New Author’s Agreement from Michigan Publishing

by Meredith Kahn on June 7, 2013

NB: Written by our Associate University Librarian for Publishing, John Wilkin, this post is the first in a series that will discuss our ongoing commitment to creating the future of scholarly communication. Future writings will discuss our various imprints, as well as authors’ perspectives on the changing nature of academic publishing.

Michigan Publishing is pleased to announce a new author contract that signals important changes in the way that we engage with our authors and their publications. We hope over time to make the agreement increasingly author friendly. Four important clauses are key pieces of that strategy.  These changes pertain to: author copyright, institutional repository deposit, the use of Creative Commons licenses, and our commitment to archiving and openness.

Elsewhere we have discussed our organizational changes, taking advantage of greater “scale and [creating] a more seamless approach to the range of publications we produce.” With that strategy, we unified our publishing infrastructure across all of our areas of publishing, including the University of Michigan Press and imprints such as Maize Books. Variations on the new agreement will be used for all of our publications.

Author Copyright: In the new agreement, we allow our authors to retain copyright for the works they create. Michigan Publishing will retain publishing rights rather than copyright, and will work aggressively in support of our authors to market and distribute their works. We believe this new position to be an important step for a variety of reasons; most significantly, it aligns our publishing practices with policy at the University of Michigan (SPG 601.28), which keeps copyright for faculty-authored works in the author’s name.

Institutional repository deposit: As authors and publishers, we have an increasing need to deposit our publications in our institutional repositories. In the long term, we believe repository deposit furthers everyone’s best interests. In the new agreement, we ask for a short embargo period to enhance our opportunity for recovering costs, but formalizing this permission will aid with institutional compliance and collaboration.

Creative Commons licenses: Creative Commons (CC) licenses provide a clear and generous framework for understanding the copyright of the work and opportunities for reuse. At Michigan Publishing, we publish many works with CC licenses. Notably, at the University of Michigan Press we publish a financially successful series where a CC license is applied to an online version when the work is published in print. Although each book is openly accessible online as soon as it is printed, sales of the print have been strong. Henceforth, our authors will be given an opportunity to apply a CC license, either immediately or in three years after publication. In fact, they may also refuse a CC license. Those authors who publish under our University of Michigan Press imprint and who opt for an immediate CC license will be offered an advance on royalties consistent with earnings that we typically see in the first three years.

Archiving: As publishers move to release books and journals in electronic formats, libraries and future generations of scholars are depending on strong archiving commitments. As scholars, publishers and librarians, we have been troubled by evidence that the majority of electronic journals are not archived. A weak archiving commitment puts the scholarly record at risk. Through our new author agreement, we are signaling Michigan Publishing’s intent to permanently deposit those works we publish in HathiTrust, a trusted archive for preserving the cultural record for the long term. In most cases, we will also grant HathiTrust permission to open works in limited ways, a permission that we believe increases the use, sale, and adoption of these works.

At Michigan Publishing, we are excited about these early steps to improve our author agreements and standardize them across our range of imprints. We will continue to work to align our publishing practices with the needs of the scholarly community, increasing the accessibility and viability of the scholarly record while removing obstacles from use and reuse of publications by our authors and other scholars.

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