Why do some academic journals' websites bother with saying articles are "only available in print edition?"
January 25, 2004 8:22 PM   Subscribe

I like to read several academic journals online. Some, however, only have article titles along with a "only available in print edition." However, quick googling for the author of each article often leads me to a copy of said article on the author's website . Without too much more effort, I soon have 90% of the journal contents, scattered across author websites. Whats going on here? Who is being fooled? If i built a web page with links to all these articles would i be in copyright violation?
posted by vacapinta to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Possibly so, because most authors of academic journal articles do not hold the copyright to the article itself. Yet, probably not, because authors who republish their journal articles may be exercising a clause in their contracts with journals which permit this kind of redistribution.

Does this mean your bootleg journal Web site would run afoul of the publisher of the journal. I say no. Libraries effectively provide the same kind of service through Web based indices for their patrons. Thus a huge majority of the audience for these works can get it for free with little work already. You sound as though you wish to address the small minority of independent, unaffiliated researchers and scholars who otherwise would need to buy an individual subscription or go to the library themselves. Who knows what this means? Independent researchers, however, would thank you.

The North Carolina State University Libraries has a nice Web site on scholarly copyright.
posted by rschram at 8:52 PM on January 25, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks! I should also note that this is true for consumer publications. You don't have to subscribe to the New Yorker, for example, if you are a fan of Malcolm Gladwell.
posted by vacapinta at 9:18 PM on January 25, 2004

Whats going on here? Who is being fooled?

Nobody is being fooled. What's going on here is that profs have incentives to leave stuff up: it more easily shows off what you can do, and where you're getting published. It also might increase your cite count, because anything you can do to get your article read by someone makes it more likely that they'll cite your article, and a higher-than-average cite count never hurts. And, mostly, their concerns for their own immediate futures trump any concern they might have for the long-term viability of the journal -- if bunches of people leaving their pdfs up kills the journal in 10 years, hey, I'll have tenure then.

If i built a web page with links to all these articles would i be in copyright violation?

I dunno about that, but I'd find it sort of in bad taste. A lot of journals are published by professional associations on a more-or-less break-even basis. It's not like you'd be striking a blow against big business.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:48 PM on January 25, 2004

Don't libraries have some kind of special license for journals, as they do with photocopying, thus allowing people to legally circumvent copyright? On the other hand, I might have made that up. Can anyone clarify?
posted by Orange Goblin at 1:33 AM on January 26, 2004

Libraries generally don't have any special license BUT subscriptions to journals cost more for "institutional" subscriptions than personal ones. Many journals that libraries buy come as part of a bundled package... you get the journal, plus the electronic version, plus some other journals that aren't as good, for one low price. As a result, it can be tough to say what a lot of scholarly journals actually cost. In terms of articles, there are a lot of kinds of permission forms you sign when you write for scholarly journals. Since most of these writing gigs don't reallly pay [they know you are doing it for your vita/resume or to get tenure] generally you can get a waiver to use your article "for personal use." The article I finished this weekend, for example, will be owned by the publisher but I can republish it on my website, and my website only. If you linked to it, hey, that's just the way the Internet works, isn't it?
posted by jessamyn at 4:41 AM on January 26, 2004

the astronomical community already has a site (astro-ph) where people submit their preprints. it's got to the point where it's normal to check the preprint server rather than the journals; papers are referenced as preprints and sometimes never published; at least two people i know are sad enough that they time their preprint submission so that it coincides with the new "day" heading (so they're first on the page). http://arxiv.org/archive/astro-ph

there's somethig similar for computer science at http://citeseer.nj.nec.com/cs (but i don't know if they're preprints or accepted papers).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:04 AM on January 26, 2004

A lot of journals are published by professional associations on a more-or-less break-even basis.

In mathematics, at least, this is untrue. Most of the journals are produced by mammoth publishing houses (Academic Press, Elsevier, Springer-Verlag). Subscriptions to the print versions run into the the mid-thousands of dollars per year. They also benefit from the peer-review process: people accept it as part of the job to referee papers for free.

If i built a web page with links to all these articles would i be in copyright violation?

I can't imagine how this would be true. It's on the web, you can link to it. This is how the web works. You're not the one placing the material online, and presumably the author has signed the copyright-waiver agreement and either (a) made sure it allowed him/her to post the article, or (b) posted it anyway.

By the way, I've been told that authors are free to cross out any provisions in those copyright agreements that they disagree with (e.g., items limiting your right to post the paper online) before they sign them. I haven't done this yet (my co-authors wrinkle their noses at the thought), but plan to.

Finally, many or most math preprints are posted on arxiv.org as well. Here's a prettier interface.
posted by gleuschk at 5:50 AM on January 26, 2004

Yeah, sure, in some of the sciences (and math) lots is done by Kluwer or Springer or similar. I had the sense, though, that vacapinta wasn't reading math journals, and that critical-theory and other vaguely English-oid journals were still often run by associations, or at least not through the big publishing houses.

