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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorAnton
    • CommentTimeFeb 15th 2013
    • (edited Feb 15th 2013)

    I’m having some trouble with Springer. If somebody here has the text of a copyright agreement they’ve negotiated with Springer, I would very much like to see it.

    Here’s the back story. A paper of mine has been accepted to a Springer journal, and they sent their standard copyright agreement. After consulting with my coauthors, I replied, asking to use a modified agreement. It was my understanding that this is a standard thing to do. I drafted an agreement that I thought would give them everything they actually need to do their job, and said that if something else is important to them, let’s add it. Here’s what I sent:

    The authors of this article grant Springer a worldwide irrevocable right to reproduce, publish, distribute, and archive the article in all forms and media of expression now known or developed in the future, including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions, electronic form (offline, online) or any other reproductions of similar nature.

    Ignoring the proposed alternative they wrote:

    [I]t is ideal for the authors to sign Springer Copyright form (that I have sent to you) and asks why you wish to amend the form. If there is a specific item in the standard form that you take issue with (if so, tell me what it is), she will address that.

    I explained that their agreement made me uncomfortable about how I could legally disseminate the article, and that it didn’t make those rights very clear. (Apparently, I can leave the article on the arXiv, but can’t give someone a printout, or email them a pdf) Anyway, I tried to make the point politely, and proposed other possible alternatives: if they didn’t want to legally vet a new agreement, perhaps we could reuse an alternate agreement they’d previously vetted, or a Creative Commons license.

    They said that in the journal’s 18 year history, no author has ever refused to sign the standard agreement (really?!), and that after consulting with their in-house contracts manager they concluded that

    [I]n order for authors to publish their work in [Journal name], or in any Springer or Birkhauser journal, they must sign our standard version of the agreement, without any alterations to the language. We expect exclusive rights to what we publish, and this is reflected in our agreement.

    I’m pretty frustrated by this. If I were the only author, I’d probably just resubmit to another journal, but I currently have the luck of not needing to crank out publications for job/grant application purposes. Given that my coauthors don’t share this luck, I don’t feel right insisting on my approach. What should I do?

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeFeb 15th 2013
    • (edited Feb 15th 2013)

    If they kick up a stink, just let then try to publish it without you signing anything (it’s been done by publishers before!). Then you can do what you like with the article, as they have violated your copyright, rather than the other way around, but you get the benefit of them publishing it. You have had the article accepted, so that is all the function of a journal that we need these days. You and your coauthors can use the line “accepted for publication in Journal X” on your CV and in bibliographies.

    If they will let you sign a CC-BY then you’re done, but that’s a long shot. A CC-BY-NC might make them happy, but it is a concession.

    PS You could put a new version on the arXiv with a scan of the acceptance letter/email as an image.. (but not I’m getting a bit too silly)

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorDmitri Pavlov
    • CommentTimeFeb 15th 2013
    • (edited Feb 15th 2013)

    I know that Scott Morrison has recently published an article (with coauthors) in a Springer journal and retained his copyright (the copyright
    notice explicitly says that).
    Why don't you email him and ask how he did it?
    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeFeb 15th 2013

    In the spirit of this thread, I would like similar help with Oxford University Press as discussed in another thread. So far they have rejected my offer, and my default plan now is to say nothing and hope they don’t notice I haven’t signed anything. There ought to be a better way. The suggestion of just uploading the postprint to arXiv and then signing the copyright agreement seems wrong - surely everyone would do this if it were legally possible?

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorAnton
    • CommentTimeFeb 15th 2013

    Thanks Dmitri. I’ve emailed Scott.

    @David: Given that I’ve raised the issue of copyright explicitly, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll forget about it. While it’s true that in principle “accepted for publication in Journal X” should carry the same weight as “Journal X, Issue Y” (provided it is verifiable), I don’ t think it does. A CV is regularly used as a quick filter, so it seems like the wrong place to write something non-standard, or launch into any kind of explanation.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorDmitri Pavlov
    • CommentTimeFeb 15th 2013
    >The suggestion of just uploading the postprint to arXiv and then signing the copyright agreement seems wrong - surely everyone would do this if it were legally possible?

