NO 58 -- November 15, 1992

Editor: Marcia Tuttle

ISSN: 1046-3410


58.1 FROM THE EDITOR, Marcia Tuttle



58.4 COPYRIGHT BROUHAHA, David Lazarus



Marcia Tuttle,

Once again this issue of the newsletter is virtually all response to the TRLN copyright proposal contained in issue no. 46. The next issue will have one more article on this topic, but it will also cover two new concerns: a controversial questionnaire sent to librarians and a new discount program announced by a large international publisher.

Please accept my apologies for sending out a personal message to the list last night. The new system is loop-proof, but not tired-editor-proof.


Bob Holley, Wayne State University, RHOLLEY@CMS.CC.WAYNE.EDU.

We had a long discussion about the revised authors contract that is being considered in the Research Triangle. I had two questions to ask you.

1. How strong is faculty support for these revisions? Does the administration accept the possibility that faculty going up for tenure might have fewer publications if the three institutions adhere to this policy? I heard from our science librarian that one of her departments requires a minimum of 25 publications for tenure. In this situation, the faculty member will scramble for publication no matter what the agreement unless supported by the higher ups.

2. Is anything planned to get ALA and other library organizations to revise their agreements? I know from my time on the ALCTS Budget and Finance Committee that ALA earns some revenue from the rights that authors would keep under the revised agreement.

I'm basically in agreement with this argument, but I don't want librarians to look naive in dealing with the faculty. If we can convince our own administrators to take these factors into account and can change our professional associations from within, I think that we'd have a much better chance to garnering faculty support.


Prof. L.M. Passano, Dept. of Zoology, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, MPASSANO@wiscmacc.bitnet.

This is an excerpt from a letter from Dr. R.J. Skaer, Company Secretary of The Company of Biologists Ltd., owner/publisher of the following journals: _The Journal of Experimental Biology_; _Journal of Cell Science_; _Development_. The letter is a response to my request for a response to the Research Triangle copyright document which I sent him. He has given me permission to send his reply to NSPI.

I was interested to read the paper you sent me on copyright and the suggestion in it that authors should retain copyright and not assign it to the publisher. As you know, we are a not-for-profit organization that puts any surplus on publishing back into biology. Nevertheless, the proposal that authors should retain copyright does make us uneasy. This is not because we make money in any way out of copyright but because, as copying gets easier and easier -- both photocopying and electrocopying -- there will be irresistible commercial forces on libraries to take the cheapest option. The problem is that it is a lot cheaper to copy the literature -- especially by electrocopying -- than to create and publish the original version. There are many expenses that publishers bear -- such as editorial salaries, expenses in refereeing as well as all the technology and salaries involved in production. A copier can avoid these -- especially if the work is on CDROM as appears to be the way the literature is going. It would obviously be more attractive to a library to purchase, say, a compilation of related journals on CDROM from a copier than to subscribe to the original journals. Of course, with your (sic) scheme the journals would still be copyright but with the copyright held by the authors. The problem is that many authors would not want to object to a large copying organization that gave widespread dissemination to the authors work by incorporating it in, say, a widely available range of cheap CDROMs. A publisher would not be so flattered! Moreover, it is much more difficult to rouse a whole lot of disparate authors to object or take a major purveyor to court even if there were flagrant breaches of copyright. Publishers moreover have more resources than individuals for litigation. Of course, there is the additional problem of contacting authors after a year or so -- people move much more frequently than publishers. I suspect that what you (sic) are proposing for discussion would be a copier's free-for-all that would severely damage the interests of publishers who would simply be producing fodder for copyists to market. This would erode the money available for legitimate peer-group review, the possibility of employing discerning editors, etc., and the needs of authors to have their photographs reproduced at high resolution. I'm sorry that I sound so negative -- there are publishers on both sides of the Atlantic that undoubtedly exploit libraries. I do not think that copyright retention is the way to deal with the matter.


