The great thing about blogging is that the publisher and the creator are the same, so blame is easy to assign, hard to wriggle out of, and the term-negotiation process is fast and amicable (sure, stu, take an extra week on that post...).
Traditional publication processes are not so easy, of course,
with those pesky reviewers and editors, publication delays
and more. Publication agreements, though, haven't been much problem
for me, because I've either just signed something or passed it off to someone else to worry about.
I am cavalier about this because there seem to be no real consequences for me one way or another. What I write in the conduct of my job is, technically, work for hire. OCLC owns it. What I write for, say, Fine Homebuilding, is mine. Other areas are muddier. My book reviews in my blog? Ruminations on identifiers? Beats me. No publishers seem to be beating a path to my door pleading for redistribution rights, so the question is moot.
The majority of my musings are valuable only to the extent that they move freely in public discourse. To protect them is to kill them. So, I seldom publish anywhere where there are legal impediments. DLib Magazine's agreement is my favorite approach, but it is not typical of commercial publishers for obvious reasons.
I suspect most authors have more serious concerns about the terms of publication of their scholarly products than I do. What is the right balance between the rights of authors and publishers, and how can this balance be embedded in legal agreements? This is focus of the Copyright Toolbox, an effort sponsored by JISC and SURF in Europe.
Wilma Mossink is the architect of this enlightened approach to the management of scholarly publishing, having pulled together important components from a variety of stakeholders. The toolbox provides sample text that can be used in publishing agreements, all keyed to a framework for balancing the interests of authors and publishers (with reference also to the host institutions of authors and libraries).
This explication of the rights of stakeholders is the fruit of several years of discussion on the subject (aggregated under the moniker of The Zwolle Group), and provides a thoughtful context for making morally and economically sound judgements about managing scholarly communication in a landscape that is slippery with change and treacherous with competing interests.
As an individual, I find it hard to imagine sitting down and working through these principles and adopting text for my own publishing agreements. I'm not well-known for my attention span in the face of even straightforward legalese. And when the change of a word or comma can invoke the attentions of costly legal expertise, its best for amateurs like me to 'not try this at home'.
What is the point of the toolbox, then? Well, some of you writers out there will have a financial stake in your words that I do not, and understanding a conceptual framework of balanced rights is a useful starting point for negotiating your interests. There may be a broader benefit, however, in catalyzing discussions at organizational levels where the boilerplate of our lives is conjured. Kudos to Wilma Mossink, and to SURF and JISC, for providing such a framework, clearly articulated and packaged, to assist in advancing this discussion.
Image: Purple starfish awaiting the return of the tide on the rocky shores of Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC. This magnificent park, patterned loosely on the work of Olmstead and Central Park, is actually larger than the NYC version. I've never encountered a city feature that so naturally couples city life and the out of doors. September, 2006