I still think that writing a page of "OMG! You can get all the stuff from [FOO] for free right here instead of going to the library!" isn't quite kosher. I doubt that it's illegal or actionable, just sort of vaguely in bad taste.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:50 AM on January 26, 2004

True enough, ROU_Xenophobe. I assumed vacapinta was talking about hard-science journals (sometimes I forget there's any other kind). In that realm, I would argue that even your "OMG!" example is perfectly OK. I have to say this, since I run a site that does exactly this: points to new preprints on the authors' pages and on the arxiv.

Another corollary of my assumption that we were talking about hard-sci journals is that I know most, if not all, of them have the author sign a copyright transfer form. Here's an example (pdf) from Springer. Note that it says explicitly: The author may make his/her paper published by Springer-Verlag available on his/her personal homepage provided the source of the published article is cited and Springer-Verlag and/or other copyright owner is mentioned as copyright owner.

Do crit-theory and other English-oid journals do this? There must be some kind of copyright transfer process, but are they hip enough to specifically mention homepages?
posted by gleuschk at 7:46 AM on January 26, 2004

Just to amplify Xenophobe's point: Elsevier and Pergammon are very prolific publishers too, but the big boys are run by the professional societies. The Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS and its progeny) is the premiere chemical journal. Physical Review (A-E), PRL, etc... from the APS is the ne plus ultra for physics. The AMA dominates health science publishing. None of these societies have any plans to open their content. Indeed, the ACS, in particular, commands the highest prices for their journals.

The ACS (and others) really, really don't like researchers posting published articles on-line. Every journal of which I am aware requires that you assign copyright to them before they'll publish. Heck, in Canada, I had to assign exclusive copyright for my thesis to the National Library. I can't even make copies of that available---you have to buy them from the library.
posted by bonehead at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2004

Don't libraries have some kind of special license for journals, as they do with photocopying, thus allowing people to legally circumvent copyright?

You may be thinking of the Copyright Clearance Center. Basically, the CCC negotiates with many many different publishers for transferable licenses, then negotiates a license with libraries. The benefit is that a library has to only work out one license with one organization, rather than having to deal with each publisher individually. But they still have to pay big bucks to copy articles. (At least corporate libraries do. Dunno how much of a discount an academic library would get.) Also, the CCC license generally allows hard copies only; electronic copies aren't covered, and libraries still have to negotiate directly with publishers if they want to distribute electronic copies.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:03 AM on January 26, 2004

bonehead, that's interesting. In math, almost all the publishing houses have clauses in their copyright-transfer forms similar to the one in Springer's (for reference: the American Mathematical Society explicitly says you can do whatever you want with your paper, Princeton U. Press (pdf) says all you have to do is ask [though "compilations of his/her work" needs a little interpretation to make this argument fly], and Elsevier says the same thing as Springer [can't find it online, but I'm waving my copy of the copyright agreement at the screen]). Furthermore, dozens of journals have authorized reproduction on the arxiv.org preprint server (see the bottom of that page).

These houses account for 99% of the top journals. Is it just that the culture is so different in mathematics than in chemistry?
posted by gleuschk at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2004

Chemistry is probably the most commercialized science out there (though the health field is catching up fast). Everything in the chemical field cost money. As an example: in physics, particularly in cosmology and high-energy physics, computer codes are usually open, community-based and mostly free. In chemistry, the norm is closed-licence (binary only) highly-expensive software. Most developers I deal with think Oracle has a dangerously liberal licensing policy, for instance. The NHS's use of open source in the human genome project was considered revolutionary and an extremely bad precedent.

The worst offender, by far, is the ACS. Look at the prices for the CAS (the main chemical abstacting service). Ensure firm buttocks contact with your seat, have water ready, then start here then click on "pricing". So, yeah, the chemical culure is rather different from the math/physics one.
posted by bonehead at 8:39 AM on January 26, 2004

Mileage varies farther than that by field. In poli-sci, there are relatively few journals, and all the good ones are run by associations. Even the ones with a "real" publisher -- the AJPS is printed by Blackwell for the MidwestPSA -- are cheap ($242 /year for a library, included with membership for individuals).

So while I might post up a copy of a recent article on my web page, I wouldn't want everybody and their brother linking to it, really, since I wouldn't want to disincent people / schools from getting the journal. Besides, just about every journal in poli-sci that matters is up on jstor, though the windows vary in length, and most libraries have other electronic access to the most recent year or two that's not jstor'ed yet.

It's also part of a different culture of publication -- fewer publications that are harder to get and a bigger deal. You can get tenure in poli-sci with as little as six to ten articles, but each of our articles runs 30--50 (ms) pages and most of our journals run 75%+ rejection rates.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2004

Response by poster: Actually, for what little its worth, I do mostly read mathematics and physics journal. Its my way of keeping up with things since college. However, its good to see an answer on the broader question since I do not understand why math/physics should be a special domain of knowledge in this way other than by accidental circumstance. Thanks for everyone's comments so far.
posted by vacapinta at 10:18 AM on January 26, 2004

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