Efforts to introduce author rights language into library content licenses have been met with a strong response from the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM). The organization has issued a statement professing that “conflating author rights issues and institutional content licenses serves only to add greater complexity and possible legal uncertainty to such licenses without adding meaningful benefits for authors.”
Library licensing may be an imperfect venue for addressing author rights but this method can also be effective. It offers a workable means for institutions to serve their fundamental educational and research missions by making institutionally based works openly available through repositories. And it reduces the burden on individual authors, who are often not in a position to make changes to their agreements, but want and need to retain some rights.
Many publishers, including some STM members, already extend flexible reuse rights to their authors, allowing for posting in open access repositories. We thank them. The proposals we make here do not require any changes in practice for these publishers. However, some publishers do not offer flexible reuse rights, or offer such rights only as a matter of policy rather than securing them legally through the author’s signed agreement. The effort to include author rights language in library content licenses is an attempt to address these inconsistencies among publishers, to provide a common approach that can simplify highly varied and complex author rights language, and ensure that all authors at our institutions can openly share their work.
Until all publishers have changed their practices to allow for flexible reuse and open sharing, we believe it is essential to continue to raise the issues of author rights in new ways and consider new approaches. We see no harm to authors or publishers in this particular method, and hope that our efforts will have the effect of making research publications more widely available to the public.