David Lazarus, American Physical Society,

I have just read, with some sense of bemusement, a number of items relating to the proposed Triangle libraries statement regarding copyright assignment for scholarly publications. As the past (1980-91) Editor-in-Chief of the American Physical Society (which currently handles in excess of 15,000 papers received each year), as well as a published author of some 100 papers, I have more than a passing interest in this issue.

Both sides seem to have taken strongly polarized stances: authors seem to feel that publishers now make an excessive profit from publication of their articles; publishers feel that authors do not understand the risks they take or the professional expertise needed to bring out a viable journal. Both assume that the copyright itself is an extremely valuable commodity which must be retained for ensuring their viability and legitimate ends.

I am reminded of the old Gilbert and Sullivan lyric "I am right, and you are right, and he is right...." Some scholarly publishers do indeed make "excessive" profits at the expense of libraries, but most do not, especially the academic presses and scholarly societies. In our economy, making a profit is not a criminal offense, and customers retain the right to select the best product at the lowest cost. Indeed, libraries are now simply responding in the traditional manner by dropping the subscriptions of those journals which they find "excessively" priced in respect to their usage. This, also, is hardly cause for alarm. Cost-benefit considerations govern most purchases -- why not also that of books and journals?

Both sides are arguing volubly over one issue: retention of the copyright. Authors and libraries seem to think that retention will force journal prices to be lower; publishers seem to think that loss of copyright transfer will force them out of business.

Frankly, I would argue with both sides, on the simple basis that I think that the copyright of a scholarly paper is really not much of a tangible asset! There is really little market for it, and whatever "profits" can now be attributable to such ownership -- through distribution of secondary products, reprints, permissions, etc. -- are such a tiny fraction of a publisher's income that it is simply not worth arguing about. The fact is that scholarly publication is, at least in part, a "Vanity Press," which profits the author to first-order, through professional advancement, and the publisher to second-order, through income in excess of expenses. The actual "market" for more than 95% of physics papers (to take the one example I know best) is very small indeed, and there is really very little real money available through any of the secondary services always mentioned, simply because there are no cash customers for them. It is hard enough to get others to read our papers if we give them away!

For this reason, it would really make negligible difference if authors retained their copyrights or continued to transfer them to publishers. The real problem, which is seemingly ignored by both sides in this argument, is that support for scholarly enterprise has fallen off sharply in this country and worldwide during the past decade, and I am not optimistic that it will be restored to its post-sputnik "Golden Age" during my lifetime. I do not, however, feel so distressed that I can envision a future with essentially no support for basic scholarly enterprise, such as those of us of "a certain age" recall prior to WWII.

We are all, authors, libraries, and publishers, simply going to have to learn to live with considerably reduced budgets for the near future, and should concentrate our efforts on educating the pols and the politicians who ultimately control our destinies of the value of our services. It is wasteful and unseemly to cavil at one another, to little avail.

58.5 FROM THE MAILBOX The mailbox is:

>From Susan Davis, SUNY at Buffalo, UNLSDB@UBVM.BITNET, via SERIALST:

An interesting side bar appears in the latest issue of _College & Research Libraries News_, v.53:10 (1992:Nov.), p.630. It describes how the Universi- ty of Massachusetts Medical Center Library distributed their serial orders to maximize discounts and minimize service charges. Through the combination of redirecting their serial orders and obtaining more funding from the revenue-generating activities of the Center, they were able to increase the number of subscriptions by 20% in the past four years.

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 Newsletter are available electronically. To get a list of available issues send a message to LISTSERV@GIBBS.OIT.UNC.EDU saying INDEX PRICES. To retrieve a specific issue, the message should read: GET PRICES PRICES.xx (where "xx" is the number of the issue). To subscribe to the newsletter, send a message to LISTSERV@GIBBS.OIT.UNC.EDU saying SUBSCRIBE PRICES [YOUR NAME]. Be sure to send that message to the listserver and not to Prices. You must include your name. To unsubscribe (no name required in message), you must send the message from the e-mail address by which you are subscribed. If you have problems, please contact the editor.