Rockefeller University Press Gives Away Copyright on Journal Articles

It may be a first for scientific journals that are not published under an open-access philosophy: Rockefeller University Press has announced that it will allow authors to retain copyright to the papers they publish in its three journals.

Under the new policy, instead of giving up their copyrights to the journals, authors will now provide the journals with licenses to publish their papers. The authors may reuse their work any way they like, as long as they provide attribution to the journals. Six months after publication, third parties may use and redistribute the papers under a Creative Commons license.

The press places one thing off-limits: creating Web sites that mirror the contents of a journal within six months of its publication. The press hopes to retain subscribers because of that six-month delay.

In the world of scientific publishing, the three journals — The Journal of Cell Biology, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, and The Journal of General Physiology — may be unique in that they are maintaining subscription access but are giving up copyright. Many open-access scientific journals also allow authors to keep copyright. —Lila Guterman

The Chronicle News Blog, May 5, 2008

Emma Hill and Mike Rossner, You wrote it; you own it! Journal of Cell Biology, April 30, 2008. An editorial. Excerpt:

Authors of papers published in Rockefeller University Press journals (The Journal of Cell Biology, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, or The Journal of General Physiology) now retain copyright to their published work. This permits authors to reuse their own work in any way, as long as they attribute it to the original publication. Third parties may use our published materials under a Creative Commons license, six months after publication….

Preying on authors’ desire to publish, and thus their willingness to sign virtually any form placed in front of them, scientific publishers have traditionally required authors to sign over the copyright to their work before publication….

At The Rockefeller University Press, we have followed this tradition in the past and obtained copyright from authors as a condition of publication. Several years ago, however, we recognized that the advent of the internet had irrevocably changed the nature and mechanisms of knowledge distribution, and we returned some of those rights to authors. Since July 2000, we have allowed our authors to freely distribute their published work by posting the final, formatted PDF version on their own websites immediately after publication.

With the growing demand for public access to published data, we recently started depositing all of our content in PubMed Central. In a further step to enhance the utility of scientific content, we have now decided to return copyright to our authors. In return, however, we require authors to make their work available for reuse by the public. Instead of relinquishing copyright, our authors will now provide us with a license to publish their work. This license, however, places no restrictions on how authors can reuse their own work; we only require them to attribute the work to its original publication. Six months after publication, third parties (that is, anyone who is not an author) can use the material we publish under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License….

The Creative Commons License will apply retroactively to all work published by The Rockefeller University Press before November 1, 2007….Authors who previously assigned their copyright to the Press are now granted the right to use their own work in any way they like, as long as they acknowledge the original publication….

Full text of our new copyright policy is available here.