Occasionally I find myself in the highly fortunate position to be asked to contribute to a scholarly publication without having any professional incentive to do so. This is exciting because I’m as flattered as anyone when someone else is interested enough in what I’m doing to want to publish it. It also gives me a chance to come into contact with the kinds of contracts that academic publishers offer their contributors. To put it mildly, these contracts are insane. In exchange for an unpaid contribution, the contracts expect the authors to give the publishers all sorts of exclusive rights and to indemnify the authors against any sort of infringement lawsuit.
Fortunately for me, and unlike so many people who are confronted with these types of contracts, I have no professional incentive to publish in academic journals (at least as of now). That makes me free to push back against the contract terms. The worst thing that happens is that the publisher decides I’m more trouble than I’m worth - it isn’t going to knock me off tenure track or anything.
This situation first came up in 2016 with a contract from the academic publisher Kluwer. At the time, in what I hoped was a service to others who were confronted with these contracts without the ability to walk away, I published the edited version of the agreement that Kluwer agreed to.
Today I’m in a position to do the same thing with an Elsevier. I have XXXXXX’d out the specific terms of the work and the editors because I don’t think it is relevant. I hope that this information will help other authors avoid the most ridiculous terms of the agreement.
Thank you for agreeing to contribute to XXXXXXX (the “Work”) edited by XXXXXXXX (the “Editor”). This Agreement between you (the “Contributor”) and Elsevier Inc. (the “Publisher”) regarding your contribution (the “Contribution”) outlines the Contributor’s and the Publisher’s respective obligations and rights.
A. The Contributor agrees that the Contribution will be the agreed-upon length, will contain the content and substance, as instructed by the Editor, and will be submitted in the form and manner and by the date as agreed upon. If requested, the Contributor also agrees to review proofs of the Contribution in the designated time period, making any necessary revisions and answering queries, to help ensure the accurate publication of the Contribution. The Contributor will keep one complete copy of the Contribution to ward against loss.
The Contributor shall also deliver with the manuscript the relevant illustrations (meaning photographs, multimedia content (if any), drawings, sketches, diagrams, charts, maps, tabular matter and any other accompanying material), along with captions for all such illustrations and the Contributor shall obtain the rights to use such Illustrations in the Contribution.
The Contributor shall also deliver with the manuscript an abstract of approximately 100-150 words of the Contribution to the Work, and a list of approximately 5 - 10 keywords of the Contribution to the Work all of which shall for purposes of this Agreement be included in the Contribution.
B. It is understood and agreed that the copyright in the Contribution is owned by Michael Weinberg. To facilitate publication of the Contribution, the Contributor grant to the Publisher, the non-exclusive license to publish, distribute and otherwise exploit the Contribution throughout the world. Such license includes without limitation the right to produce, reproduce, transmit, sell, license and otherwise distribute the Contribution in all media now known or hereinafter devised to create or have created any revision thereof, to make derivative works, abridgements or translations, and to license and authorize others to do so, and all subsidiary and translation rights. The Contributor agree not to publish or permit publication of the complete or substantially complete Contribution in a competing work for 3 years from the publication of the work. The following copyright notice shall be used in the contribution: “Copyright © 20__ Michael Weinberg. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.”
C. The Publisher will provide each contributor with one (1) free print copy of the Work. Each Contributor may purchase additional copies of the Work, and other books published by the Publisher in print form (excluding the Publisher’s Major Reference Works program) directly from the Publisher at a discount of thirty percent (30%), all for personal use and not for resale.
D. The Contributor confirms that the Contribution is original to the Contributor, has not been previously published (except for the materials already published in previous editions of the Work and third-party material that is either in the public domain or for which appropriate permission has been obtained), and the Contributor has the right to grant to the Publisher the rights described above; the Contributor confirms that the Contribution does not contain any material that infringes any third party rights or is harmful to the user. The Contributor also confirms that to the best of the Contributor’s knowledge the Contribution contains no libelous, unlawful or otherwise actionable matter. Further, the Contributor also confirms that the Contributor is familiar with all applicable conflicts of interest and outside compensation laws and regulations as well as policies and rules of the Contributor’s employer or institution (if applicable), and that the Contributor’s acceptance of this appointment (including the acceptance of any complimentary copies of the Work), and the terms of this Agreement and the Contributor’s performance under this Agreement is and will be in compliance with those laws, regulations, policies and rules. If the Contributor and/or any of the co-contributors reside in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Syria, or Crimea, the Contribution has been prepared in a personal, academic or research capacity and not as an official representative or otherwise on behalf of the relevant government.
E. Should any materials in the Contribution be the work of others, said materials must be properly credited, and the Contributor agrees to obtain any necessary grant of permission for use of the others’ materials, as well as any medical patient consents and releases.
F. The Contributor represents and warrants that he/she has disclosed in writing to the Publisher all actual and potential competing interests, both financial and non-financial, if any in relation to the Contribution. (Examples of financial conflicts include employment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, paid expert testimony, grants, patents or patent applications, and travel grants. Competing interests may also arise as a result of personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual beliefs, such as political or religious beliefs.)
G. The Contributor authorizes use by the Publisher and its applicable affiliates, licensees and service providers worldwide of the Contributor’s name, image, likeness, voice, biography, and professional affiliations (at the Publisher’s discretion) for purposes of advertising, promoting and publicizing the Work and all updates and derivatives thereof and the Contributor’s contact details, including postal and email addresses, for purposes of communicating with the Contributor about the Work and writing, reviewing, researching or contributing to other relevant projects with the Publisher.
H. If the Publisher decides not to proceed with publication of the Contribution, the Publisher will revert all rights to the Contributor. The Publisher reserves the right to revise the Contribution if required to render it suitable for publication, including the substitution of borrowed material.