 919 962-1067; FAX: 919 962-0484. Editorial Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Janet Fisher (MIT Press), Charles Hamaker (Louisiana State University), James Mouw (University of Chicago), and Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division). The Newsletter is available on the Internet and Blackwell's CONNECT. EBSCO and Readmore Academic customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format from these companies. Back issues of the News- letter are available electronically.

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