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Negotiating Author-Friendly Publication Agreements

Different types of licenses

Instead of signing over copyright, you can offer a license for use of your work by a publisher.

An exclusive license gives the publisher exclusive rights to your work. Authors cannot license those rights to anyone else. Except where otherwise specified in your contract, you have no more right to make use of your own work than someone off the street does.

A work-for-hire agreement means that the author's employer completely owns any work created by employees as part of their jobs.

A non-exclusive license keeps copyright in your name but authorizes the publisher to use your work under terms stipulated in the publication agreement.

A limited license limits the use of or access to your work. Authors can limit the time period - for instance, you can assign rights to a publisher for one year, after which the rights revert back to you or become non-exclusive. You can also license a part of your bundle of rights (e.g., publication rights) without licensing other unneeded rights (e.g., public performance rights). Both exclusive and non-exclusive licenses can be limited.

To adopt a nonexclusive license, include a statement along the following lines:

The Authors assigns to the Publisher a non-exclusive licence to publish the Work. The author reserves all rights not granted to the publisher in this agreement.

Liability for breaches

Authors should limit their liability only to actual breaches of contract that they knowingly committed. Copyright Transfer Agreements often require authors to assume liability for any legal actions related to the contract. This is in the publisher's interest but not in the author's interest. Publishers should protect authors from frivolous lawsuits, not bill authors for the cost of the defense.

In no event shall either party be liable to the other party for any indirect, special, exemplary, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages in association with this agreement, regardless of the form of action or theory of recovery, including if that party has been advised of the possibility of such damages or losses. (source)

Republication and reuse rights

Part of the bundle of copyright is the right to make derivatives or changed versions of a creative work. Examples of this would be turning an article into a book chapter, incorporating text or graphics into subsequent publications, using portions of a work in other scholarly or teaching activities, and publishing new versions of a work, such as a translation. Transferring copyright to a publisher means losing these rights except what the publisher grants back or what is allowed under Fair Use exemptions. Ensure that your publication agreement gives you the right to republish your work and prepare derivatives, such as translations if that seems useful to you. If the publisher baulks, you can offer to give the publisher exclusive rights only for a specified period.

Following the Work's publication, the Author may use all or part of the Work in the preparation of derivative works; expansion of the article into book-length or other works; incorporation of excerpts, illustrations, and tables from the Work into other publications; and the author's other scholarly and teaching activities, provided that acknowledgement is made of the original publication in the journal.