    Actually, a lot of people just do it.
    For example, I opened a random OUP journal (IMRN),
    and the first article I saw was by Tyler Lawson and Niko Naumann:
    The version that implements suggestions by the referee was uploaded on arXiv:
    They also retained the copyright to their paper, by the way.

    Before you sign the copyright agreement, you own all rights to your paper.
    When you put it on arXiv, you grant the arXiv an irrevocable license to distribute it.
    Even if you sign a copyright transfer agreement afterwards (which you don't have to do, as demonstrated by the above paper),
    it cannot retroactively affect an irrevocable license that you have already granted to arXiv.
    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeFeb 16th 2013

    My impression is that the big publishers are worried about precedents: even though nothing would be legally binding, they very much want to avoid giving the impression that they will let you do whatever you want regarding copyright if you cite a previous case, so any discussion of precedent or previous cases may spook the lawyers. Scott may have useful advice (which I’d be interested in too), but I’d avoid mentioning his paper to Springer as a precedent, out of fear that they will deny your request specifically to demonstrate that the precedent is not operative. Instead, I’d emphasize just the opposite, that you understand that this is a special exception but would really appreciate a few alterations. Getting an editor to intervene on your behalf can also be useful.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2013

    Anton, I’d be interested to hear how this turns out, especially if you get a reasonable agreement signed. My email can be found by googling ’David Roberts nlab’.

    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorAnton
    • CommentTimeFeb 23rd 2013

    It turned out poorly. Springer wouldn’t budge an inch, and I caved in to pressure from my coauthors to use the standard agreement (incidentally, I didn’t have to sign it). I had a similar experience with another Springer journal a while ago. I was able to walk away that time, and the circumstances were pretty different, but the absolute refusal to discuss the issue was the same. I don’t want anything to do with them in the future.

    For the record, after hearing back from Scott, I understand what problems a rational/communicative Springer would have had with my first proposal. It doesn’t allow sublicensing, and it leaves open the possibility of me (or somebody else) collecting money for distribution. Here’s the new version that I proposed (borrowed directly from Scott):

    The Authors give the Publisher unlimited rights throughout the world for all terms of copyright: (i) to publish and distribute the Work in any form and in all media now known or hereafter discovered, (ii) to translate the Work and exercise all rights in all media in the resulting translations, (iii) to transfer or sublicense the foregoing rights in whole or in part to third parties, and (iv) to accept and retain payment for these. The copyright holder retains the right to duplicate the Work by any means and to permit others to do the same with the exception of reproduction by services that collect fees for delivery of documents, which may be licensed only by the Publisher. In each case of authorized duplication of the Work in whole or in part, the Authors must still ensure that the original publication by the Publisher is properly credited.

    I tried Henry Cohn’s suggestion of avoiding arguing from precedent and stressing that such a modified agreement would be an exception, but to no avail.

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeFeb 23rd 2013

    A pity. Which journal? Or was it someone higher up in Springer that you were dealing with that needs to be avoided?

    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorAnton
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2013

    Transformation Groups. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to tell where the decisions are made. On this occasion, it seems like the highest-level Springer contact was Katherine Ghezzi, one of the 8 people listed on Springer’s site as editorial contacts for math in the US.

    In the previous case, I spoke extensively with Kaitlin Leach (another one of the 8 listed people) and Hans Koelsch (at the time, “Editorial Director Mathematics North America”, but is no longer listed on Springer’s site). It’s worth stressing that this previous case was quite different in nature. I was considering being an editor for a section which is of particular interest to recreational mathematicians (who don’t have institutional access), so I pressed for free access to the section, or at least a way for people to get the individual articles for less than $40 each. I was told the people I was in contact with did not have the authority to make any decisions, that I may not be in direct contact with whoever can make the decisions, and I most certainly cannot be given reasons for whatever decisions they make. As in the more recent case, they eventually said that it was the original agreement, take it or leave it.

    • CommentRowNumber12.
    • CommentAuthorravivakil
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2013
    Response to Henry: Do you think editors can really help? It's not clear to me that I have any such power on editorial boards.
    • CommentRowNumber13.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeJun 18th 2013

    It probably depends on the publisher, and I suspect that it may not work as well at big commercial publishers (although it can’t hurt to try). I once had a lengthy discussion about a copyright form where everything cleared up immediately when I asked an editor to intervene, but this is just one case.