Your Work Should Remain Yours

If not, you should be the one to decide how and when to give it up.
The other day Boing Boing reported on a “provocative proposal to force scholarly publishers to respect open-access wishes of their unpaid contributors” by Andrew Appel at Freedom to Tinker. The proposal is fairly simple – don’t give your copyright to scholarly journals. As Appel says, one place to start the revolt is conference proceedings.

Suppose almost all the authors of the 40 accepted papers were to write the same modification into their copyright contract? The publisher could reject all those papers, but there’s a serious time constraint: the conference volume has to appear, and it has to appear NOW, with a short deadline. If the volume appears but missing three-fourths of its papers, then that conference is effectively dead, and may never recover in future years.

But Appel has several other approaches. All of them fall short of the revolution that is needed in academic publication but all would move things to a somewhat better place. As long as our tenure processes remain as they are, the lead in such an endeavor must be taken by senior scholars (and perhaps independent scholars) who are not putting their careers in jeopardy by saying my work is my work to do with as I please.
In our business model driven world, it’s sometimes hard to remember that copyright protections or creative commons protections are for the creators and only for the publishers should the creators wish to transfer those protections to them. Another thing to remember is that such protections can be shared with both parties maintaining complete and individual control. But we need to negotiate and not just accept the publishers terms without a fight.