Publishing Agreements

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In order for SPO to publish your content, we need to have permission to do so. Generally speaking, there are two arrangements that an author can have with a publisher. In the first arrangement, the author transfers the copyright for a work to a publisher or to another organization that disseminates the work. In the second, the author grants certain rights for publication to the publisher or other organization while retaining the copyright.

SPO avoids acquiring copyrights, preferring that our authors or publishing partners (scholarly societies, journal editorial boards, series editors) maintain these and instead simply grant SPO the right to publish the content online. Our philosophy is explained further below.

We recommend that editorial collectives incorporate (as an S corporation or an LLC) if they do not already exist as a legal entity. A lawyer should not be required for a group of individuals to incorporate in any US state; a librarian in your state can point you to appropriate forms.

In the model publishing agreements below, we strive to keep the language straightforward, but can only do so much to simplify something as complicated as copyright law. Please let us know if you have questions!


Agreements for authors of individual works not part of a larger collection

In cases where SPO publishes the work of a single author (or a group of authors) directly, without this work being part of a series or journal, then there is only one agreement needed: between the author(s) and SPO. SPO is considered the original publisher. In this agreement, the author retains the copyright while granting certain rights to SPO (the publisher).

Section A: Agreement between SPO and author(s)

Agreements for scholarly societies, journal editorial boards, and series editors

More often, SPO publishes content that will appear as part of a series or journal. In this case, our "publishing partner"—the journal editorial board or series editor—acts as an intermediary between SPO and the authors. Therefore, two agreements must be signed for each work to be published: one from Section B and one from Section C.

Section B: Sample agreements between authors and publishing partners

We provide the following sample agreements for our publishing partners to use with author(s). In these documents, the publishing partner is called "the Journal" or "the Book Series". SPO is not a party to these agreements, but publishing partners must have authors sign an agreement like one of these in order to avoid liability for copyright infringement when signing one of the agreements in Section C.

We recommend the first two agreements over the last two, because they allow authors to retain copyright of their work.

We recommend keeping on file the rights agreements you make with your authors, particularly for the contact information they include, in case you need to revisit the agreements in the future.

Section C: Agreements between SPO and a publishing partner

SPO requires that its publishing partners sign one of the following hosting agreements.

Addenda to agreements

Some terms of our agreement are in addenda rather than part of the main agreement, either because we expect the terms in them to be updated more frequently or because they are optional.

Additional information on SPO's rights agreements

Our philosophy

SPO is committed to intellectual property policies and practices that promote authorial and institutional control of scholarly assets. Like any other publisher, SPO requires that the author warrant that the work is original and that it contains no matter that is defamatory or otherwise in violation of law and of the rights of others. Should the work contain any copyrighted material of others, SPO requires that the author promptly obtain written permission from the copyright owner and include information about any use restrictions when submitting the work to SPO.

SPO also believes that wide and open access is advantageous to both the creators and consumers of scholarship. SPO encourages authors to seek other non-exclusive publication venues should they so desire. SPO particularly encourages its authors to deposit their works in open-access institutional and disciplinary repositories.

Multiple authors

When a work has more than one author and the copyright to the work is transferred non-exclusively to the publisher, the law requires the agreement of only one of the authors. (For exclusive transfers, this is not the case.) However, as a courtesy and to avoid conflicts of interest, SPO's non-exclusive agreements require that all authors be notified for certain actions.

The right to relicense

In all of SPO's agreements, the author grants the right for SPO or the publishing partner to relicense a work. This right is important because it allows the work to be made available in the future with similar restrictions on use by other entities besides the University of Michigan. But it is also helpful to readers: SPO can explicitly allow readers to make certain uses of the work without needing to ask for permission. By marking copyrighted content as available for reuse, creators offer the academic community and the public a valuable contribution to a growing set of scholarly resources that are free from traditional permissions barriers.

SPO intends to release content under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial No Derivatives license, which allows readers to make copies of the work for non-commercial purposes, assuming that the author is credited and the work is not modified. Some day there might be a better alternative to the Creative Commons Non-Commercial No Derivatives license. For this reason, the agreements do not require use of this license. If another license will be used in the future, SPO or the publishing partner will make a good-faith effort to notify the author.

SPO's participation in Creative Commons reflects our commitment to contributing to the growing pool of scholarly resources available for reuse. Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization that created a set of simple, easy-to-understand copyright licenses. These licenses carve out a spectrum of options between the "all rights reserved" of traditional copyright and the rights-free public domain. Copyright comes with a number of rights, and the creator of a work may not want or need all of them. Before CC, there was no easy way for creators to share their rights, even if they wanted to. CC's "Some Rights Reserved" model helps copyright holders to share their work easily without giving up all their rights, and it allows everyone to find work that is free to use without permission.

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