I had a paper accepted for publication in a journal. Given the choice, I signed the copyright agreement by which I retain copyright. Question: Will this paper be indexed in the databases I want it in? Answer: Yes, because databases index the entire contents of journals, or if they don’t it’s because they select articles topically; selection has nothing to do with who owns copyright.
Next question: What would I have gotten if I’d signed the agreement by which I gave over copyright to the publisher? For answer, email the publisher. The publisher’s response:
I would say the two keys are dissemination and money. We make 1,000’s of nickels disseminating all our material by the page with authors’ permission of copyright each quarter from those third parties.
So, ok, the publisher does make some money from reprints. Not much, but some. A “non-agreeing” author, he goes on to say…
…has to make his own agreement piece by piece third party by third party.
But let’s be honest here, I can’t imagine that my slice of this few hundred dollars per month from reprints will amount to very much. I mean, of course my papers are all heartbreaking works of staggering genius & will be citation classics in time. But until then, I think I’ll just give it away.
So, what’s the tradeoff between ceding versus retaining copyright?
…wide availability, convenience and no paperwork vs. dozens of nickels for yourself and some correspondence and paperwork.
My take on this: Dozens of nickels, don’t care. Some correspondence and paperwork, not if I post my papers online.
To be fair, the publisher’s rep who I was corresponding with also wrote:
We have never rejected an author’s own need to use his piece somewhere else just because we have the copyright.
So they’re very generous with use requests, which I give them a lot of credit for.
Conclusion to this long journey into the dark soul of academic publishing? What I gain by retaining copyright is a small sum of money (which I wouldn’t bother trying to collect) and the freedom to not have to ask permission to use my own work. So in the end it comes down to a matter of principle: do I believe that I should have to ask for permission to use my own work? And so I come full circle to the Faculty Council Resolution on Faculty Ownership of Research, brought forward after the Convocation on Scholarly Communication:
Be it resolved that UNC-CH faculty are the owners of their research and should retain ownership and use open access publication venues whenever possible.
I suppose this always was a matter of principle. The serials crisis is a financial crisis, yes, but it’s a crisis for libraries, not for individual authors. For individual authors it’s a matter of principle: think globally & act locally on the serials crisis front, & retain ownership of my own stuff, or succumb to the convenience of corporations handling my stuff for me & making a lot of money in the process off of my colleagues. So, nothing really novel here, I ended up more or less where I began. I’m a slow learner, what can I say?